Newsletter #2: Mentmento, Validating the problem, and making it to #2 Product of the day on Product Hunt

This is a copy of my most recent newsletter.


You don’t know that, but I’m a bit late to send this newsletter!

My plan was to send it on Friday night so you can read it on Saturday morning while you are still in your comfy pajamas. Things didn’t go as planned for the newsletter, but it was going better for another side project I’m working on.

Mentmento, that other project

Since the time (2011) I’ve been working on my first startup back home in Egypt, I learned that having a mentor (or a network of mentors) is essential for accelerating my learnings and growth. Over the years, I continued to maintain my network of mentors, and always reached out to the right people to get their advice on whatever problems or decisions I’m facing.

I have been trying since then to pay it forward by always taking phone calls or meetings with people that ask me for career or personal advice. I have a long list of failures (and occasional successes) that can help me put a list of options in front of them, with the pros and cons of each, and my recommended option.

Recently, while enjoying my parental leave, I started to think about how to make it easier for others to grow their network of mentors and at the same time introduce more new people to mentoring others.

First, before jumping into defining how to do that, I wanted to get some signal about the problem and the demand for mentors. I first asked my twitter network to answer a short poll about whether they have a mentor or not? and if not, then are they looking for a mentor?

Based on the answers from that small group, it seemed like there is some demand for having a mentor. Also, the question itself triggered some interesting discussions about the topic.

My next step was to try to get more detailed answers from a bigger sample. At work (we’re hiring), I would have defined what questions I want to answer and the target demographic, and then go ask our amazing research team to help me get some people to answer my questions, but now I needed to depend on myself. I just needed a way to recruit people that can answer my survey.

The Survey

Google Surveys was the first option that came to mind. I heard about it 2 years ago when it was first launched, and I was curious about how it works. In a few minutes, I was able to build a short survey with a couple of screening questions, and then defined the criteria of my target demographic.

Before publishing the survey, Google demands that they first run a test version of the survey for free on a small sample of their traffic to get an estimate for how much they would charge me per completed survey. I had to wait for a couple of hours for the test survey to run, and then Google came back to me offering to execute my survey in exchange for $3 per answer. The minimum number of survey answers to collect is 100, so this meant that I would need to pay $300.

Actually, $300 is not that expensive considering that I was targeting people working in tech. If I was conducting this research as part of a for-profit project, I would have gone for it. This time for my side-project, I decided to pass on Google’s offer, and find another cheaper approach to reach my target audience.

I thought about using Mechanical Turk to get some answers, but considering that my first target demographic is people working in tech, I decided not to go for it. This would work better for typical consumer research.

Another approach

After giving it a little bit of thought, I decided to come up with the smallest version of a possible MVP ever, and utilize my network and Product Hunt’s community to reach my target audience.

I decided then that my MVP’s value proposition would be:

We match mentors and mentees together on-demand based on interest and availability and then schedule a 30 minutes phone call for both to chat.

A mentorship on-demand model

After working for a marketplace company (Booking.com) for 5 years, I can see my bias towards turning everything into a 2 sided marketplace. Anyway, that model seemed to be good enough.

The 30 minutes phone call part is inspired by the mentorship setup I’ve with the great people from Knowledge Officer. They have training programs for Product Managers, and depending on my availability they book 30-minute phone calls for me to mentor some of the students. I like that setup and find it efficient.

Based on that idea for an MVP, using my humble design skills and Webflow, which I also wanted to give it a try someday, I put down a simple but neat looking landing page for my MVP, with a couple of forms for the mentors and mentees to signup. It didn’t cost me a lot of time, but I had to pay $15 for Webflow’s hosting service, and $10 for the domain name.

When mentors and mentees signup, they see a message informing them that they will receive an email once they are matched to someone. I decided to do the matching manually for now. My priority was to know how much demand would this product get before wasting my time building something that maybe no one would use.

With this simple implementation, it was time to list the product on Product Hunt. I just needed to have some banner to explain the concept. I put on my lousy marketing copywriter hat and my tasteless graphic designer hat on top of each other and hacked up some simple banner using Google Slides.

Yeah I know, Google Slides! I didn’t need a fancy tool to put up this simple banner together. It just took me 10 minutes to figure out how to turn the photos of these girls into circles.

The first 24 hours of being on Product Hunt

I published Mentmento on Product Hunt during the first few minutes of the 3rd of November (Amsterdam time).

I thought that the moment I publish the product I would see a stream of votes and signups, but this didn’t happen right away. It turned out that Product Hunt starts its day around midnight New York time, which happens to be the morning time in Europe. That’s when Mentmento made it to PH’s home page, and I started seeing more activity.

The launch day went well, nothing broke, and I received a lot of positive feedback. Even with that very simple product setup, everyone was excited and looking forward to seeing what’s going to happen next.

To share some stats, by the end of the first day, Mentmento had 200+ Signups and votes on Product Hunt, which made it rank as #2 Product of the day.

Considering that this is my first time to list a product on Product Hunt, it was interesting to watch the dynamics of their product and their community. If I learned one thing during that day, it would be that..

People will vote up your product based on their excitement about the problem you’re solving for them, regardless of the implementation details.

I watched other good products get fewer votes in comparison to Mentmento, while it seems that the makers have invested bigger effort in building their product and making it perfect and shiny. So I’m happy with my decision to go with something extremely simple. Also, imagine if the launch of Mentmento was a failure, I’m sure that I would have not been happy about the $300 survey and the hundreds of wasted hours.

What’s next?

So now that I’ve 200+ early adopters signed up, I need to work on making the promised solution happen, and craft it in a good way that makes them enjoy the mentor and mentee experience. Most probably I will have to arrange the matching semi-manually and find a cheap but reliable way for them to make the phone calls without exposing their email addresses to each other to maintain privacy and avoid spamming as much as possible. I will then collect feedback again, and see what should be done next.

Wish me luck, and remember to invite your friends to Mentmento!

PS: Sorry for the long story today. I wanted to reflect on that project in writing as fast as possible. I thought maybe some of you would enjoy following my thinking process.

Next week

Next week, I will do my best to mainly share the interesting reads I’ve collected for you. For now, if you’re into Silicon Valley history, check out this documentary about a company (General Magic) that you never heard of before. It was the birthplace of both, the iPhone, and Android. Things didn’t go as planned for the company, but the innovations they built continues to live with us today. It’s especially a must-watch for startup founders and Product Managers.


Cheers,
Shreef

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