launch ftw, part 3

Brian Hicks, June 20, 2023

Lesson 2 is fairly light, but has an important lesson. Big takeaway: learn what people need, want, and are willing to buy. (That was the first rule last time, as well.) I like the framing of "find misery and fix it." This is familiar to me from 30x500, but getting a compressed version like this helps me see the process at a high level!

Well, then, on to lesson 3. Emphasizing that you need to make something people are already willing to buy—"it's a million times easier to capture a need than create one." In other words, skip the traditional startup advice of having an idea and then finding a customer. Instead, find the customer first, then build a custom solution to their problem. To do that, you need to find:

What does your audience

  1. actually do
  2. actually talk about
  3. actually complain about
  4. actually read, share, try, recommend and, of course
  5. actually buy

The answers are Sales Safari gold.

So who are your ideal customers? What is your ideal audience? It's "the people you are best suited to serve." In other words, people you already know things about because they're people like you.

There's an interactive workbook in this step. Before I do it, the tips are to prioritize:

Copying my answers back here. First question, "List your potential audiences." As many as you can come up with, one per line. Here are mine:

Second question, narrowing those down to "professional" options:

Third question, narrowing those down to ones where I have an advantage. In my case, that mostly means "have I used this in the past and would have some advice for someone just getting started." I also removed general programming and toolmaking because I have an advantage but it's too vague!

Fourth question is just to pick one to move forward with for launch ftw. This is where I struggle, and the exact question I stopped on the first time I did this challenge (even though they repeatedly say that the only "wrong" answer is to just not pick.)

… and after 15 minutes of flailing about trying to think through it ("well, this, but no, then again, that…") I've got to try a different approach. I've put the lines into (a tool that I wrote to help with analysis paralysis) and done head-to-head comparisons until each of them got at least 10 tries. Here's the results

RankItemRatingDifference from Last
1Sorbet users1307-
2Ruby programmers1305-2
3frontend developers1279-26
4Alloy users1269-10
5Rust programmers1192-77
6tech leads1167-25
7Elm programmers1117-50
8TDD practitioners1076-42
9staff engineers1046-30

There's a big gap between the top four and the rest of the field. For example, I did 30x500 with Elm stuff. It gave me a considerable amount of traction in my career! But I feel burned out in that community; 5 years of running elm-conf took a lot out of me, and I'm experienced enough in the discourse to be tired of the "permanent problems" and no longer interested in debating them. I see a similar situation developing in Rust, especially with recent problems in the community. (Although TBH this may be just growing pains due to popularity. I recall Ruby had quite a few community problems when it was super popular.)

So, OK, that leaves basically four things (or more like three, since Sorbet and Ruby are gonna be similar audiences.) Examining each:

So out of those, folks who are getting into Sorbet seems like the best fit. It's a good combination of a large-enough audience and a relevant topic (e.g. there are people starting Ruby projects today as well as folks who are dealing with code written in 2008.)

So, all aboard the Ruby/Sorbet train!