Day 30: Business Assumptions Exercise

Morning Journaling

Man! Sleep! So the night before I got 6 hours of sleep. Normally I’d just push through the tired feeling and eventually not feel so tired but yesterday I didn’t fight it. Yesterday was the worse day I’ve tracked since I’ve started tracking my mood. Take a look:

I think the big difference yesterday was how late I went to sleep, 2 am. Now that I understand sleep a little better from reading “Why We Sleep” I know that going to bed that late cut out a section of either REM (rapid eye movement) or NREM (non-rapid eye movement), both are important of course. Actually… I can check…

Yeah, I didn’t get a lot of deep sleep. Anyhow… I feel good today! 😀 Something else I noticed is that I’ve gotten really sloppy about my sleep schedule and other routines. I have a feeling it’s because I know I’m traveling soon and that everything will be thrown out of order. I think that’s a bad habit I have and I’m going to try to counter it moving forward from today.


I picked up this term from the book “Common Stocks Uncommon Profits”. Huh… I wasn’t exactly sure why “scuttlebutt” came to mind until I went looking for a “definition” of it. An article at the top of Google articulated it well (Note: WOAH! I just noticed the connection between article and articulate! “from Latin articulus ‘small connecting part’, diminutive of artus ‘joint’.”)

“[S]cuttlebutt refers to all the qualitative information that the best investors combine with their chart plotting and number crunching to assess an investment”

It was around 10 years ago when I read about scuttlebutt. One of the things the author would do before considering investing in a company is call customer service and see how he was treated, he’d go into the store if he could, he’d talk to managers and act like a potential buyer or supplier. He’d do a bunch of things that the numbers couldn’t accurately reflect.

I’ve been spending a little time on reddit every day, googling around the web to find different communities and blog posts and emailing people who might have special insight into an issue. What’s hitting me is that I’ll essentially be doing scuttlebutt in a scientific fashion was I’m testing assumptions and validating the market. Speaking of which…

Business Assumptions Exercise

This is available on page 70 of “Talking to Humans”. It’s a set of questions that the author finds himself using to “lay out a belief system around an idea.”

My target customer will be?

(Tip: how would you describe your primary target customer)

Myself (the person with bipolar disorder), my family (my mother, brother and wife) and my closest friends (Shane and Marcus).

The customers, in my mind, would be the key people in the support network of someone who suffers with bipolar disorder. Any one of these people could “buy in” and it would grant full access to the other members. So this could mean that I find value in it, pay for it, and recruit friends and family or a friend or family member finds it, finds value in it, and recruits me and the team. I actually think this could work without the person with the disorder even being involved (though that would, of course, be the ideal).

The problem my customer wants to solve is?

(Tip: what does your customer struggle with or what need do they want to fulfill)

The problems are endless! Relationship, money, health, emotional well being, financial and emotional stress on family and friends, etc. I think it could broadly be defined as wanting to be “normal”.

My customer’s need can be solved with?

(Tip: give a very concise description / elevator pitch of your product)

A professional peer-to-peer support network made up of peers and professionals and management tools.

Why can’t my customer solve this problem today?

(Tip: what are the obstacles that have prevented my customer from solving this already)

  • Stigma surrounding bipolar keeps people from talking about it openly.
  • A lack of understanding for all parties involved (sufferers, family, friends, etc.)
  • A lack of resources for governments or institutions for following up properly.
  • The difficulty of setting up small digital, and IRL, communities.

The measurable outcome my customer wants to achieve is?

(Tip: what measurable change in your customer’s life makes them love your product)

An important part of this will be tracking. Sleep and mood either through something I create or third party apps. The process of lifting someone out of depression is long and hard. First it will be little wins. Developing the right habits to regularly shower, or brush their teeth. Those build up into larger things. Maybe regular exercise. These build up into a new job or a relationship and, eventually, a “normal” life. I want this service to be there every step of the way and, when they’re on the other side, I want them to be a part of the support community helping others pull themselves out of depression.

Throughout this whole process a whole host of things will be tracking within the community and apps. Milestones, goals accomplished, failures learned from and eventually overcome, etc.

My primary customer acquisition tactic will be?

(Tip: you will likely have multiple marketing channels, but there is often one method, at most two, that dominates acquisition – what is your current guess)

Paid traffic and referrals. Designed properly I think viral growth through sharing will be possible because the app/service will be designed to work better with more people (close to the customer) participating.

My earliest adopter will be?

(Tip: remember that you can’t get to the mainstream customer without getting early adopters first)

Someone like me. Very active on social media websites and willing to test new apps as they appear. Being digitally social means they would be willing and able to recruit people to try the service/app. I hacked together a solution but if a solution was presented to me I would have been willing to try it.

I will make money (revenue) by?

(Tip: don’t list all of the ideas for making money, but pick your primary one)

Recurring monthly payments.

My primary competition will be?

(Tip: think about both direct and indirect competition)

I don’t think I would see anything operating in the space as “competition”. Based on the paid results from Google searches I believe the main competition is treatment centers. There are services like Better Help which provide remote counseling. There are also “telehealth” tools like We Counsel, but this is a service which allows healthcare providers to offer remote services.

The closest thing I’ve found is the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance but, again, I don’t see it as competition. They have a network and an app (which isn’t currently being updated).


I will beat my competitors primarily because of?

(Tip: what truly differentiates you from the competition)

People, community and network effect.

Whatever I build it’s going to live and die by the people using it. Early on, I plan on powering everything inside of Facebook groups and email lists. My test community is working extremely well inside of a Facebook group (I have 36 users). Scaling up the power of small communities with network effect isn’t something that currently exists.

My biggest risk to financial viability is?

(Tip: what could prevent you from getting to breakeven? Is there something baked into your revenue or cost model that you can de-risk?)

Right now the only “risk” I can see is if people are unwilling to pay for the service. In the beginning I plan on doing everything. Customer service, group moderation, etc. If I’m unable to hire people to do what I do and “break even” with the money I have coming in, that will be problematic. I plan on their eventually being a “freemium” model, but that won’t be hard to scale in the beginning. In the beginning “freemium” will be an email series and larger Facebook groups.

My biggest technical or engineering risk is?

(Tip: is there a major technical challenge that might hinder building your product?)

I don’t think there is as the complexity of the product will grow incremental up from utilizing freely available services and open source products.

He has one final statement to follow up these questions.

And then answer the following open-ended question. Be creative and really examine your points of failure. What assumptions do we have that, if proven wrong, would cause this business to fail?

I think my riskiest assumption is that someone within the support network would be willing to pay a monthly fee. I think I’ve proven how effective ONLY a peer-support group can be with the Facebook group I created.

Wrap Up

I didn’t get a chance to finish that last part. This feels like a pretty good start! It’s late and I don’t have a whole lot of time to reflect. I really looking forward to talking to people! I’ve kind of been doing it informally, but I need to get more formal about it. Be more scientific.

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