From strangers to MVP in 3 weeks

How Sidney and I met a few weeks ago, decided to build a product, launched our MVP in just 3 weeks and ranked #1 on Product Hunt

👑 = we highlight the most valuable decisions like this

Who we are

Sidney, UI / product designer and front-end dev living in Antwerp. Ben, product manager and UX designer from Berlin.

How we met

A few weeks ago I was looking for a front-end engineer to help me with a project. I found the profile of a guy building beautiful and engaging front-ends. He’s an active member of the Webflow community and I liked his work, so I emailed him asking if we could have a chat. I love the way he was communicating and seeing things from the first day.

But then… the project I was recruiting for got cancelled, so we started talking about building a product together.

We realized since we had met just two weeks ago, starting a company together wasn’t the best plan, that’s why we approached this as a side-project we could work on while getting to know each other (👑).

Both of us had experienced endless brainstorming sessions without ever resulting in a product so we decided to give ourselves a deadline of one week to come up with the idea (👑).

How to find an idea

Like most of you, we had a ton of ideas. We exchanged 30–40 ideas in calls and chat and quickly realized we needed some kind of an analytical approach to filter those.

We discussed what’s important to us and created a framework (👑). We included things like:

  • How complex is it to build the product?
  • Do we personally identify with the product?
  • Can we build an MVP for the product with our resources?
  • Are we doing “something good”? (e.g. democratising data, content, ideas)
  • Is the product we offer free, can we monetize this?
  • Is this something we can build remotely?

We gave each factor a score and decided that the idea with the lowest count would be our most likely contender.

Screenshot of our idea filtering framework

The problem we came to realise

While working on a side project in 2016 I created a number of Google Spreadsheet to share content. I tried to find a platform to post my spreadsheets but I couldn’t find one. One year later there’s still no platform. When I proposed this idea to my partner Sidney first, he wouldn’t believe it. He wasn’t convinced by the idea initially but after doing some research he started to like it (👑).

Screenshot of a Slack convo

We searched the web, talked to people in the scene but still we couldn’t find a platform which was helping users to find and share spreadsheets. But we realised there’s a lot of users creating and using them. Creators see this as a way of content marketing and collaborative knowledge management. Users were benefiting from the sheets as being flexible and valuable information sources or tools.

Screenshots of questions on one of our most liked sites: Quora

People from the startup/tech community were sharing spreadsheets via Hacker News, Facebook groups, Slack teams, Quora posts, Tweets and most likely via private messaging/email. But how would you find them if you were not addressed via one of the mentioned channels. And why would you want to invest the time to post at so many different places?

The solution we did come up with

We figured out that a platform with a community character would be the right product to approach the problem (👑). Enabling users to share, search and discuss spreadsheets was the central goal of the product. In other words, imagine Medium would meet GitHub and the medium would be a spreadsheet instead of flow-text articles. This way we try to decrease information intransparencies between digital professionals. We want to equip anybody with the same tools and knowledge.

How we started

We started by writing a rough feature scope for the product we had in mind (not the MVP version), created wireframes and experimented with the style guide, trying to find the right tone and voice for the product. The whole process didn’t take more than a day. Our process is simple but efficient: Design, test, iterate, repeat (👑).

This is the prototype we built using Webflow:

Prototype for version 1 built with Webflow

But we soon realized this product couldn’t be build within 2–3 weeks with the resources we had. Especially on the back-end we needed help so we talked to a few developers in our network but no luck there too. We had to build something we could “afford” (👑) so the challenge was to slim down on the features.

Planning an MVP

Trying to figure out what’s the best MVP (or RAT as some folks recently worked out) is always a fun and challenging task. What helps is to keep these two quotes in mind and to try balancing them (👑):

(1) It’s better to build something that few people absolutely love rather than building something that many people just like (Sam Altman)
(2) If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late. (Reid Hoffman)

Building it

As we were limited in engineering power we really had to get in shape on the content-side (👑). For 2 weeks we focussed all our energy on content creation. Finding spreadsheets, curating the best ones, converting websites to spreadsheets, creating our own sheets, describing them, finding the right categories, formats, tags, identifying creators and much more.

A few stats for the content:

  • 106 Spreadsheets
  • 270 Tags
  • 12 Categories
  • 57 Creators
Spreadsheet including all our content

Sidney focussed much more on building the product and getting the maximum out of Webflow and it’s CMS which is a nice way to build a MVP if you lack engineering power (👑). We had several discussions about what’s possible and what’s not and hacked our way to get the content to work with the CMS. The upvoting functionality we built with a befriended developer (thanks a lot, Luka).

And this is a screenshot of the final version we launched today (thanks to top-hunter Kevin for submitting it on Product Hunt (👑)).

Our final site —

What’s next

The main goal is to find more people who are interested in spreadsheets and bundle them around our product. We’ll focus on what interests our users and dive deeper into learning how people use our product. We have created a Facebook group to interact with our users, discuss new product idea and collaborate on new spreadsheet creations.

✌️ We are looking for a back-end engineer to join us as we plan to continue to iterate our product and implement new features. A key learning from our first user tests was that the content focus on the platform is very broad. That’s we have an eye on things like multi-step onboarding to serve him with a personalised experienced. But we’re also toying with things like a popularity sorted feed to discover most trending sheets. And hosting the sheets on our platform to build powerful collaboration features. One of our favourite products is Git, we also plan to let users open pull requests, commit changes within a review process, fork sheets, create branches and bundle collaborators (sticking to the metaphor in terms of wording).

Want to get the latest spreadsheets, curated by us delivered to your inbox?Just visit our website and subscribe to it. And follow our Medium publication as we will share more content about SpreadShare in the next weeks. (Next up: Planning our Launch & what we learned).

🙏 If you’re an engineer, content creator or community manager and love the product we’re building, get in touch!

PS: We’re on Product Hunt today, help us with an upvote and/or a comment!