Last night, Erin Hopmann of Dabble spoke in my Lean Startup Lab class at DePaul. Dabble is a web site that connects adult learners with classes of all sorts (fencing, beer brewing, knitting, etc.), starting at only $20. It’s an attractive value proposition for anyone who has the desire to learn about new things and meet new people, and is obviously an attractive marketing tactic for many businesses.
But as she was talking, I realized that classes could also be an interesting option for an MVP (minimum viable product). In fact, in his book, Running Lean (which I use in my lean startup courses), Ash Maurya specifically mentions that he used free and low-cost classes and seminars to test content for his book, which makes a lot of sense.
But you don’t need to be selling books or training/consulting services to do a class as an MVP.
- A founder of a social networking app could do a class on how to connect with people of like interests.
- A restauranteur could do a class on his particular cuisine.
- A travel startup founder could do a class on “how to pack your luggage”.
- A B2B human resources software provider could do a class on how to write effective performance appraisals.
Doing a class not only forces you to organize your thoughts and approach things professionally, it attracts a very focused market. For many startups, it presents an opportunity to test out features of their product or service and get validated learning from a targeted group of potential customers, with very little at stake.
One of the challenges of doing any class, of course, is the marketing. But Dabble is an active marketplace with thousands of subscribers – Dabblers – and 60% of them take more than one class. Therefore, that part of the work is greatly reduced for someone testing out a class concept, and there’s added credibility by having the class offered through a third-party site.
Landing pages, long a stalwart of low-fidelity MVPs, have their place in the lean startup process but are most appropriate for web startups and aren’t terribly effective at connecting with real customers. Classes, on the other hand, take things one step further by bringing you face-to-face with actual potential customers who actually pay for something.
And starting at $20, I can’t think of a better place to begin than Dabble.