In the first entry of this story (A matchmaking App for Gamers) I wrote about how to build and validate an MVP for this project. The next milestone in this project was to build the first functional iteration of Yell and do the First Click Test. I started coding the App myself but the technical challenge was big and it required expertise on app development that I didn’t have. Still I did all that I could to work on developing the functional version.
So I started working as a freelance developer to learn faster and use the skill to develop the App. It took me a couple of months to work on but basically I had two parts for the App:
- The App itself. Which was a simple Web App that explained how to use it and directed you to the search engine to find other players available. You could also see your gamer profile. It’s important to notice, I was focusing on a single segment: Halo Players.
- The search engine. I was building a scrapping app with Mongoose and Cheerio to scrape for gamers information from Halo Waypoint. The purpose was that, in the main Web App, the gamer would enter some search criteria, and with that criteria the search engine would look for players with that criteria in Halo Waypoint.
The thing is that with all that had happened (loosing the co-founder, not having developers, me developing the app), Start Up studio was not so sure that the project would be successful. So they backed out of the deal. Which I totally understand, that’s when I decided I needed help from a true developer. I also needed another potential investor. Then I remembered! The CIO of Arca Continental, back when we first showed the concept he was interested in knowing more.
I reached out via email to Jose Guereque to arrange a meeting and surprisingly he remembered me and the Yell project. I prepared a pitch deck for the meeting and continued working on the Yell web app. When we met, he liked the advancements on the business and the product, but for him to make an investment would mean for me to:
- Find a good co founder
- Launch an actual app (not the web app)
- Reach 100 active users
If these milestones were to be met, he would start working with the project to help it grow. He suggested we keep in contact every month so that I could give him an update on how I was going. He also set a deadline, if you want to make it real, you have 6 months for this. Damn, the plot thickens. After this is when I reached out to a friend of mine who is an expert on product development and asked him to meet up someday soon.
Yell MVP 2.0
So I met with Edgar. He’s a developer and also an entrepreneur. A practical person with a mindset on finding solution paths to problems or issues. When I spoke to him about the idea, he really liked it. He also wanted to understand the opportunity, why a business around it?
The gamers who consume eSports content is growing +15% year over year, in Mexico 54% of gamers consume video-content about eSports. On average, those who follow Twitchers spend between $4.99 to $24.99 to support their favorite streamers. In Mexico there were 55.8 million players — which generate $1.6BN of dollars in income, this is the total amount of their spending in 2018.
Video games are surpassing the value per user of large companies such as Facebook ($14 usd/user), YouTube ($5.33 usd/user) or Instagram ($5.2 usd/user). Fortnite generates $87 per user on mobile, PUBG $30 per user on mobile, Hearthstone generates $65.76 per user on mobile, and games like League Of Legends and Overwatch earn anywhere from $375 to $500 per user due to skins and different heroes available.
Just some eSports facts for you. “Well ok, I get it. I’m in!”. What we did on the next week was awesome, we worked on a Design Sprint. 5 Days to do it and get going with the development. We designed some pretty cool stuff and on the validation we learned some interesting things, for example how we could describe Yell to users:
“Yell is the FitBit for eSports players — you’ll be able to measure your performance to improve in each game”
“Yell is the version of LinkedIn for eSports players — you’ll be able to build your career with achievements in games and tournaments”
“Yell gives you the possibility to earn money by sharing your experiences and knowledge of the game to help others improve their performance”
The what for Yell had a slight but important change. Yell is an app designed to help gamers increase their performance using game analytics and to boost their competitive level by connecting with other high-performing gamers.
We knew that there were 5 areas in which gamers would be willing to pay for:
- Improved Matchmaking Experience Among Gamers
- Player Recognition and Reputation
- Competitive boost for gamers
- Game and Player Analytics
- Monetizing your time
By the end of the week we had designed the first version for the App.
Nothing better for ideation than good old paper. With the information and designs we developed from the design sprint, we created 2 base documents for the development of the App:
- The features and specs for Yell
- Gamification plan for the App
Since we had 6 months to achieve the MVP (well ok, 5 months and 3 weeks, who’s counting?), we thought it would be wise to create an effort schedule with the milestones and key activities to be executed in order to launch the MVP. The plan covered from the creation of the first functional wireframes to searching for strategic alliances.
We also had to decide in which games we would focus first for the App. We did some research on the games that are considered eSports. How much revenue have they generated from tournaments and sponsorship? What’s the size of the viewership on channels like Twitch? What’s the number of Monthly Active Users? Do they have API’s and other technologies that we could use for the App?
The last thing we had planned for was the 100 first users strategy. We had the previous data base that I created back when I tested the Airtable MVP. But we also wanted to create buzz around it, how to attract gamers organically? They love Twitch, podcasting is growing. We thought of creating Twitch Talks: live talks in twitch with gamers and streamers about the gamer life. So we ended up with a mixed strategy of good old cold calling and content creation.
From Zero to Hero
Part of my responsibilities was to also create the brand for Yell. As you saw in the previous wireframe art, I’m terrible at design — but I’m really passionate about creating an idea, a personification of what we’re trying to achieve. I worked with a friend of mine who happens to be an excellent designer.
Gamers have perseverance, they don’t quit easily (I mean rage quitting is common, but we try and try until we do it). At competitive levels, they show their gaming strength and their commitment to the goal of being the best. We wanted these gamers to feel security on their careers, self-realization and recognition, to have a taste of glory and be their own greatest heroes.
With our branding and style guide ready, we could proceed to creating and planning the first version of the App for a First Click Test. At the same time I dedicated myself to prospect possible users (attracting them first to the First Click Test) and the creation of our Twitch Talks. I met with several streamers and gamer groups:
It was an interesting strategy because it enable us to meet with the industry experts and to know who are the players, streamers and eSports groups relevant in Mexico. We also attended to some of the events that they prepared for this group of elite gamers. It was good pitching the idea and obtaining feedback, without the app. If we wanted to focus on pro gamers, we already had the contacts and their opinion on the App.
After a while the first version of the App was ready. It was time for the First Click Test. From our list, about 50 people presented to the FCT, including some of the gamers and streamers we previously met. It was great. From doing interviews to watching how they interacted with the app, we learned a lot about the jobs to be done and how to better present it. What we learned is that the App was ready on it’s first version and we also had a roadmap for some bugs, functionality improvements and new functionality to be developed. We still had another 3 months to reach 100 users registered on the app.
Then we took an arrow to the knee. Just kidding, the pandemic happened.
The Times They Are A-Changin’
When the pandemic happened, we stopped for a while. We felt uncertain about the situation and we didn’t really knew what to do — it didn’t feel right to promote a business on those times.
What we ended up doing is launching the App.
We started digging into why some players left and others would stay. The ones that stayed were more casual players and not willing to pay for special features. The ones that left? Saw the potential in the App but told us that it lacked the functionality they were looking for.
The ones who left were also willing to pay for these features. So we figured that it was best to develop these paying features in Yell and learn more about the profile of this gamers. This were the streamers, or players that were highly involved in competitive gaming, and even teams of players that were looking to go pro.
Time went by and after some research, interviews and calls we developer a technical spec for the Paying features that these group of gamers were willing to pay for and needed:
- A Marketing suite for Player Recognition and Reputation and a way to monetize their gaming time.
- An Insights suite for Game and Player Analytics, it would help them improve their gaming strategy and even coach other players.
- A Career Solutions suite, a bundle of solutions focused on building your career (kinda like LinkedIn).
We knew this was going to be a game changer for the App. But this is were the journey ended. And this is the part were I share with you some of my biggest lessons learned. Truth is that by this time we got burned out, lost motivation and the investor moved on from the deal because it took us too long to launch.
The process of creating an app was intense and fun. It involved learning about product development, design, market research, looking for investment, tons of sales and marketing in non traditional ways, and the ability to do things fast — even when the product or the idea isn’t perfect.
We were on track for something amazing and even though the pandemic happened, we stopped for different reasons. We focused to much on creating a perfect product and on having all the features we imagined would win us the business. We also tested to much with the First Click Tests and other forms of user feedback — not to say that it isn’t important but it should be a continuous agile work. We also focused on a business goal that was imposed to us to win investment. Did we really needed investment at these stages? Having a short term view did not allow us to see clearly what we needed.
The process of finding product market fit isn’t a one-time-thing, once you understand how it fits you should launch and improve on the way to the top — our mistake was seeing the steps and wanting to climb them and then launch at the top. What’s also important is to continue trying different ideas, even though you tried hard and got so far but in the end it doesn’t even matter (yes, this is linking park), you don’t start from scratch — you begin from experience and with a new perspective. I know I lost big time, but I am proud to have tried my best.
Im not looking for the glory, Im looking for my passions and sometimes you have to create the thing that you want to do for the rest of your life. It’s a process, and this venture opened my eyes into what I wanted to do next.