Growing web startup Tadabon part 1 – Idea and conception
Tadabon is a platform that enables small/medium merchants to offer printable gift vouchers online. It’s a spare time project intended as a learning experience, and I’m trying to document it as I go (with some delay though), however it turns out to go.
Timing of events in this post: Summer-fall 2013.
TadaBon as a web project was born more out of these 4 things, all happening during or after the summer of 2013:
- Receiving a printed amazon gift card that my wonderful colleagues bought me together before leaving for a long stay abroad, and loving it.
- Considering (and partially implementing) the possibility to offer gift vouchers as a feature of startup MyShoppingTab with my cofounder Stijn, who also gets the credit for initial enthusiasm about the gift voucher angle and believing in its potential as a separate site.
- Getting a new day job with a big emphasis on growing a project through online means. I love improving in my day job by doing the same kind of work on personal projects in my spare time, and trying to grow an online project from scratch through online means (more on that below) like this is just right for that.
- MyShoppingTab, while it got a number of users, was fading out and not growing at the pace we’d hoped for, due to a number of weaknesses, so feeling like a ‘pivot’ is in order. What’s more, building something fresh is always good for motivation, and online gift vouchers solve many of the drawbacks of MyShoppingTab. More on that below.
Gift Vouchers as a pivot from hosted web shops
MyShoppingTab was/is a platform that allows small merchants to create a web shop that functions entirely (including payment, which is quite unique) in a tab of their Facebook page, with no technical knowledge required, and lots of customization/personalisation options, both in the design and the wording.
It grew to be a rather advanced and full-featured app and I’m quite proud of that, but strategically it also had several drawbacks. The biggest ones are the following, and online printable gift vouchers fixes some of them in a straightforward matter:
- Promotion / traffic generation / converting is almost entirely up to the shop owner. Small merchants are often not up to that, and only those who really ‘live and breed’ facebook with a thriving community of fans managed to get good sales out of it.
Tadabon fix: positioning it as a central platform, allows me to help driving traffic to the site in general, thus not leaving it entirely in the vendor’s hands.Tadabon fix: still center around ‘shops’ for merchants, but also market it ourselves as a portal.
- Shop setup and maintenance, while simple, still required a lot of work because the entire inventory of products needed to be defined, described, and have a picture uploaded.
Tadabon fix: no inventory of physical products needs to be there, and it doesn’t have to be kept up-to-date with products in stock. What’s more, no physical shipping is needed, another hassle removed.
- There is still no real evidence that people like shopping within Facebook. What was long the biggest player in this field, Payvment, got bought and subsequently pulled the plug on Facebook shopping. Users still seem to associate shopping mostly with the web.
Tadabon fix: it will be a separate web site, with Facebook perhaps used as a possible sharing / growing platform but not the main focus.
- I wouldn’t use MyShoppingTab myself often, but I would (and by now, do) happily use Tadabon myself!
Some more strategic/product decisions made early on:
- Unlike MyShoppingTab, TadaBon is not multi-language, just dutch. Greatly reduces technical complexity of the app, and what’s more I am ok with focussing on a small, well-defined market rather than ‘the world’.
- The revenue model will be the same as MyShoppingTab: fixed fee for us, sales directly to the merchant, with a generous free trial to evaluate. Another great reduction of complexity (I just facilitate a direct transfer), and I like that ‘merchants have matters in their own hands’, and that I get paid regardless of how well they sell.Charging commission or not is an ongoing point of doubt though, many merchants seem to prefer a commission model however long I give them a free trial, because they are reluctant to pay for something without certainty it will be of value. So, this one isn’t carved in stone, but we got plenty of time to rethink, rethink and then rethink again here.The exact pricing also changes almost by the week in my head, even after the informal research done on this (see a next post). As gift vouchers make for so small a component of any merchant’s business (at least in their perception), here’s a big chance that this project never stands a chance of being financially self-sustaining unless it has hundreds of merchants, or unless I do give in and ask commission, or… Oh well, that’s why it’s a hobby.
Ok that’s about it for what lead up to Tadabon. Next edition will be about building the actual product and gathering initial feedback to get a sense of, well, the sense of it all.