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The origins of The Silicon Valley Stable

I know this is going to be disappointing, but don’t expect any VC talks about uber valuations and unicorns. This is about showing you that we can learn while having fun.

The story I would like to share with you today is about how we created The Silicon Valley Stable. I’ll give you a little bit of context about what we’ve done and share our valuable learnings.

A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a few colleagues about how we needed to learn some new skills in the area of digital products. We are not experts but avid learners so we came up with the idea of creating a basic MVP in order to:
• Brush up web dev skills
• Explore the stack for a web app
• Implement advanced analytics
• Get user feedback

While the learning tends to be serious, we wanted to work on something fun. Why? Just because we could :) So we’ve built The Silicon Valley Stable, a fun quiz with GIFs, Silicon Valley stereotypes and a bunch of unicorns and other ponies. We wanted to entertain people with a few simple goals:
• Have a good laugh
• Not being serious
• Feel like you belong

What did we do?

Precisely one month ago, we did a few mockups and wrote the content of the quiz. After that, I started to write a basic app using Meteor, a very cool JavaScript framework that I recommend (easy to setup and to use). A few code and design tweaks later, we had a working version, very basic, but good enough that we felt confident showing it to a few of our friends. They all laughed which was our main goal so we decided to push it live.

I deployed our app on Heroku and I’ve setup analytics with the use of segment.io and Heap Analytics.

The application is live here: http://thesiliconvalleystable.com/

What did we learn?

I’m going to keep it pretty simple, but these are some of the roadblocks that we experienced.

People don’t have a lot of time: When we released the first version of the quiz, we had 50 questions that were very entertaining, but the first feedback we got from our beta testers were “too many questions”. So next time you build something, make sure you are worth the time spent by your user on your product.

People use Facebook on their phone, a lot: 25% of people accessing our app were clicking a link on Facebook on their mobile. So be sure to think about that, and try your app in the Facebook app itself. We experienced some issues with our mobile design there.

Facebook is global. Posts spread fast and die fast: One of the features of the quiz is to share your result with your social medias. When we did the first Facebook shares, we’ve seen users popped up right away in Australia, France, England, … that was pretty cool. What was less cool is how the post gets quickly buried in Facebook’s feed if no one is sharing again. In our case, only 33% of our users were sharing on Facebook.

Getting people’s attention is hard (especially on Twitter): In order to get our name out there, we thought social media would be an easy bet. It is not. With the continuous flow of information on their timelines, walls or other streams, standing out is very hard and we still need to crack the code.

Great content will get you somewhere if it is easy to access: One of the feedback we got from our first user was how hard it is for mobile users to read some of the text on our app. Be sure to have a good enough content in a good enough form ( remember the first point, people don’t have the time).

Track the right metrics: When we came to the point of choosing a tool to track our conversion funnel (start the quiz > answer the questions > Share on social media/visited our store), we faced a lot of options. So before jumping into what solution you want to use, thinks about the kind of data you want to get. It appears a lot of tools have different purposes. Therefore, try not to get lost in wanting to setup everything. Do you really need to know everything? At what cost? Segment.io is a great way of keeping your options open with the opportunity to plug in new services on the fly without any additional development.

Almost everything to build an app is free: We did not spend any dollar except for our domain name to run this app. All the tools we used had a free tier which is plenty to get started. Please be scrappy and spend your money only if you get some traction!

What’s next?

We accomplished our first goals and since we got some good feedback, we are now trying to see how to improve the viral aspect of the app which is not a trivial mechanic. 
A good rule of thumb in terms of next steps:
1. Does it work? Check. We did what we could, we are not JavaScript Ninjas or Design Gurus and this is really a side project (perfect to be scrappy and not be serious).
2. Does it stick? Nope … we’ve seen it’s hard to get people to share on their social media.
3. Does it scale? Probably. Let’s see when we get there but tools like Heroku and the simplicity of the app should be on our side.

Want to help?

If you felt there was some value in reading this, please share it.

If you haven’t tried The Silicon Valley Stable Quiz, go do it over here.

Engage with us. We ❤ structured feedback: contact@thesiliconvalleystable.com

We ❤ feedback

Last, if you want some cool Silicon Valley swag, go get some here!

Be the cool guy at the office with unicorns, ponies and centaurs on your t-shirt/hoodie/mug!