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Private Alpha Complete! Here's What We Learned

On March 29th, 2023, we launched our MVP in a private alpha test. The reason for launching our MVP was simple: we wanted to learn and watch how people used our community and One Bill product. We learned a lot and decided to pivot our positioning as a result. This blog article summarizes the end of our private alpha and what’s next for 1000Zebras!

Conventional Wisdom Says You
Should be Embarrassed by your MVP


I’m not sure if embarrassed is the right word for my feeling at launch, because we were intentional in our use of Mighty Networks and Typeform, but we always knew the MVP would be limited in capability and network effect. Our initial launch targeted 15 businesses, most of whom completed enrollment to come onto the platform.

The makeup of our testers was about half small B2B service providers, a quarter tech-focused startups, and a quarter Main Street types of businesses. We wanted a range across the small business owner spectrum. And good thing, too, because it helped direct us to the group that used the platform the most: small B2B service providers.  Here’s a quick analysis of what went well and what needed improvement during our alpha test.

What Went Well

• Early interactions were genuine and thoughtful. “How can I combine all my email platforms into one place?”

• The act of launching requires a lot of organization, planning, and hypothesis testing. We built the MVP based on a series of hypotheses, some of which turned out to be true, others not.

• Validated Hypothesis – People go to a community for tactical problems they think they can solve on their own, quickly. This often includes recommendations and hacks.  

• Invalidated Hypothesis – All small businesses want to engage around a similar series of topics and problems. While the needs may be consistent from a categorical standpoint, the specifics were too inconsistent to engage organic engagement across the community.     

What Needed Improvement

•. One Bill conversion was low because of budget limitations for the size of company on the platform. Business owners must be ready to buy.

• Need more volume of contributors on the platform for it to take off. People do not like to be the first to comment or contribute, even if they are enjoying the discussion and find the content valuable.  

• Verticalization – the problems some had were not the problems of others. The way the system was setup, all small business problems/challenges were treated the same.
 
• Need to engage the supply and demand sides of our marketplace with separate strategies to grow it evenly.

Building Learning into our Products

We took our learnings and began to make some improvements you can see today. TL;DR, we are focusing on the supply and demand sides of our marketplace in their own ways.  

Supply
We verticalized our public positioning to be a community and marketplace for small B2B service providers. This is our supply. One of the major values of our One Bill product is access to vetted service providers. We don’t need all the small B2B service providers, we need the right ones. And the right mix.  So, we are taking a “draft board” style approach to building the supply side of our marketplace. We are taking referrals, recruiting firms in areas of demand, and building the appropriate mix of service providers on the platform. We estimate the right mix to be between 200 – 300 service providers as we build the demand side of our business.  There are 27 different categories we are targeting. You can find them on our website in our up to date application form and menu. The data scheme on both of these forms has been aligned to make the initial matchmaking process easier for us. We expect to manually complete the first 25 – 50 matches.  

Demand
Demand comes from businesses that have needs. We prefer for our demand submission to feel like a menu. Choose what you need when you need it.  Unlike our supply side, which needs to be stage-gated so we don’t build the community and marketplace unevenly, demand can come in from anywhere. So we prefer to target partners who have portfolios of businesses that would benefit from using One Bill. We peg that customer as a funded startup or business that can afford at least $3k per month of services. In tech, this would be Angel, Seed, and Series A funded startups.  Venture Capital firms, Accelerators, and Regional Incubators are our primary demand targets at this time. If that’s you, let’s talk!

Product Enhancements
The next product enhancements to come for 1000Zebras are an a la carte marketplace and concierge services.  Throughout our market testing, we heard distinct times when outsourcing the project management of several service providers is desired and needed. We also heard, from both sides, that 1000Zebras being an intermediary is not desired in certain situations especially when dealing with sensitive matters. This makes sense.  

It is our belief opening up an “offering style marketplace” will allow our service provider members to state what they would get done and for what price, allowing businesses to select what they need. Think of it as an upscale, vetted version of Fiverr.  

We’ve also added an option for businesses to contact with 1000Zebras to bundle services and take on the project management of multiple service providers. We want the experience to be Priceline’s “name your price tool” meets Google’s simplicity.

The end game is businesses always have access to those who can get work done for them without being a full-time employee. We believe this, plus AI-based productivity enhancements, will allow founders and entrepreneurs to take their businesses further with less dilution and more value. It costs a lot to hire employees! This is an alternative that we think the business of the future will use to grow and scale with limited resources and internal employees.  Over the next month we will continue to refine our digital assets and experience.

Stay in touch and give us feedback on what you’d like to see next!