Going against Rob Walling

December 16, 2021

For years I’ve been listening to Startups For the Rest Of Us podcast. He’s super smart and experienced and I place a lot of trust in what he says.

But now I’m doing the opposite.

It’s not like I’m deliberately doing the opposite, his ideas are solid, it’s just they don’t fit what I’m working on. The smart thing for me would probably be to drop what I’m working on and fit more into his stair step approach. But…

Here’s what I’m working on: EdScreening is a way for parents to help kids with learning problems.

At the moment this involves spending thousands of dollars and can take a few years. You need to:

  • Get referrals to specialists
  • Book appointments with specialists with up to a year’s wait
  • Get specialist report (up to a month after appointment)
  • Frequently find out they were the wrong type of specialist. Start at the top again.

I’ve been through this exact process, and so have my co-founders. It sucked.

Here’s why Rob’s approach doesn’t apply to us

In my experience, the biggest pitfall that trips up first-time product people is trying to create something too complex.

To solve the problem we need complexity. A small product wouldn’t address the issue. EdScreening is research-based. What that involves:

  • An expert does hundreds of hours of research to create a preliminary screening model
  • Do a pilot screening with hundreds of people to check the initial results
  • Get another expert to analyse the pilot screening for model/expectations fit
  • Create custom support strategies for every question on the model
  • Programmatically create a custom report for all possible response combinations

That all has to rest on a backend to do the work, and a front end that works for customers.

From an MVP approach, the only thing I think we could skip would be the site and report design aspects. Without an academically solid model and report, it would not be a viable product.

I prefer B2B because businesses purchase based on value. If you can save them money or make them money, you can justify your price. Consumers don’t value their time as much.

A few points.

  • We are starting as B2C. Quicker purchase decisions and does not require a multilevel admin back end.
  • We are addressing a serious emotional issue for parents and kids. People will pay to have that addressed.
  • We will go to B2C/B2E but the sales cycles can be up to two years or more.

Your order of importance is market, marketing, aesthetic, function

The pivotal issue here is there is no market for what we’re making.

Let me qualify that. There is no online market for what we’re selling. Our main competitors are in-person consultations with experts, and the in-person market has waitlists a year long.

  • Developmental Psychologists
  • Child Psychologists
  • Child Psychiatrists

We have to target these fields for SEO but create the online market.

Summary

There are some quick online quizzes similar to what we’re doing, but they tend to be super light and address a single developmental issue. We’re covering multiple developmental differences in one screening, which doesn’t happen anywhere else.

My co-founders and I have all been through the current process, and it’s a pain in the arse that people really want to be solved.

Our main problems are:

  • Getting people to know the problem is addressable
  • Letting people know our solution exists.

HUGE problems, but I feel the effort and risk are worth it. It literally is an opportunity to help millions of people.

30 by 30 #10


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Written by Adrian Gray who's bootstrapping an EdTech startup in Sydney, and loves to chat with like minded people. Find him on Twitter