Popwork : from idea to MVP

In one year, Popwork has grown from a simple idea to a solution used every week by hundreds of managers and their teams who want to work better together 😅.

A first anniversary is also an opportunity to step back on what we have achieved and learned so far. Here are the 5 lessons from the very first weeks of the adventure: going from idea to MVP.

#1 Forget about the idea, focus on the problem 🔍

Gif: Tom Hanks saying "Houston we have a problem"

First of all, you have to identify the problem you want to solve, otherwise your solution will be useless. For that, you have to be as objective as possible, based everything you do on facts and not on opinions.

Don't ask people what they think about your idea - they won't tell you the truth because they don’t want to hurt you. This is the famous "mom test" or how to ask questions that even your mom couldn't lie to you about.

In our case, we conducted interviews for 3 weeks with more than 100 managers, directors, HRD and employees. For these interviews, we followed 2 simple principles:

  • Speak as little as possible and listen: you are here to learn, not to talk about yourself or sell your solution. It's not easy, we always want to pitch your idea - to show how great it is or just to be reassured. Let the other person do the talking and don't hesitate to rephrase what they just told you (you'll be surprised how many times they say A and you understand B).
  • Focus on the real world experience and the facts: if you ask "How often do you go to the gym? People are most likely to inflate their response a bit or to start with general considerations. Instead, ask them, "How many times have you been to the gym in the past week?" This will be a much better starting point for having a factual and actionable discussion.

If you are not yet convinced, remember that the number one cause why startups fail (42% of cases) is that there simply was no market, which means there ways no problem and therefore no need. [Source: CB Insights]

#2 Throw away everything you can 🗑️

Man holding an old ruined shirt

Now that you have the confirmation that there is a problem and a need, you can think about the solution. At the start of a project, you have a lot of ideas - often too many.

The whole point is to focus on solving a specific problem, to narrow the scope of the potential solution as much as possible. If you try to solve everything from the start, you probably won't solve much. Concretely, this means putting aside most of your ideas or even throwing them away.

You will know you have come to the end of this process when you are able to sum up what you are doing in one sentence - not two or three sentences, just one! Until you get there, your solution is too broad and your value proposition not clear enough.

At Popwork, we had a lot of ideas to solve the management we observed among companies and teams: performance reviews, engagement surveys, high five system between colleagues, not to mention an AI-powered manager (no comment …). We quickly abandoned all that to refocus on the foundation of any management relationship: the 1:1 meetings that millions of managers do with their team members every week.

#3 Take your time if you want to go fast 🚄

Someone proposing wheels to two characters pulling a heavy cart without wheels. The two characters are declining the offer saying they are too busy.

As an entrepreneur, time is an obsession: you always want to go faster. Yet we must accept that some things can only be achieved with time and there's nothing you can do about it.

In the case of Popwork, I still remember the day we set the deadline to start developing our solution. We had just spent several long weeks doing interviews, mockups, then more interviews and we wanted to move on to the next step as quickly as possible. But deep down we still had doubts about certain aspects of our (future) product.

We then decided to do a last iteration of 3 weeks with about twenty potential users. It was an extremely frustrating decision for the whole team but arguably one of our best decisions until now. This allowed us to resolve the remaining weaknesses in our product.

Don't start building your solution too quickly. If you skip steps during this phase of defining your product, you may end up losing a lot more time by developing the wrong solution. Losing 6 months for trying to save 3 weeks is what could have happened to us ...

#4 Be proud but also be a little ashamed of your MVP 💅

A man, personification of a start up, looking at a woman, personification of the PMF while he's holding his jealous girlfriend's hand, personification of the MVP.

First you have to understand what an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is. MVP is more of a process than a product. You shouldn't see it as a reduced version of your product, something that you come out saying “here's a good thing done, we've released our MVP!”.

On the contrary, MVP is a process during which you will be able to validate (or not) your assumptions, better understand the usage and needs of users and collect as much feedback as possible. You will be able to test, do and undo, iterate and gradually improve your product.

The MVP is not a point of arrival, but simply a step to find your Product-Market Fit (the famous PMF). This is the reason why it should be launched as soon as possible. The longer you delay doing this, the more likely you are to spend weeks building features that no one else needs.

In short, build an MVP that you can be proud of but launch it ASAP. It’s normal that not everything is perfect yet, otherwise you’ve launched it too late.

#5 Invest in the relationship with your team 🍕

Ninja turtles celebrating all together

The other reason startups fail most often is related to the team (23% of cases). This is why it is very important to invest early on in your relationship with your team, starting with your co-founders.

Sometimes at the beginning we are so focused on building the product, on getting feedback from the first users, and so busy with the day-to-day of running a startup that we think it is secondary. This is a mistake: co-founders have to talk to each other as much as possible, step back as often as possible, make sure to stay aligned.

At Popwork, we set up since day 1 a weekly ritual that we called the check-in. Every Friday, we each answer a few simple questions and we share the answers:

  • [Mood] How was your week?
  • [Achievements] What have you achieved since time?
  • [Priorities] What are your priorities this week?
  • [Challenges] What roadblocks are you facing?
  • [Others] What other topics you want to talk about?

This weekly ritual helps us take a step back and it has a huge impact, week after week, on our productivity and our cohesion as a team. This forces us to put the important topics on the table and address them together.

At first we did it manually, which was quite tedious and not always well tracked. Now we have a great tool to do that and much more! 😉