A View Up the Skirt of “Lean Startup,” JumpPost

Posted on December 21, 2009. Filed under: JumpPost, startups, Uncategorized, venture capital | Tags: , , , |

I thought I’d take this opportunity to shed a little light on what we’ve been up to at JumpPost.  I realize I’ve been referencing our Company pretty consistently throughout this blog, but as this community has been growing beyond my friends and colleagues who know what we’re up to (thank you Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, and HackerNews for all the love), I realize its not cool to keep secrets from the community.

At Untitled Partners, I used to communicate with our Board of Directors and Angel Investors via a Monthly Update, which examined our Company’s efforts across all key verticals.  It was a great way to keep them in the loop on what was going on, and to invite dialog and advice from a group of very experienced folks.  Below, is a “Monthly Update” (albeit less detailed given I’m putting this in the public domain) on JumpPost.  I hope to achieve three things with this post: 1) Share our company with you, 2) Provide a model for communication with investors that I encourage early stage entrepreneurs to leverage, and 3) solicit any and all feedback and advice for JumpPost that this community might have to offer.

JumpPost Update 12/21/09

Generally speaking, I am extremely happy with the progress we’re making here at JumpPost.  For those who are not familiar, JumpPost is an online classifieds product in the real estate vertical.  We’ve built a low cost brokerage model on top of a traditional classified experience, and figured out how to unlock a significant piece of monetary value for any consumer who’s changing residence.  Below is a summary of our ongoing efforts:

Recruiting: I am spending a tremendous amount of time and energy recruiting talent for JumpPost.  The cycle is predictably long to find real A-level hires, but we are seeing the right types of people, and response is positive.  Right now it is me, two extremely fast and skilled developers (who happen to be brothers), a young product savant, and a brilliant kid who I can only call my Special Advisor (deep analysis on risks and strategic direction supported by heavy data collection and statistical analysis).  This group of people is our core “beta team”.  Most of the recruiting I am doing now, is not to support our current build or entrance into the market, but rather the longer term efforts that will ensue post “product/market test” (see below for description).

Product Development: Our “beta product” (first version of the site) will be done by Christmas (ish… in reality we’ll be tweaking features and design through the Holidays).  We started building this site through the lens of getting to a minimum viable product (MVP) to support a test in one market.  I literally wanted to create an extremely spartan clone of craigslist, not worry at all about design, and just go prove that we could build liquidity in a market.  Of course, once we got started, ambitions grew, and now we are going to put something out that is a bit more than a minimum viable product.  It’s prettier and easier to use than most products in the rental vertical (which is a bonus, but not what fundamentally differentiates us from everyone else in the market).  Beyond Minimum Viable Product, we’ve also built in a few features that we hope will allow us to acquire new customers/users extremely economically (syndication and referral tools for our users).  Look forward to seeing how those pan out.

Legal: we’re engaged in a non-trivial effort to structure our company within the bounds of state brokerage regulation.  Luckily we’ve got some really bright guys at Cooley Godward making it happen.  They’ve put in a bunch of time for free (as an investment in JumpPost), and have been great about deferring fees until we raise capital.  Can’t say enough good things about Pat Mitchell in particular.  Huge asset to our Company.

Customer Acquisition: There is only so much we can do on customer acquisition pre-product, but we’ve got a solid 90 day plan, and a couple of nice head starts.  For one, this blog is growing pretty fast, and already sees close to 10,000 page views per month.  My hope is that some of our readers will be excited to bang on JumpPost in the early days (if you want to participate in our Beta just email jordan.cooper@gmail.com with “Beta” in the subject, and your City and State in the body).  We’ll be relying heavily on our friends and friends of friends to help us build liquidity in the early days.  One of the nice things about our product, is that if you are changing residence, it represents an opportunity to earn hundreds of dollars for doing very little work.  That’s an opportunity we think friends are going to be psyched about sharing with each other.  Especially in light of recent macro decline, we were really inspired by models like Avon and Tupperware, who provide a channel for everyday consumers to put a little extra cash in their pockets.

Business Development: It’s a bit early to really engage potential partners, but we spend a lot of time looking at liquid channels through which to market JumpPost inventory.  We’ve been getting to know some of the folks at XXXX, XXXXX, and XXXX, and they have been great about helping us to design a user experience that compliments participation in their platforms.  There are also a bunch of folks who are interested in providing special value or services to our users during their transition from one home to another.  With all of these guys, we’re just sort of saying hi and listening to what’s important to them.

Sales: We’ve got some special sauce around our sales model.  Can’t wait to share it with you.

Fundraising: We’ve been inspired by Steve Blank and the Customer Development / lean startup model.  Not just because we can command a 3-4x step up in valuation if we find product/market fit pre -fundraising, but also because we want to be sure we have built something worth replicating before committing the Company to our current vision.  We are going to start running a test around building liquidity in one market come January.  If that test goes well, and we prove we can acquire customers economically, we will try to raise a significant round pf capital on that data.  If that test flops (which is entirely possible as well), we will refine/pivot the product with the new data we collect.  That’s one of the joys about playing in the $150B sand box that is the home rental market.  There is, for all intents and purposes, and infinite supply of new users, and a huge amount of dollars that we can keep testing new ways of capturing.  My sense from all of our research, surveys, and conversations with consumers and relevant parties in the supply chain, is that our test is going to work out pretty well, but we constantly think about product expansion, and how we can push beyond our current offering.  So yea, unless there is an investor our there who has some irrational confidence in us, and wants to write a $2 Million check pre-product/market test with the full understanding that this Company might look very different in 6 months than it does today…we are going to continue depleting our already emaciated bank accounts for another couple months.  The one caveat I’ll say, is that we have absolutely no budget to put against this product/market test.  We may learn in the course of running the test that a couple hundred thousand dollars would help us acquire a much more meaningful data set (this is not the rocket ship case or the flop case, but somewhere in the middle).  If that turns out to be true, I guess these plans might change a little bit.

Anyone see mistakes we’re making?  Please advise, don’t pull punches…

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    About

    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I think there is one metric that can be used to measure the value of a human life and that’s impact. How did you change things? How many people did you touch? How different is the world because you lived in it and how positive was the change that you affected? (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it) You can email me at Jordan.Cooper@gmail.com

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