Ilse Paanakker

May 17, 2020

5 min read

Why to validate your startup idea with a no-code MVP (+ how to)

Whether you’re a technical founder or not, building a no-code MVP is key to your venture’s success. Until you’ve been in-market and gotten feedback from customers on your startup idea, building a custom technology is a waste of time and money.

Why to go the no-code MVP route:

A no-code MVP allows you to practically launch overnight and quickly understand if there’s a need for your solution. You’ll figure out what your customers actually want. The product you’ll eventually build will incorporate feedback you got from customers who used your MVP, saving you costly mistakes. Most likely, your product will completely change based on the feedback of your no-code experiment.

Excuses I’ve heard from founders who want to invest in custom tech from day 1:

I’ve had many founders pushback the no-code MVP approach. Some say a no-code MVP won’t be good enough and their customers won’t like it. But, if your product solves an actual problem, your first customers won’t care that the product isn’t perfect. In fact, they’ll be excited to be involved and will want to provide you feedback. Other founders tell me there’s no existing technologies they can use to build a no-code MVP. This simply isn’t true. Sure, your no-code MVP might be different from your eventual custom technology, but there are creative ways to get a sense of customer interest in any idea.

How to know what your no-code MVP should look like:

To figure out what the no-code MVP for Habit House should look like, I spent hours interviewing people who I’d identified as my target customers. These interviews allowed me to understand their pain-points and how they tried to solve the problem I was addressing in the past. Patterns I observed in these interviews turned into customer insights which informed what my product should help my customers achieve and how I wanted to position my product. Don’t launch a no-code MVP without conducting customers interviews first (more on this coming soon).

The 2 no-code MVPs I built for my wellness tech startup:

I built 2 MVPs for Habit House. The first was so manual I frequently questioned if it was possible to even build a scalable solution. The second emerged as paying customers provided me feedback on MVP #1 and, thankfully, MVP #2 was scalable and allowed me to develop a technical roadmap for the product I was going to build.

MVP #1: Do customers care about my solution?

MVP #1 allowed me to pilot a proprietary habit methodology on customers. I tested if human accountability and making specific commitments drove behavioral change. Every Sunday, I emailed my customers with a link to a survey I’d built on Airtable. They’d report back on the past week and commit to exercising at specific times that coming week. Each Sunday, we had a 5 minute phone call where we’d talk through any obstacles. I emailed them with a visual schedule (built in Power Point) that showed them both their commitment for the week and previous weeks achievements. The Power Point also had custom workouts for each customer.

Yes, this wasn’t scalable. It took me a lot of work per customer. While I’d set out to build a scalable technology product, I instead felt like a personal trainer. But this approach allowed me to pilot my solution. Feedback I heard over and over again allowed me to work towards a better product (and thankfully a scalable one). I learned:

  • My proprietary habit methodology was actually getting people to exercise.
  • The weekly call was unnecessary. Making a commitment to me using my weekly survey had the same effect.
  • The custom workouts were unnecessary. Customers began to tell me that they had workout videos/apps/workout classes they wanted to do, they just needed motivation to actually follow through.
  • Customers asked me to text them right before their workouts. They wanted more accountability in-the-moment, not just on Sunday.

I removed the weekly call and custom workouts and began to text customers throughout the week. At this point I had paying monthly subscribers so I also began to get a sense of how much I could charge and customer LTV.

MVP #2: Does a scalable version of my solution work?

My customers loved the text-messages I sent to them throughout the week. So much so that I moved all of my communication with customers there. I was sending text messages from early in the morning to late at night (EST to PST time difference wasn’t helpful). It became all-consuming. It was almost more exhausting than the earlier version of my product.

I researched text message automation SaaS tools and landed on using Heymarket. Traditionally used for service based businesses to text with customers, it allowed me to test if a chatbot, scheduled text-messages, and standard content was effective. Sure, it wasn’t perfect. The chatbot used trigger words and I still needed to hand-reply throughout the week. But it allowed me to drastically reduce the amount of time I spent per customer per week and removed a lot of the friction my customers faced before.

MVP #2 allowed me to run growth experiments, truly get a sense of CAC and LTV, train other Habit Coaches, and allowed me to develop my product roadmap.

Building a startup is a marathon not a sprint. Taking the time to build a no-code MVP is worth it. In fact, it’ll allow you to run your marathon faster.

Cover photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash.