With average day time temperatures in the 40’s and just one real snow storm hitting the city it’s been a remarkably un-Boston-like January. For most, I’m sure, the mild weather is welcome but for those of us trying to launch a snow-based business our relationship with winter 2017 is a bit more tense.
At Yeti we’ve tried to make the best of our circumstances and during the first storm of 2017 we executed a soft launch of Boston’s first on-demand snow shoveling service. Our approach for the soft launch was something of a cross between a beta test and a full launch - get Yeti into the hands of real users but limit the scope and scale of service to prepare for a full launch which is still to come. We quietly released the app on the App Store, kept our mouths shut about it to the press and on social media, restricted the available service area to just South Boston and then ran a small number of ads to see how the market would respond.
The results? Incredible. Flawless. Bring on the millions in venture funding. Well… not quite. We went with a soft launch because we suspected there would be some day 1 struggles and we wanted to minimize the impact of those struggles on our users, turns out our suspicions were well founded. Without going into details I’ll just say that among other things we identified a pretty significant flaw in the primary user flow and we had to do some quick on the spot learning about social media advertising. Nothing overly dramatic but I was happy to get those issues identified and resolved in a low pressure, low impact environment. My goal for Yeti is to provide a high quality service and user experience, winter is miserable enough as it is and I want Yeti to be a bright spot in an otherwise miserable time of year, the soft launch was a huge step towards making that happen with minimal negative impact to our users.
It wasn’t all bad news, of course, lots of positive developments too. The number one takeaway from the weekend was the high level of interest we got from users. No one involved with Yeti publicized the launch at all (in fact they were directed not to tell anyone about the launch, friends and family included), and considering the minimal ad spend I was impressed with how many downloads we got and the number of user accounts created. Something I found especially interesting was the number of users who signed up to shovel snow as a Yeti since all our advertising was specifically targeted at customers and not Yetis, people seem really excited to get out there and make money.
Of course there’s one moment that stands out in my mind as the unquestionable highlight of the weekend - seeing the first order come in. When you spend this long working on a product its hard not lot let doubt creep into your mind, to worry that you’ve spent all this time creating something no one actually wants and that you’ve just been fooling yourself all along. Finally validating the idea with a real paying customer is immensely gratifying and while its just one small victory it gives you hope that the battle ahead is one you have a chance of winning.
And just like that Yeti was up and running - a real business, with real customers, and real cash flow. The days ahead will be challenging, I’m sure, but I think we’re in a great position to succeed. We’ve already used the learnings of our soft launch to reduce some of those challenges through both internal process changes and updates to the app and we plan to continue that cycle of learning and improvement indefinitely. Whenever the next snowstorm rolls through Boston you better believe we’ll be out there helping the people of this city make the best of it. We’re Yeti.