Here’s what happened to my projects in April 2020:
TasteJury - Put on Hold
I started TasteJury on January 1. The goal was to experiment with a different way to rate restaurants. You can read about it’s first month here.
At the beginning of April though, I decided to put it on hold due to Covid-19. People just weren’t going out to restaurants as much so I didn’t see any reason to keep it online. It costs $29 a month to run and for now I’m better off saving that money.
At some point, just for fun, I put TasteJury up for sale for $800. I even got an offer for a bit under that. But I also decided that I’m not ready to give up on it. There was a lot of enthusiasm around the site amongst foodies so I’m going to put it back online once Covid-19 is under control.
AlDente - Two New Posts
I wrote 2 posts in April for my food science/cooking tips newsletter. Before April I wasn’t trying to promote the newsletter. But with these 2 posts I put them on Reddit to see what would happen. I got about 400-500 views on each, whereas I would normally get 80-100. However, more views doesn’t seem to convert into subscribers. I started April with 39 subscribers and ended it at 50. One promising metric is open rate which is usually around 60-70%.
Takeaway: I’m not sure if newsletters are the right medium for people who want to get better at cooking. The best newsletters seem to be written about news or current events from a perspecive you can’t get anywhere else. This isn’t that and doesn’t have any unique information. Despite this, I will probably continue writing because I enjoy it. I may explore other more visual mediums.
Covid-19 Israel Tracker - Started and Shut Down
I created a site that graphed the growth of Covid-19 in Israel. I think I was one of the first to put it on a graph, taking the time each day to update it. It was pretty early on so I couldn’t find any APIs to use. I ended up taking the time each day to update it manually. Once the big tracking websites included Israel I decided to shut it down.
Takeaway: I probably should not have built this. It didn’t take me that long to make, but the time I did spend on it didn’t get me anywhere.
CoVisitor - An attempt to help Israeli Small Businesses
I’ve been itching to build something to help with Covid-19. I live in Israel and while we’re handling the virus well, a large part of our GDP comes from tourism. A lot of small businesses are suffering.
On April 19, I got a message from a stranger (conencted through a friend) with an idea to build a simple app to help storekeepers keep track of their visitors. A few days earlier, the Ministry of Health rolled out a new set of guidelines for small business owners. One of the guidelines was that storekeepers had to take the temperatures of and record whoever visited the shop. The idea was simple: Build a website that lets storekeepers generate a QR code that they can put on their door, and when visitors scan it, they enter their details and the storekeeper gets that list.
I decided to use Bubble.io (a no-code app builder) to build it. Having used it before, I knew that I could get it launched in less than 48 hours. I built a working version in about 3-4 hours on Sunday and spent the next day refining and testing it. We originally wanted to charge businesses for it but before launch decided that we didn’t want to take advantage of the virus for profit. Plus, we didn’t have a company or merchant account to handle the money. So we decided to launch it for free.
We launched on Tuesday with a few posts on Facebook and LinkedIn. The site got a few hundred visits and a few signups but not much real interest. While we thought that stores would appreciate this free app, they didn’t seem to care. This was either because of a misunderstanding of the guidelines on our part, or just because the rules aren’t actually strict.
One thing we did was installed a live chat on the website. It’s free and only takes a few mintues to install, but it puts you directly in touch with potential users. We had a few conversations and business owners that were/are interested. Ultimately though, it doesn’t look like any have put up QR codes.
A few days after launch we noticed 2 competitors with pretty much identical offerings, one of which charged. Are they selling? Maybe, but I doubt it.
We also reached out to a few news publications to see if they wanted to run a story about it but we got no bites.
My partner and I are unsure whether to keep pushing it or shut it down. We were about to shut it down and within an hour got a few chats from people interested in using it. Guess we’ll wait a bit and find out.
Takeaway: We should have talked to more people before jumping into building a “solution”. It’s not a solution if there’s no problem. I think because the guidelines had just been released, we felt that being first to market would give us an advantage. But again, it doesn’t matter if there is no market for it. That being said, there could be a market for it in offices. Its a bit too early to tell.
Blog - My Best Month Yet
In April I did a few things on my blog.
Most importantly, I published 1 blog post, and it turned out to be my most successful so far. Its titled ‘How to Name Startups’ and goes through my process and tools I use to come up with a name for a sie project or startup. (If you’ve never done this, its a really hard and frustrating process).
Originally the post was titled ‘How I Name Startups’, but after submitting it to Hacker News, a moderator changed it to ‘I name Startups’. A very weird title indeed. Not surprisingly, it didn’t do very well there. But luckily, Courtland from IndieHackers read it, changed the title to ‘How to Name Startups’, and posted it to IndieHackers. Much better title which I ended up changing on my blog.
I knew that if he posted it there it would probably do fairly well, and it did. IndieHackers has nowhere near the traffic as Hacker News but it can still be a nice stream. All in all about 800 people read the blog and a few even left comments. I also got a few emails from people asking for advice on how to name their startups.
Second, I added an email collection form to the blog once I saw my post take off. I added it too late, missing the bulk of the traffic, so I only got 1 signup. The goal of collecting emails is that so the next time I publish something, I can send it directly to people’s inboxes. As the list grows, it becomes more and more likely that a particular post will become successful.
Takeaway: When you write about things you actually know about, it shows and people enjoy the writing.
Goals for May
- Launch a product that has a business model built in, no more free stuff
- Write a blog post that gets over 5000 views