10 Concierge MVPs a Non-coder Could Build Today

Gluing first versions of products together

I love a bunch of Graham’s ideas. Whenever I hear of a cool idea, I always ask: How could I test out this business in one week. While I won’t discuss the growth aspect here. I’ll show you show I would build a concierge MVP to actually have something you can change for in under a week. The purpose is to validate:

  1. People have the problem you think exists
  2. Your solution solves that problem.

Edit: Added the idea from the blog inline to the idea. Thanks to Josh Lilien for the idea.

Here we go:

Idea #1 Clara Labs for Informal Interviews

Graham’s idea: You have seen http://www.claralabs.com. I want to someone to make me an AI assistan that reaches out to people on a list and sets up coffees with them for me.

To test this out, we don’t need an AI at all. Why not just create an excel sheet of people you want to reach out to, hire a virtual assistant on Upwork ($3/hr), share them the Google Sheet, give them modification access to your Google Calendar and give them these instructions:

Hi <VA name>,
I want to meet with more people locally. See the list at this URL: <Google Sheet URL>. Can you please:
1. Reach out to the first three people on the list and send them the following: “Hi! I work for <your name> and he said he would like to setup coffee with you in the next two weeks or so to <insert reason here>. Would you have time between 1pm and 3pm in the next two weeks? If so, is there are nice coffee shop around you that you like?”
2. Mark in the “reached out” date when you reached out.
3. When you hear back, look at my calendar for my availability to see if I’m available at that time.
4. Also use Google Maps to get directions from my office <my address> to their coffee shop location to book off that time on my calendar as well to be sure I have enough time to get there.
5. If you don’t hear back from them within three business days put note “didn’t hear back” in the notes and start at #1 for the next person.

As for validating the value, try it out for two weeks on yourself. Then offer to do this for 10 of your friends for free. If they love it, tell them it now costs them $XY/m. Booya!

Idea #2: Startup Benefits

From Graham: Cataloging all the benefits startups offer, from 401k to Zumba classes. Made this one too!

When Levels.io started Nomad List, it started as a simple spreadsheet that anyone could view and edit [can’t find the source article now]. People went crazy and added a ton of data themselves. By building a list similar to this and inviting HR reps to edit it (by adding their emails), and anyone to view it could test two things:

  1. The willingness for HR to help provide you with this information (if it’s not found online).
  2. How many people actually care about comparing the benefits between startups.

Building the sheet:

  1. First build a Google Sheet called “SF Startup Benefits” with a bunch of columns: “Startup Name”, “URL”, “HR contact”, “Health”, “Food”, “Retirement”, “Remote”, “Hardware”, “Time off”, “Other”.
  2. The idea is as people add things to the Other column, you can create new columns you didn’t think of and clean up the database.
  3. Encourage feedback by adding your email at the top or many the Hacker News link so people can discuss it. That way you can get feedback on the usefulness of it.

Until it goes viral you might need to hire a VA to do outreach in the same fashion as the above. Let’s see, the VA would need a list of SF startups. You could try this for instructions:

Hi <VA>,
Thanks for scheduling so many coffee dates for me, it’s been going great! I’d like to try and build an excel sheet of all the benefits San Francisco startups offer (401ks, zumba classes, free lunches), can you go to this page: <some angellist search for active SF startups>, find their HR rep on their website or Linkedin, email them and ask them to update this spreadsheet <URL> with their company’s info?

You can share this document EVERYWHERE and see how many people become engaged, visit it, add companies.

If it looks like a cool thing, then take a couple days and build out the full app. Until then, take the two hours to do the above instead.

Idea #3: Track Business Decisions

From Graham: On projects, when do they get made and by who. Now you know who decided to approve the $1m on the new ping-pong room.

This seems more like a process optimization than an entire product. For every major decision required, create a task in your project management system (Basecamp, Asana etc) that has “APPROVAL REQUESTED: <thing to approve>” then assign the person who has the power to make the decision. That person will be able to review the context, then add a comment “I approve” or something then mark it complete. All the followers will be notified and there is now a record of it. ACCOUNTABILITY BABY!

Idea #4: Squiggle for Moms

From Graham: Check out https://www.sqwiggle.com/. Now imagine instead of coworkers, you have lonely stay at home moms that other moms can talk to.

Squiggle is super cool. Why not email a local mom group and ask them if they would like to connect with moms more deeply during the day? They are probably already texting but Squiggle might create a stronger connection. Squiggle is free for some people if only 1-on-1 meetings (https://www.sqwiggle.com/pricing). Offer to show up at their meeting and set it up on anyone’s laptop/iPad who’s interested. You’ll have their emails to touch base to see what they think of it. You’ll be in the Squiggle chat too to see if anyone is actually using it.

Idea #5: Affirm

Graham’s idea: 10 daily quotes affirmations to get you through the day. “You are awesome!” “You are loved!” “You are pretty!”

Has to be the simplest one to setup. Using Zapier’s timed message ( https://zapier.com/zapbook/schedule/) and SMS hook https://zapier.com/zapbook/sms/ or Gmail hook (https://zapier.com/zapbook/gmail) you can preschedule the cool things to send to people everyday. So if you don’t want to always send the same messages everyday, then just pre-schedule them at night for whatever you want the next day.

Idea #6: Coliving

Graham’s idea: Like WeWork but for living. 21st Century Communes without the Weirdness

Similar approach as Startup Benefits but you are the only one that can maintain it. Maybe uses anonymous names that you have mapped in another google sheet only you have access to. People signup via Google Web form or Typeform and you curate it.

Idea #7: Entitlement Saas

Graham’s idea: SaaS for city websites that manages multiple entitlements and building permits applications. Now developers and constructors can easily see what the status of their applications are without navigating a circa-1995 website.

Another spreadsheet. Unlikely you could outsource this. Why not go visit the municipality person, explain what you are trying to do, ask them what developers are asking about when they call. Call your contact at the municipality everyday and ask for any updates on the building permits that happened yesterday. You can email/call the developer directly that there has been an update. Monitor their open rate and always ask what other information would be helpful.

Idea #8: Housemax

Graham’s idea: Carmax for single family homes, buy it now price, close in 10 days, instant home liquidity.

Send letters to an entire neighbourhood saying their house would sell for between $range_low — $range_high. You are able to close within 10 days. When they call them up, check out their place and give them a lowish-fair offer. See how they respond. You don’t HAVE to go through the deal. If the difference between what you bought it for and will likely sell it for after putting it on the market for more than a few days, might work as a business.

Note: In Ottawa there is a real estate agent that will buy you house off of you if it doesn’t sell in XYZ days. The thing people don’t know is he gives you a low ball offer. Apparently he has NEVER actually bought a house. Amazing marketing strategy though.

Idea #9: What should we do together

Graham’s idea:Tinder-like app for a couple to find activities/hobbies they will both like. You just found out you both like: sailing, line dancing, and shuffleboard!

More Google Sheet collaboration wizardry. Build columns for “Name”, “Neighbourhood”, “Price per person (approx)”, “Best time to do it” (Lunch, Week night, Weekend day, etc)

Get your friends to edit the Google Sheet adding their favourite stuff to each row. Now:

  1. Every group that wants to do something makes a copy of the sheet.
  2. Invite all the peeps interested
  3. Create a new column for each person.
  4. Each person puts an “X” for those things they are up for.
  5. It will be obvious what is best.

Idea #10: Docx PPTX Image Archiver

Graham’s idea: Saas that scans all word or ppt docs for images, backs them up and creates a visual database of pictures that are in docs. No longer searching through word and ppt files for the right doc.
  1. Create a Dropbox folder that you share with your amazing VA
  2. Setup Zapier to notify them whenever there is a new file in the shared directory.
  3. You put any presentation you want in there.
  4. The VA will get an email, open the presentation, right click and save each image to a different regular file in that same directory so it gets synced back to you.

Invite your friends to participate with the same service and you’ll do it for free. If they love it, charge them $10/m for up to 5 presentations or something. Will it potentially take 2 hours ($6) per presentation for the VA to do this for now? Yes. Does it save you a few days of coding? Yes. Once the value is proven, then you build it out.

Conclusion

I only proposed concierge MVPs for a subset of Graham’s ideas. I wanted to illustrate how the technology is never really the problem in early stage products like this. It is the validation that people have the problem you’re describing, and that your proposed solution actually fixes it.

Now let’s get building and validating!

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