ODesk – my not so great experience, how has yours been?

So after doing my small viability survey and taking my 50 page spec document. single spaced with everything I would want to see in this service listed out. I then weeded it down to about 13 pages, based on the survey (see my post on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk).

I decided I needed to get a product to launch as quickly as possible that has the basic functionality of my idea, but let’s users help dictate the next features I add vs. me making these kind of spendy assumptions (i.e. it will cost me money to add any features, so they are spendy).

I posted the project on ODesk and narrowed it down to about 5 companies after several weeks of bidding and back and forth emails.

I had the companies sign a developer NDA. and then had them review the spec document, interview over Skype and then send me their final project timeline, and bid.

I felt confident in the company I selected, they said they could complete the project by August 1st (this was mid June when I selected the company). They said they didn’t have any issues with the customization (drupal framework), they had passed all my interviews etc. and I was stoked! My site would be launched in 1.5 months.

….Fast forward to the end of July. They hadn’t even hit the first milestone. My project scope was insanely detailed, they even said they didn’t have many questions as it was all laid out in the spec document.

The problem was, the development of even some of the basic functions was beyond their skill set, or at least that’s what it appeared to be, when they were 1 month behind schedule on a first milestone.

Frankly, I have no patience for missed milestones with out logical reason and 1 month was way to much, it just wasn’t working well and I didn’t get that good instinctual feeling that they were the right team, so I let them go.

I paid them what I thought as a fair amount for work they had done, knowing that I would probably have to scrap it. I decided that ODesk would be great for simple, easy to setup sites, but for some custom work/coding I won’t be using the service again. In addition, the company I used actually asked me to give them a 5 star rating because it helps them get business… ? Are you kidding me?

I found another outsourcing company Beyondsoft and they are AMAZING! In the month of working on my website, I am truly impressed. They are working with me as a team, suggesting ideas and tweaks to my existing specs and helping to make the site even better. They “get it” and I am so relieved to have the right team on board. BTW if you want to contact Beyondsoft, reach out to Michael Aday –  mike.aday (at) beyondsoftconsulting.com.

Bottom line, tread carefully when outsourcing. Trust your instinct, if it’s not working, get out now and find the right team, even if it takes a bit of searching, it’s worth the wait.

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How I Used Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to Validate my Startup Idea

I am a big fan this whole “minimum viable product” philosophy. I’ve probably adapted it to my own interpretation, but basically I look at it as bootstrapping on crack, get your product out with the minimum feasible offering to start seeing traction. I am trying to be as resourceful as possible with this startup. Using existing technologies, free services, API’s etc. to help build the service and get launched as quickly as possible. 

The first place I started was when I had my ‘epiphany’ (that’s what I call the latest idea). I knew that I needed to find out if this was even a viable idea. Asking friends and family is great, but let’s face it, they already love you, they’re your friends/family.

So I decided my step was to get a survey up about the idea and find out what people think, (I think this qualifies as a first step in the MVP Philosophy).

So I did just that, with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk system. I spent $27.50 and surveyed 200 people. There is NO segmentation in this system so I got feedback from anyone, which is exactly what I wanted. (well I wanted feedback from people that have access to the internet since this is a web startup).

I wanted to see how many users from the “general” population that has access to the web would find this service useful. I also wanted to see how this broke down by Age/Gender as well as ways in which they could see using the service.

Here’s what I asked in my survey:

I gave a brief description of what the website/service offering would be then asked the users:

  1. Gender
  2. Age
  3. Would they use the service as described above
  4. Give me 3 examples of how they would use the service.
  5. General feedback or ideas on the service, why they would or would not use it.

The information I got back for my $27.50 was INVALUABLE. I found from that 1 survey, how to basically build my product for launch. What features I had to have based on how users would use the service. I also realized I could basically cut my current feature set in 1/2 because what I thought people would want, wasn’t even mentioned.

My Results:

  • I found out that 73% of the people surveyed would use my service (that validated the idea for me).
  • Then found that of the 27% that wouldn’t use the service, WHY they wouldn’t use the service, then I added those common “no” reasons into my MVP product for launch, in hopes that I could convert even more.
  • I also found out to my surprise that more men than women said they’d use the service. I fully expected it to be the other way around.

It’s pretty easy to create a survey using the Turk System. But I highly recommend doing some surveys or trying it out with small “batches” first so that you can figure out how to use the system before processing 200 questions.

Bottom line is, this was a great way to just throw out the idea, get validation and see what people had to say. This also helped fine tune my spec document for product build based on actual feedback on the product idea/concept.

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