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Ask HN: I built it, nobody came, now what?
242 points by d--b 2 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 262 comments
Hi HN,

I have built an application to scratch my own itch. It’s a tool that I had a need for in my day job for years. The problem it’s solving is a problem that I felt many people had too. But when I talked to people about it, most times it didn’t really click. So I thought “crap, they don’t get it, cause they don’t see it. Once I build it, they’ll get it”.

I didn’t spend an awful lot of time on it. And I think the app is ok-ish for an MVP.

Now I posted it here and there and sent it to a few people I know, but it doesnt seem good enough.

I realize now the importance of having a broad reach. If I was someone like Mike Bostock, with a bunch of followers, I’d just post it to Twitter and voila. Someone said earlier on HN: building an MVP should include a distribution strategy. And I can feel that pain. Now distribution is something I have zero skills at.

What should I do? There are a few things I could be doing, like:

- get better at marketing, make a video for my target customers

- try and build an audience through blogging and things of that nature

- go and sell it to customers in real life.

- try and find a co founder who would have the time and skills to do these things.

- add more features to the MVP that people tell me are missing

- create more documentation for the MVP, so that onboarding is smoother.

What would have most impact in getting the app in front of people?






The fact that you've got a comment on the front page of hacker news about your products lack of awareness, yet you don't say what the product is or link to it explains a lot.

You need to hustle more. This is a huge opportunity to get it in front of hundreds of people.

Edit: I had to search through the page to find a link to your app. You need to make it more obvious.


I don’t know, if OP had included it I would have been suspicious this whole post was just an excuse to push the app. Not mentioning it made the question genuine.

A bit of a catch 22...


This. As someone who regularly adds (I mean, added) a link to my GitHub library in various comments I make to HN threads, I've learned the bitter lesson that adding the link will often result in the comment getting downvoted.

When I did manage to get a "Show HN" post to the front page (with admin assistance) the link was in the title. Interest in the library was ... muted.

I've come to realise that spamming my library across HN is never going to bring it the recognition it deserves. So I've decided to move on to spamming the link across Twitter and Reddit instead.


> So I've decided to move on to spamming the link across Twitter and Reddit instead.

How's that going? Isn't Twitter mostly bots retweeting other bots?


I mean, if one doesn't want to use an app that solves their problem just because they think the guy might be advertising it like that... I don't know what to say.

It’s not about using the app, I just wouldn’t have upvoted the HN post. :) So it may not have been seen in the first place.

Yeah, but that's where the hustle and salesman instinct of a founder comes in. You've got to include it in a way that feels natural.

Yes. I would have edited it in right as the questions hit the front page. I mean, people want to see the app, there's nothing wrong with including the link.

To be frank, it would have looked sleazy to many people here.

I kind of already knew that users of the tool are not here on HN. So messages like "I don't get your product" aren't very helpful. I was genuinely looking for advice as to what to do next.


There are lots of startup founders who do feel a bit sleazy, or like they're just faking it until they make it. You don't give that impression at all!

As others have said below, I think you should push your product a bit. It might not be perfect, but if you can talk it up a bit whilst accepting valid feedback, then you're more likely to come off as dedicated and earnest. People can then trust that the product is likely to head in the right direction under your care.

Best of luck.


Thanks for the kind words!

Fair point, I think it depends how you frame it - and it is a fine line between being earnest and sleazy. As a founder you've gotta get comfortable walking it.

Here's some feedback after I unearthed your homepage:

You say users of the tool aren't on HN (which is a technology audience), yet your landing page is talking about technology and not the problem your solving. My guess is the audience for EXCEL are Business Analysts, admin staff, accountants, executives, etc. And not people in technical roles who'll get excited by the technology.

-------

You start off with some questions, but only one of them means anything to me:

"HAS YOUR BUSINESS AN EXCEL PROBLEM?" What is an excel problem? (Also, "DOES YOUR BUSINESS HAVE AN EXCEL PROBLEM?" reads better to me)

"DO YOU HAVE HUNDREDS OF UNMANAGED SHEETS RUNNING REPORTS?" This is the only question I can really answer.

"DO THEY TELL YOU IT WOULD TAKE TOO MUCH TIME TO REPLACE WITH PROPER APPS?" Who are "they"?

then you have:

"LIKE EXCEL, JIG IS A LIGHTWEIGHT SOLUTION TO CREATE DYNAMIC BUSINESS REPORTS AND APPS IN MINUTES. " This is fine

"UNLIKE EXCEL, JIG FILES ARE AUDITABLE, MAKING JIG APPS INHERENTLY SAFE. " What does safe and auditable in this context mean? What benefit does that give me? Surely the main benefit is the ergonomics and speed of accessing my data and safety and auditability are just side effects?

So, as someone who doesn't use Excel a whole lot, but I've seen businesses which run on very complicated excel spreadsheets without too much hassle, I'm struggling to see the problem.

As above, you talk about electron, and JavaScript, and auditability - which is fine for a technical audience, but if I'm a spreadsheet user I couldn't care less if it's built on Electron, or Flutter, or Qt, I just want to know how it helps me.

Would an excel user really care about a REPL (or even know what it is?) Or Version control, or the fact that something is or isn't on the cloud?

Surely the people who care about developer tooling would just be doing the visualisation in R or Python?

-------

I'm not saying there isn't a problem here, but perhaps you're not framing it the right way for the right audience?

Rather than asking vague questions, why not be pro-active and just give an answer.

Something like (and this is spitballing at 11:00pm on a Friday night so you know what the quality will be):

"Data is the lifeblood of businesses, yet you trust it to a glorified calculator. JIG re-imagines the spreadsheet, exposing data in new ways, ensuring you don't miss a thing."

Or: "30% of sales opportunities are lost because of incorrectly understood data, Jig exposes the trends for you so you'll never miss a deal."

Or: "Spreadsheets are complicated, they're messy and they're hard. Jig makes complicated spreadsheets quick and easy, giving you more time to focus on your business."

Or: "Excel buries data, JIG exposes it."

Or: "Excel was created in 1987, it was built for an simpler, less data-rich, era. JIG re-imagines the spreadsheet, with a focus on 2021 levels of data."

You get the picture.

Frame the problem, sell the solution, and instead of talking about the technology say how the technology helps.

Also, perhaps without customer testimonials find some case studies of times when excel has failed and what that failure cost. One that comes to mind, which is almost certainly too sensitive, is the contact tracing system in the UK that was built on excel. It failed when they ran out of rows causing hundreds of thousands of people to not be contacted about covid exposures. There will be tons of examples that aren't as life threatening that you can use to illustrate the benefits of Jig.


Yes, this is all fair points.

The problem I mostly have is I keep running in circles between the different possible ways this could grow.

1. It's a toy++ for javascript developers. Kind of like Linqpad for .net. "You have a problem with your backend. No problem, fire up Jig, and you can interact with your stuff in a neat way."

2. It's a way for executives to get internal reports much faster than what they have now.

3. It's a way for spreadsheet-heavy institution to off-load some of their spreadsheet risk without investing millions in internal app development.


You said you solved the problem for yourself, which of those three was the original problem you were solving?

#3 is interesting if you can include some automation from Excel to your tool and possibly RPA.

Downloaded it and installed it, and you seriously need to have some kind of onboarding for this kind of tool.

I'm an extremely technical person and I have no idea what I'm looking at. I can create cells that have code in them? How do they connect? What's the output, what's the input? Can I at least see an example of a jig file?

Is this vanilla Javascript? It looks like it might be, but the `viewof` keyword is confusing.


Noted. I think that’s likely the first thing to do. ie. that when a person’s interested enough to download the tool, they actually get to understand the basics of what it does...

Sorry for wasting your time.

In a nutshell:

- cells are code blocks that form a directed acyclic graph (like cells in Excel)

- cells can have a name (v=10) that can referenced in other cells (w=10*v)

- the whole thing is not exactly javascript, the viewof keyword represents the “html element of the cell”. This needs more than a comment on HN...


I would say that you have to define your audience. You have 4 possible level of users. There are people in the middle, of course, but these are your big groups: 1. IT/programmers (like you) 2. Advanced analysts (that are not afraid of Excel formulas, but barely scratch macros) 3. The report clickers (their concept of running a report is clicking on an icon and refreshing; if anything fails they run in panic) 4. The laid back Powerpoint requesters (CEOs that request other people to run the report for them, capture a screenshot and paste it in Powerpoint for the meeting).

Users in group #4 are allergic to anything with appearance of code in the same room that they cohabitate. Users in group #3 will also get panic attacks by getting code mixed with their visualizations. Users in group #2 will tolerate it, but will fear how their reputation would be affected if anybody see them coding.

My message hear here is similar to what you have received so far. You need to pivot how you market this solution.


Right. This “CEO” story was a test I made yesterday. From a blander “build internal reports fast” kind of message.

It clearly produces stronger reactions. In smaller organizations, CTOs often are of type 1, so I am not exactly certain that the message wouldn’t land. Though I agree it is a weird approach.


> Sorry for wasting your time.

Not at all, this is what testing out new products is all about! I think you may have something here, but it's hard to figure out exactly what.

Don't get me wrong, I think marketing and splash copy is important (a lot of comments are about your website), but I would personally focus first and foremost on the value proposition of your product.

> - the whole thing is not exactly javascript, the viewof keyword represents the “html element of the cell”. This needs more than a comment on HN...

Gotcha, I was also trying to label a graph's axes based on textlabels (two different cells), but I couldn't figure out how. Some docs, at least specifying what kind of object a graph or a table is expecting would be very helpful. Also, it's kind of odd that md`hello ${text1}` works, whereas I was expecting it to be md`hello ${text1.value}`. The reactivity is awesome though!


The whole thing is based on Observable (www.observablehq.com)

You’ll find plenty of onboarding stuff there if you’re interested.

Observable is great, but it’s got some annoying traits (saas only, lock in, no 2d layouts, no tabs) which make it not well suited to solving business problems.


I can second your annoyance with observable. I don't use it for this reason.

It is a reporting and graphing tool for data. Like Synergy SmartViews or Crystal Reports but instead of a Visual editor for crafting queries this uses code instead.

> It is a reporting and graphing tool for data...

It doesn't really seem like what you're describing once you run it. For one, I can make all kinds of widgets and import all kinds of code (which is confusing in its own right). But more importantly, I can't export or publish my workspace in any meaningful way.


I didn't test the software, I just read through the marketing materials. Just took another look and I'm more confident than before that what I described is eventually what this intends to be. From the website it claims that these features are coming soon.

There's a reason this Justin Kan quote has become famous to the point of being a meme:

"First time founders are obsessed with product.

Second time founders are obsessed with distribution."

You just learnt through bitter experience that distribution is the far harder problem to solve. You need to figure out who this thing is useful for, what is a way to get it in front of them and then how to adapt your product to get it to click.


I think there should be an addendum to that quote that "third time founders are obsessed with runway management and getting money for their products". Companies die because they run out of money and you ignore your balance sheet at your own peril.

This is an excellent point. You need to understand why your customers are buying your product, and make sure that's actually why you're actually trying to provide.

It looks interesting, but CEO's don't have time to get syntax errors. That is why they pay big money to companies for products like Synergy SmartViews or UniPoint or Crystal Reports. So they can pay someone with moderate skills a moderate salary to generate professional looking reports. This would have to undercut those other tools in price and also be geared towards more technical industries. Preferably industries that have internal developers with time to play around with this. Then the real money will come in the form of paid training courses and certification levels.

I think you're onto something and I do think there's a market for this, but you're aiming too high. The target audience for this is buyers, planners, and schedulers. They are the boots-on-the-ground who generate these kinds of reports for the CEO. They are the ones who will see your product, identify with it, and recognize it's value. CEO's don't care where pretty reports come from. They pay someone else to worry about that.

The good news is the hard part seems to be mostly done. If you spent some time adding Visual development features to this (so you can just click and drag buttons to create queries) you would have a very big market. You would get bonus points for integrating this directly into popular ERP systems like Job Boss or Infor Visual.


Sure, what you say works for big corporations. However buyers in big corporations are not first customers. Nobody gets fired for buying tableau.

CEOs in 20-people companies don’t have time for syntax errors for sure, but they do care how much time reports take away from building features.

Anyway that needs rephrasing


I’m the Founder of a sub 20 person company and you are right about tableau but also completely wrong about your view. The problem with your tool is anyone who will find this useful can also just solve this problem with JavaScript.

Additionally I think you fell pray to a mistake i my self made about 8 years ago. I built a product thought it was amazing tried to turn it into a company and completely failed. In one of my final meetings about the project someone said “you know you just reinvented Apache yarn here right?... and not in a good way” I had no idea what they were talking about I left the meeting and started power googling they were right 80% of our code was pointless and missing 90% of the features of a pretty generic open source project.

Today I red team any idea I have by assuming someone solved it and I just haven’t found it yet. I ask the smartest people I know “what does this idea feel like?” Before I build anything...

If I could go back in time and tell you one thing it would be “while you may feel like you are fixing excel 100% of your features are in the developer docs for google sheets... a free product”


This is a key issue in my field as well. Marketing isn’t just about selling and should also be part of focusing on what to build. Commercial passion projects are awful for this because you have to go from building something for yourself to understanding what people actually want.

Part of the problem is cultural as well. Games in particular lionises unrepeatable successes. Which ends up with very similar “scratch your itch”/“build the game you want” and “build it and they will come”/“just make a good game” generic advice. Often given by people who haven’t succeeded themselves!


> The problem with your tool is anyone who will find this useful can also just solve this problem with JavaScript.

Well yeah, though they won't do it as fast. Having a live repl, and packaged charts should make it at least 10x faster.

Sure I may very well be making a mistake. The fact is I'd rather fail than not give it a shot..


You may not like Excel but most people who "NEED A QUICK ANALYSIS FOR YOUR BUSINESS" (to quote your copy from https://www.jigdev.com) rely on it.

I think you have a solution in search of problem.

Showing it to more people is not the answer. Adding features only helps when you have someone who has a clear point of dissatisfaction with Excel.

Who is so dissatisfied with Excel that they will take the time to install and learn a new tool.

Excel has a lot of debugging checks built in to catch mistakes and if they make a mistake in an Excel sheet they can ask many people to double check their work.

If they are the only Jig user in the firm they are completely on their own.


Ah, I myself am what they call an Excel wiz. I’ve been building all kinds of tools with excel since I started working in finance in 2007.

Excel has been both a miracle and a curse. We could make super complex apps in hours, but these were insanely unsafe. People would leave typos all over the place, and there was zero way to audit changes.

This is THE major reason for this tool to exist.


If that is THE reason for the product to exist, you are marketing this all wrong.

You list features and say what it can do, but you are really selling robustness, stability and clarity. Don't sell the product, sell the problem. Spaghetti code in Excel. Untouchable formulas created by some ex-employee. Replacing a magic variable in 30,000 cells, etc. At the end, show how your product solves it.

You need some sample before and afters. This is what the formula looked like before, here's how it was abstracted and this is what that change enables.

Ideally your product would be a service that a company pays for where you come in a help clean up their files. If possible, I would see if you could find a company willing to let to try and use them as a case study.

That would be 1000% more effective than worrying about marketing details.


Then you should consider writing two tools:

1. A detailed audit and change control / diff tool for Excel Here are some alternatives:

https://www.spreadsheetdetective.com/

https://www.themodelanswer.com/

List at https://sites.google.com/a/usfca.edu/business-analytics/deve...

2. A translator that maps an existing Excel file into Jig.


I look at this and think about hours I generally do this work in Jupyter.

Me too. Jupyter notebook which I believe is open source.

I don't understand the problem you are solving. Usually when this is the case it also means you don't really know what problem you are solving.

You haven't planned to reach out to people to sell your software so I guess you are targeting individual people, and not ceo or cto who don't have time.

So you have two problems, you have not figure out what is your target audience and who you are selling to

Take a paper and list real world use cases that are ideal for your product. It should take a few days. Figure out who has this kind of use case, among those people who is really wanting to improve the way they are solving it. And finally where they gather. Then go on popular saas website and try to understand how companies are positioning themselves. There are mostly two ways of communicating. Either you talk about your product either you talk about your vision.

The fact that people that you talk to don't get it doesn't mean they don't get it, it means you don't know how to explain what you do, whether or not you have a product won't make them change their mind about it. If you have trouble communicating the values you will also have trouble communicating the values on the website and throughout the product. So spend a few days thinking about the value, the use case. That's an iterative process especially if you have never done it before


Thanks for your feedback. I’ve changed the message.

There are a few ways to market the idea.

Trying to find the most effective one.


I'm not sure you understood what I was trying to say. You should not rush to make a change to your website, this is something you need to think thoroughly.

You can contact me by mail if you want (We surprisingly did the same school :))


ha nice! No I get what you say, I had changed the message just to take advantage of HN's front page feedback.

I have thought about this for a while. My experience is that if I sit down with someone and talk to them for a while, they do get it (as a few people on this thread have shown). The issue I have is that it's not a simple "here's your problem, here's a solution" type of situation, it's a lot finer than that.


The key to customer interviews is not telling them what your product does. Otherwise people will be nice and fit their answers to your product.

"Build it and they will come" doesn't work anymore.

I see way too many people have killer skills to build something wonderful, but don't execute much when it comes to marketing. The reasons are plentiful: marketing is boring, it's a sleazy game, I don't want to spam people, I don't know how to, etc. That's why sometimes you see people that are good at marketing/sales out-succeed those that are great at building.

These days you gotta take people by the hand and bring them to your product (esp at the beginning). At worst, you're going to learn. At best, you'll get new customers.

Looking at what others are doing, I'd say it takes an equal amount (or more) of time and effort, to tell people about your product, as it does to build it. And it's a continuous thing, there's never an end to it.

So just like you develop the product and learn what it takes to build the best version of it, plan on telling people that it actually exists. You got tons of platforms for that. I've started Polyzag [0] to educate people (and learn myself), about how other profitable companies do just that.

It's a skill that you can learn, just like dev'ing.

P.S: Bonus points if you level up on marketing yourself w/o a co-founder. It's a superpower.

[0] https://polyzag.com/


> "Build it and they will come" doesn't work anymore.

Did it ever? I feel like this omits the mechanism for people to get to know there is something to come to and reasons for them to come. Not sure why this saying really exists.

If someone builds a pile of garbage, I won't come, even if I knew about it, and I definitely won't be telling other people about it either.

EDIT: so the phrase is a variation on some phrase from a film from the 1980s where some guy was having auditory hallucinations ... https://samuelmullen.com/articles/startup-fallacies-if-you-b...


The saying from the movie Field of Dreams, wherein a mentally ill man hallucinates a voice telling him to build a baseball field for ghosts.

The quote is only applicable to people who are building baseball fields for ghosts.


I have visited that specific baseball diamond in the corn fields of Iowa and it's pretty much a ghost town, so I don't think it works even then.

It used to be trivial to rank well in search engines with minimal effort, so if "build it" includes the few seconds to submit to one search engine, yeah, it used to work. You could buy a 2-3 word keyphrase domain, submit it to Google and get traffic for a few minutes of work. I used to rank top 1-2 in my country for "make money" with a random single page site I built in 30 minutes. Had another site (which took half a day to build) make $20k/y with zero ongoing effort.

I disagree to some degree. If you understand some seo and place your link in a few stratetic positions they will come. My last saas got like 70% of its customers straight from google search. All it needed was time and some smart backlinks.

I think you should throw away everything and start from scratch sailing on an already solid platform. Whether that is a plugin for Office 365, a paid app for Smartsheet or Airtable or any other *already successful* platform.

From your submission, I think what you are failing to understand is that you are asking people/companies to move their excel app/reporting to random-joe-bloggs' platform. It's not about the marketing. Even with the best marketing in the world, as a buyer I would ask myself "where this is going to be in one year?", and well...

Pick a solid platform. Hundreds of thousands of buyers are already there, the technology is already there, and you are not asking them to rebase their business. You only need to pipe the solution to the problem. If there is such problem then marketing will be way easier with a solid ground.


Well, people were pretty quick to adopt AirTable, even when they were random-joe-bloggs themselves... The difference is that people trusted them because of who they were, and because of the distribution channels they had access to.

Yes and you could leverage all that by simply developing for that platform. Rather than trying to build a brand from scratch, which is extremely hard.

And don’t underestimate how hard it was for Airtable to get traction: you make it sound as if it was easy. Underneath the surface, the founders would tell you how hard it was.


+1000

I read all of your site and checked out Observable as well. In spite of that I still can't succinctly answer the following:

Who is the target market?

What urgent, important problem does it solve?

You claim "Jig makes writing business apps faster than ever before." But I can't find any compelling evidence to backup that claim.

Sales and marketing are harder than it appears. If you haven't done it before then your best bet is to find a co-founder who has the sales and marketing skills and experience that you lack. Of course, they would need to have the knowledge of your target market's needs and motivations. They should also be able to help you improve the website and the product examples.


Thanks so much for taking the time. I will try and refine the message and target.

I would suggest that you describe someone's problem, and explain exactly how you solve it. This should be a relatively narrow group (like restaurant franchisees, or people running Shopify stores selling soap), who will recognize how your product can help them.

So I can kind of see what you are trying to get at with your product. There are 3 books I recommend you read to help you further:

1. "Competing Against Luck" by Clay Christensen https://www.amazon.com/Competing-Against-Luck-Innovation-Cus...

This book will teach you how to look at the market from a jobs-to-be-done perspective. People don't want products, they want progress. They will hire a product to do a job for them towards that progress. It will help you understand where your product fits in ie. you should be able to answer the questions "what job can my product be hired to do?", "what progress does it help make? and for whom?"

2. Obviously Awesome https://www.amazon.com/Obviously-Awesome-Product-Positioning...

This is a book on Positioning by April Dunford. It's absolutely fabulous! It will help you understand how to position your product in the market and how to clearly communicate your benefits to them.

3. Demand-side Sales by Bob Moesta https://www.amazon.com/Demand-Side-Sales-101-Customers-Progr...

This is a sales book that explores things from a jobs-to-be-done perspectives. I have found his frameworks extremely helpful.

These 3 books taken together will help you understand your market better, communicate with them more clearly and position your product in a way that the market gets it. More importantly, working with your target market in this way will help you reshape the product towards something they will eventually want to buy.

Hope this helps!


> CEO OR CTO?

> NEED A QUICK ANALYSIS FOR YOUR BUSINESS?

Coming to this site for the first time I had no idea what your were talking about. If I had come randomly I would have left right away.

2 recommendations:

1) Put a one sentence literal no marketing description of your product at the top so I know what it does, maybe " Jig: A programmable tool for generating metrics for startups" or whatever it is.

2) Use full sentences. When the context isn't clear "CEO OR CTO?" is confusing. After establishing what the product is, then start your pitch in complete sentences :

"Are you a CEO or CTO?

etc.

Good luck!


Thanks for the advice

You are targeting CEO/CTOs. You need to have conversations with them. It'll be impossible to reach those at large companies, but maybe you can find smaller companies and get their feedback.

ALL the other things are wasted effort until you have that feedback. And, this is a ton of work, you'll need to improve your skills in reaching out to people, selling them on why even having a meeting is good for them, then sell them in the meeting, then figure out a way to get past the fear of closing them in that meeting.

Those are transformative skills to have.

You'll probably need a coach to get you past all your blind spots. Its worth it to do that. Or, at least get yourself into a mentorship group with real concrete goals and people that will ask hard questions of you and hold you to your answers.


Agree, I think a better process might be

- interview 40 users over zoom, gain insights, test assumptions, create hypotheses

- create sketch of product, wireframe or prototype and get feedback from 60 users on a site like UserTesting.com that produces granular insights

- hone in on problem space, understand user pain points through research instead of guessing in a vacuum


two thirds down the page until I came across this comment.

> You need to have conversations with them.

This, a million times this. Stop building and start talking.


If your goal is to build a free tool that will be used and beloved by millions, you probably need to continue building on a deeply technical foundation and blog about it the whole way. It's ancient history now but a master class of this is when Damien Katz built and live-blogged Couchbase, like 2004.

If your goal is to build an indie software business with hundreds or thousands of customers where you're making like 10-100k a month, i can give you more specific advice.

Based on your website, it's not clear what you're after.


What advice would you give if going for 10k-100k a month?

Some people here describe his landing page as “niche” but it’s not a niche at all. Rather, it’s a persona: ceo or cto with a team.

You develop personas after you know who your customers really are, and it’s probably not ceos.

Instead, he should find and focus on a true niche. Maybe people are commonly analyzing shopify store data using a tool like this. Find something like that, and just nail that use case. That’s a niche. Expand from there.


Seconding that request for more information - or direction - on the self-sustained indie-hacker advice.

I mean, if you don't think you have followers guess again. I recognize your handle. Just because you don't have functionality for followers on HN doesn't mean you don't have name recognition.

The hardest part of a start up or small business is socializing your ideas. I've heard countless business leaders talk about why big businesses fail to innovate vs why small businesses are innovation machines. In my experience at startups it was all about hustle and connections. These are things big businesses struggle to do, and hustle does not scale unfortunately. A big Twitter account may help spread the word, but it's pretty arbitrary if you learn to hustle efficiently. This could be networking meetings but it can also be things like hosting a small seminar that's informational and reinforces what your tool is about.

Wish you the best of luck!


I had a quick look and for your benefit I'll be blunt - I hope you'll see it that way.

Your application directly competes with Excel and is both more complicated and less powerful at the same time. The JS syntax is too much for your average MBA.

To avoid competing with Excel, which thousands before you have attempted and failed at, you need a way to make it interoperable with Excel - that means an easy way to export to and from. Make sure you know it in and out, so you can focus on solving problems that are hard/obscure in Excel. Like, for example, programmatic data sanitation, normalization, and import.

If your tool could generate nice plots and graphs from various data sources, update them in existing documents, and dump the processed data into Excel sheets, all in a single step, I could see someone using it.

A thing that is 'big' nowadays is 'Google Sheets as a service'. The way this works is that someone maintains a Google Sheets document that - for instance - contains current market prices. They may do this with some sort of custom script.

Then others can use that tables data in their own table, which automatically updates with the source data.

A tool that creates automatically updating sheets - be it by running locally or by updating some sheet in the cloud - might sell.

Anyways I went off on a tangent that is indeed pretty far from what your tool does right now.


Thanks for the honest feedback. The Excel message is just a test I did yesterday (taking the opportunity that the post was on the front page). I don't plan to tackle Excel head on at all. Just very specific excel use cases by financial institutions who totally abuse it.

I took a look at it, and my very first thought was, "Oh, another analytics app."

Maybe it is like you said - I'm just not seeing what is distinguishing it from Tableau or other such "DIY analytics from your data" apps. It gave me the impression that you built your own solution instead of learning what was already available.

If I am wrong, then you don't need broader reach. You need a different message.


Thank you for the honesty. This is very valuable feedback.

It’s very hard to find a way to convey what’s different... i’ll keep trying


I particularly appreciate comparison pages to other products (even if they are clearly biased). How does this product differ from Tableau / Metabase? Or perhaps there's a different competitor to compare to. It helps me understand exactly what the product does and why I should want to use it.

Great point. Thanks

To expand, the big 3 players (that I know) in the analytics are Tableau (simple things are easy, complex stuff is near impossible using the desktop app alone), Spotfire (simple stuff is not super easy, but with the desktop client the sky is the limit, as it comes with R, IronPython and JavaScript by default), and PowerBI (very powerful too, but I don't know it well).

However, these 3 solutions are screen-based. They are designed to be interactive and be consumed in the monitor.

Another user here made a comparison to Crystal Reports. The last time that I used it, Crystal Reports was a picture-perfect page reporting tool. While you can consume it on the screen too (of course), reports are designed to be printed in specific paper page size (letter, checks, etc). This is not bad. It is just different, and a very scarce feature nowadays, as most applications are leaving this functionality out. Cognos ReportNet and Business Objects are also picture-perfect reporting tools that try to do too many things and don't do anything particularly well. That's why the visualizations tool like Tableau and simple picture-perfect reporting tools Crystal Reports are eating the market. You need to understand your niche.

On your comparison, you need to explain how can people connect to a database. Once connected, what in-app support do you provide to help the non-programmer user join a few tables and limit records (WHERE) based on values, if any.

Are the visualizations interactive? If yes, how selecting interesting data points in one visualization will highlight data points or rows in another visualization? Before implementing, make sure that there's no active patent for this. I was curious that this basic feature exists in Spotfire, but not in Tableau. But then I remembered a presentation from the Spotfire inventor showcasing this functionality when he was a student in the University of Maryland about 15 years ago. Maybe he patented it.

Will I be able to transform data (change table shape or derive new transformed table from the tables that were requested from the database (client processing)? If yes, you should highlight that. Regular Tableau installation cannot do it, but Spotfire can, and I think that PowerBI can do it too.

Can you create HTML/CSS dashboards? Can you import pictures to act as buttons? Can you create a map of and office campus to let me click on buildings to get statistics?

How about world maps?

And, since you are talking about cell based visualizations, have you evaluated what Smartsheets can do in this field. I know people how do awesome visualizations using Smartsheets. There's also Airtable, but I don't think that it is competitive with Smartsheets in visualizations (I might be wrong).

The current tools are very featured. You can find a niche, but you might have to level the playing game in term of features with the existing tools in order to be gain the user mind share.


Checked out the website and I still don't really know what it does. Why is it better than any of the popular dataviz products?

Your site says "forget excel", but the only example is something I could easily make in excel. I suppose you have better options for "gathering data from any data source", but I don't think that's apparent currently.

I agree it's probably most about marketing!


Ok, you have hit the reality of most startup enthusiasts. Most of us when starting are without much connections and of course no big marketing budgets.

How to go from here? If you truly believe it solves a real problem, then proceed.

First we need some customers and serve them individually on this tool. One customer at a time; each one will give you amazing joy because you were giving up on it.

One nice way for this is to search for jobs/projects on freelancing sites like Upwork, that are looking to "build me tool that takes excel file as input and let me do this and that", something like that.

Pitch them that you can do it for fraction of the price with an existing tool you've built.

It's time consuming, because you'll bid and may not here from many, but you can see those are real customers with problems looking for similar solutions.

I built https://ASPSecurityKit.net v1 back in 2013, after I saw a project on upwork asking to build user registration/management workflow.

I already had pieces of it figured out in my client projects, but there was no impulse to package it up and offer it as an independent product.

I built a pre-launch page, talking about what I'M going to build and collected 70 odd emails from HN folks, thinking some of them will buy upon launch.

Worked hard for 1.5 months on coding, packaging, docs etc. and launched but nobody bought from that email list or HN right away.

I was in a job then (at Microsoft) and didn't spend much time on marketing after launch as nobody bought.

1st month: nothing. 2nd month: nothing. Latter half of the 3rd month: first sale while I was on a sort of vacation/WFH!


Very cool practical advice, thanks a lot!

I had a quick look at your app's web page. Seems like a quality tool that could indeed be useful for people.

My approach would be to do some traditional web-based paid promotion marketing along the lines of Google Ads and via Twitter. Hook into key words that you think your audience would connect with your product. Let it run for a bit and monitor any engagement that you get.

Only other thing I would suggest is have a simple video/loop on your web page, showing the tool in action. That is a bit more engaging than a static screenshot.

Having been in a similar position to yours in the past, I sincerely wish you the best of luck. This kind of scenario is a classic example of the commoditization of ideas, and the importance of execution (and the ability to do so, which is often constrained, as you've discovered, by resources).

Ideally you would probably want a little money behind you to launch a concerted marketing campaign, that would be a combination of paid promotion on a larger scale, as well as directly reaching out to certain small-medium sized organisations that you think your product could help to solve their business problems. A step towards that might be engaging with a startup incubator, which could provide such resource, or at least connect you with other like-minded people who might be open to collaboration.


Thank you very much for taking the time and for the encouraging words. Paid ad campaign is something I am a bit afraid of, having done none of it... maybe i should give it a shot. i tried to get in various incubator programs in the past without success.

> Paid ad campaign is something I am a bit afraid of, having done none of it...

It's quite approachable, and Google and Twitter make it very easy to set a small budget that your impressions will be limited to (i.e. the promos will run until you get a certain amount of views/interactions that you can define). Definitely recommend giving it a try.


Ok, sounds feasible. Thanks for the advice!

Start by saying what it does and posting a link (or at least adding a link into your profile)? Pro tip: add a call to action to your description.

I'm not kidding.

For you it's an exercise to describe it.

For us it's 1) a way to see it (which is what you want), and 2) even if we're not interested, we could give more precise suggestions.


Ok sounds like an easy first step. Thanks for the tip.

What it does: Jig helps CEOs/CTOs get custom insights about their businesses without using much developer time.

Install the beta from https://www.jigdev.com


I think the name for what you are offering is called "Business Intelligence".

Now you need to be able to handle objections.

What does this offer (me the CEO/CTO) that isn't done with Tableau or PowerBI?

Those tools get me custom insights about the business without using any developer time; the work is generally done by entry-level data analysts or accountants.

(This is not to say your idea is bad, but this is an objection you will need to have a response too, like "this tool is cheaper". If that response seems to get traction you might change your pitch to "it gives you 80% of Tableau, but at 20% of the price".)


I like this a lot, as a unique selling proposition. The improvements you made to your site based on this also look good. By identifying this market segment, you can tailor your advertising more sharply, which will hopefully make it more effective than if you were trying to market to any/all segments.

Cool! Thanks

The buZzzzwords these days are: NoCode/LowCode tool for data insights.

Generally I suggest deleting most of the text above the screenshots.


How does it differ from Apache NiFi?

https://nifi.apache.org/


I think you have a winner if you could make this Jig helps CEOs/CTOs get custom insights about their businesses without ANY developer time.

I completely agree with this. I’d use this (and so would my CFO) if I didn’t need to use any dev resource

"Jig. Gets you from CTO to CEO"

I've been in this position many times. The only things I know how to are...

- post in relevant online forums

- targeted advertising (throw 1k or 2k at it and see what happens)

- targeted reach outs on linkedin sales

- cold email campaigns at scale (better follow best practices here so you don't get your domain ruined)

- spam your personal/community connections

- reach out to "non techy businesses who want tech" or other people who sit in your customer acquisition channels about partnerships

Yeah that's kind of it. It's not pretty stuff, you have to have thick skin and be ok getting rejected and annoying people.


Maybe use a "happier" example than COVID cases on your landing page? Something that people aren't depressed to see go up? Seeing a graph of COVID trending upwards is going to put potential users into a negative mindset immediately, not something you want when they are learning about your new product. It's definitely low-hanging fruit for "everyone knows what this is and why you might want metrics on it" but I'd try and come up with another example data set.

d—b could do CoVID, but with vaccination adoption.

Oh yeah, that sounds good

Here's a list of how various companies attracted the first 1000 customers: https://first1000.substack.com/

Also, Segment's tale of finding product-market fit is worth a watch: https://www.ycombinator.com/library/6B-on-finding-product-ma...


What I gather from the comments in this thread: you built a tool to make it easier for developers to make custom data visualizations (for other people in their company to look at probably).

The fundamental idea of building tools that radically improve developer productivity in making internal tools is sound. Logically, engineers cost a lot of money and don't like building internal tools so decreasing the time they spend on them is a win for everyone. And empirically, I know of at least one company in the internal tools market that is doing extremely well in this space: Retool (source: https://www.indiehackers.com/podcast/181-david-hsu-of-retool).

You might take a look at their State of Internal Tools survey (https://retool.com/blog/state-of-internal-tools-2020/) to get a broad idea of the market and problems developers are facing.

If I were you, I'd try to find just a few developers in any organization that you can work with one-on-one and get them to use your product. That would easily help you validate that the problem exists and your product addresses that problem usefully in organizational contexts. Or not and you learn a bunch of things (for example, maybe you find that hosted solutions are more useful).

I don't think a broad reach is the right move at this stage. I would only focus on widely distributing your product once you've had a lot more early validation and it starts to build some momentum (the best being organic word-of-mouth — developers using the tool convince others to use the tool). If you don't have that early validation, I'd expect that distributing would just feel like throwing messages in a bottle into the ocean — kind of lonely and depressing when you never hear back. But if you do have early validation, then you have a lot better idea about who finds it valuable and where/how you should market it.


Reading the website with my startup founder hat on:

--------

— HAS YOUR BUSINESS AN EXCEL PROBLEM?

No. I'm good at Excel.

— DO YOU HAVE HUNDREDS OF UNMANAGED SHEETS RUNNING REPORTS?

Not really. I keep telling people to put files in the right Google Drive folders and one day very soon they definitely will, but we get by and so far it's not been a big problem.

— DO THEY TELL YOU IT WOULD TAKE TOO MUCH TIME TO REPLACE WITH PROPER APPS?

Excel is a proper app.

--------

I think a big part of your messaging comes across like you're assuming the people who need your app are a bit stupid. You seem to think people can't workaround the problem your app tries to solve. They can, obviously, because they're running their businesses day to day. You need to push the reason why your app is a better solution rather than why Excel is bad (which it clearly isn't considering how many businesses use it for reporting).

Also, "UNLIKE EXCEL, JIG FILES ARE AUDITABLE"... I'm not 100% sure what you mean by auditable there, but Excel has features for auditing formulae. https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/display-the-relat...


No, that's not where I am coming from. I come from major banks and financial industries behemoths who run trading books handling billions of dollars on excel spreadsheets.

Are they stupid? God, no! They do it, cause there's no better alternative. They just don't have the time to use anything fancier.

There is a European Research group that is funded to tackle what they call "spreadsheet risk", cause at some point, yes Excel becomes a problem.

EDIT: btw, auditing here means that you can't easily know what changed between 2 versions of a spreadsheet, unless you're extremely careful about how you write your sheet.


Also working in and around banking, this is a huge issue. Terrifying. Fat finger mistakes are rampant.

I think you are on the right problem, but your solution is too much built for you and not for the people creating the problem (low-tech analysts).

Think you did get enough feedback here though, so I won't try add anything.

Sadly I think this Excel issue feels so unlikely to get better any time soon. Institutions teach students using Excel, businesses use Excel. The analysts of 10 years in the future are learning Excel today, not python/pandas/R


My only 2c: Your product from first glance looks like a Spyder python IDE. That immediately turns me away from using it as I'd rather use a Jupyter Notebook, or a Streamlit app, or even better than both I've been testing the hex.tech app which really solves the problem you are working on. I think your issue isn't building the wrong thing but rather perhaps being unaware of the alternatives in the "internal data questions" space, let alone the Business Intelligence tooling space.

> — DO THEY TELL YOU IT WOULD TAKE TOO MUCH TIME TO REPLACE WITH PROPER APPS?

This might be just me and my professional circle, but we understand "app" as a toy that runs on a phone. Apps, by definition, are never "proper". We would never replace Excel with an APP. We might replace Excel with a "program" or a "system", or even a "framework".


What you may not know, is that a lot of people use Excel as an app container.

You mean, I already had a Docker in 1997?

Pretty much. In all seriousness, it was used a bit like that.

I know of a bank who set up excel "farms". You'd start a bunch of computers somewhere. Send them a spreadsheet. Have Excel open them and run some macros. Get back the results. They would do it to calculate various scenarios that took a long time to run.

That was 2007...


One could day Excel was /is an ok-ish database builder with integrated editor and real time output.

A good idea is to split your time between product creation and product marketing / selling. I've seen people doing 1 week of each.

That said, if your target market is not easily reachable online / doesn't read blogs / doesn't search on Google, you're in for an uphill battle.

Selling door to door may be a solution but it's expensive and not necessarily effective.

I'd look into alternative ways to sell your product: does your target buy services from a class of other established companies (eg. They use web agencies to built websites)? If so you can try to get them to do the sales and agree on some revenue sharing / referrals.

It's hard to advise more without knowing the specifics, but you'll have to think outside the box.

Best of luck! Ps: for the next product you may want to reach out to potential customers before, so that you'll have some market proof and a potential list of leads before investing time building.


Check out Ash Maurya's blog post the 10X product launch. From memory and possibly a few other thought leaders it looks a little bit like this:

1. Conduct customer development interviews where you interview potential users and don't show them your product. Simply ask questions that will demonstrate to you if they have pain.

2. For each pain statement, ask them to rank it's importance on a scale of 1 to 10 and their satisfaction with their current solution on a scale of 1 to 10. This helps you quantify the size of the opportunity.

2.a. repeat this process 50 to 200 times.

3. Stock rank your pain statements based on the largest surface area.

4. Build an MVP.

5. Show it to the people that rated the pains the highest and ask for feedback.

6. If you really nailed it they will be asking you how they can become customers.

7. If they're not asking how they can buy then ask for more feedback.

I think the quantify step was pulled from "lean product management".

I've followed this twice and you usually have to loop through the feedback step a few times before you get it.

Both times, my first 10 customers have come from these interviews and my next 100 have come from referrals from those initial 10. I think that's the gist of Ash's 10x product launch.

I'm being fairly brief because it's a complex subject and I'm on mobile.


You are now on the front page of Hacker News- this is a golden opportunity to tell people about your product, yet there don't seem to be any links or information about it. Did you market it enough?

Yeah, that was unexpected... Ugh...

Clearly, the product's not ready, the message's not ready. A bit of a missed opportunity there.

Maybe in a couple of months when I have ironed out the wrinkles people saw here.


Link to the product? I don't care if it's not ready, I want to look at it :).

Thanks it's here: https://www.jigdev.com

1. I had to search through the whole HN page to find a link to your app.

2. the landing page doesn't show anything except a screenshot. Make a video, put it on youtube and demo what you build. I'll not install a software that goes vaguely in some direction.

From the looks of it, you're a developer who needs someone who's good in marketing and design.


Fair enough, but in that case what are you complaining about exactly?

Oh I saw your original thread on Observable https://talk.observablehq.com/t/observable-based-dashboard-a...

Currently I don't think you add enough value over the existing observable platform to entertain the thought of switching runtimes.

Anyone who is not familiar with observeable will need a ton of literature to explain the reactive runtime concept.

I feel like entrepreneur who see a successful product and thinks "how can I beat that" are framing wrong. If you look at a product and think, that's great, how can I add to it you will find more success.

I am also building on observable, but I am not trying to direct people off the ecosystem. I want to make observable better and add to their success and perhaps capture some value off the delta of the combined improvement.


Thanks for the feedback.

I think you misunderstand my project. I am not trying to steal people off observable, I think that Observable has the right technology and the wrong product.

It literally infuriates me that Observable is taking the "community-based data viz" route. In my opinion, they're sitting on a mountain of gold, and they just don't know how to dig it. They raised $10m, but hired 25 people in SF half of whom are dataviz guys. WTF? They won't last much with this kind of burn rate.

I very much doubt that they have any growth at all, considering how they are asking their users to share their stuff, and seeing how little active their forum is.

So what's going to happen when Observable goes down?

I would much rather join them and use their distribution channels to build a product like Jig which I feel can work in a business environment, than doing it on my own...


I understand the problem you are trying to solve and if I was still working for my former emploeyer I would probably spend some more time to download it and evaluate it. However I don't have the motivation to do it now.

Having said that, the thing that is missing that would satisfy my personal needs is some form of quick demo so I can understand why it is easier to use your product over excel. Maybe a short gif or video, maybe a few screenshots of a workflow. Even though I don't need this software right now, I would be interested in getting more information on how it works without having to download it and test it myself, because I might need it in the future or I could recommend it to someone who has an excel problem. Right now I can't recommend it because I didn't really understand the solution by looking at the splash page


Fair enough. Thanks for the feedback

It gets worse than the comments I’m reading are saying. They’re implying that you could get there with marketing. But the thing is, you aren’t competing with Excel. You’re competing with PowerBI, Tableau, Splunk, ELK, and Jupyter, but without any of the enterprise or scaling selling points. So this is a cool demo of a way to define charts once you have the data mostly there, but I don’t think it will scale to very large data volumes. With no way to hook into some already-scaled query engine, you won’t have much use by people that need to analyze production data.

If this was very performant compared to Excel, then that would be a use case that could get you a niche while trying to build out the scale and interoperability required for successful BI tools.


I haven't downloaded the demo, but Splink, ELK, SumoLogic, whatever, and even visualisation tools like PowerBI, Tableau, Grafana, etc. are all complicated and need a lot of effort to setup and learn. A lot of businesses rely on excel for their data, just like they rely on outlook for a CRM. There is probably a market for a solution which runs on your desktop without too much fuss, and sits somewhere between excel and big data.

The way I talk about it in person is this is the "last mile for your data". The problem you have in Tableau, Splunk and all of them, is that you can do a shit load of heavy processing, but then the frontend is not very flexible. As in you can't do basic maths AFTER the data's been processed.

In fact, all of these tool will allow you to download a CSV file for further processing in Excel. This is the part I want to compete with.

If that makes sense.


> As in you can't do basic maths AFTER the data's been processed.

That's not true at all. It's just a different query language to yours and a different methodology to utilizing it. All the big BI and SIEM tools have post-processing capabilities able to do statistics at the Excel level, typically by creating new columns in the dataset. PowerBI has an excel-like function system for calculated columns. Tableau has a cross between Basic and Excel functions for calculated columns. Splunk and ELK are the standouts for letting you directly modify columns in their query languages, but the same sort of functions exist. In all of these tools, you can extend the query language as well through a plugin system, so for situations where you need a full programming language, there is an escape hatch (though a hard one to use).

> further processing in Excel. This is the part I want to compete with.

If you want to compete with Excel, you're going to have to get on its level. Specifically, the JavaScript must go. The reason big companies use Excel is because they have a couple of people at the company in the reporting jobs that can handle some programming, but most of the data entry and management has to be done by people who wouldn't know where to begin if you sat them down in a programming environment (IT gets called when people accidentally end up in the visual basic environment in Excel).

The majority of users do not want to live in a programming environment, so by having that be the primary interface, you're cutting the already small potential user base by another order of magnitude with the JavaScript environment. The advantage you get for an Excel-like query language is familiarity to the potential user base, less threatening environment, and additional control over the interface with the user (programming languages are generally poor interfaces, and JavaScript is no exception).


Re: Tableau et al. I don't agree but that's just my point of view. Having worked with Excel all my life, I am probably spoiled. I don't understand how people get by with Tableau...

Re: Javascript, yes I wish there was something better out there. But unfortunately, there's not, and I don't really have the time to build it.


Who is this product for? The majority of expert Excel users in a company, do not know how to code. The majority of people that in a company are coding (for whatever aim) are never asked to produce business reports from excel. People who need the report (management) do not care how easy or complex it is to create it. Airtable is (somewhat) successful because it allowed a vast group of people with limited excel knowledge to create good looking reports with a simple visual interface. I think your app just gives people who know how to use (coders) it something they don't need (excel reports), or gives people who would need it (analysts, controllers, managers) something they would be scared to use (too much coding!!). So nobody is really going to bother management with the request to try it and buy it.

Yes I do realize that.

Yet, there is no good reason why expert excel users couldn't pick up some coding. I've seen several econ graduates teach themselves F# to be able to run reports. I've seen interns learning pretty complex VBA stuff. Young people know more and more some programming.

On the other hand, there is no good reason why developers shouldn't make business reports. Developers know where the data is, they know how to properly create reports that don't screw up the infrastructure. The only brake is that they're bad at frontend.

Maybe I'm being idealistic thinking that this tool could actually change how people manage the way they create reports. But I can't help thinking this is a good idea.


If you think that there is 'no good reason' why excel users couldn't pick up some coding, and 'no good reason' why developers shouldn't make business reports, you should think about those questions harder, and try to understand what the reason actually is, not worrying about whether it's good or bad. Your not understanding why people do something is not going to make them stop doing it.

My opinion is that people do what they do because they don't have the choice. As in because my tool is not on their radar. Obviously optimistic from me, but I am launching a product, I have to be!

I don't think it is correct that "they don't have the choice". Reliance on EUDAs in Excel is a well telegraphed problem for literally decades. There have been lots of attempts to solve it, whether by apps which seek to replace Excel, addins or things which work with Excel, programming interfaces, changes made by Microsoft to Excel itself, alternatives such as Jupyter. You needed to know about these and understand to what extent they succeeded and why they failed. If there's an opportunity for your tool, why is it different to all the other solutions?

The main motivation is because "I was there". I've worked 13 years building EUDAs in Excel, with all sorts of addins and what not. I've been very good at it. Being the only developer on successful trading desks for years. Creating tools used by everyone at one of the best hedge fund on the planet.

Literally everyone wants out of Excel but can't. Users are too addicted to the speed of iterations.

Hiring UI guys to make web apps instead of EUDAs is going to be orders of magnitude more expensive than working with Excel and EUDA developers.

I've listed all the alternatives over the years. None of them is spot on. I've spent 13 years asking myself: why the f is nobody building this?


Do you think that the alternatives failed because they weren't 'spot on'? Perhaps they failed because it's a much harder problem than they recognized when they started out.

Honestly I have no idea... I think it's easier to give it a shot than to try to answer that question

>I have built an application to scratch my own itch.

So are you scratching your own itch or are you building a business? Those could be quite different.


My be im not target audience but from website i didnt get any idea on 1) what this thing actually does? 2) why exactly am i gonna need one? What’s the value. 3) why exactly should i forget Excel?

So on the surface it doesn’t feel like a painkiller product, that just lacks marketing power.

More like “I didn’t want to waste time learning other solutions so just created yet another one mine, with blackjack and hookers”.

If there’s a strong value inside the product- you should put 100% effort to make this value clear from the first page of website through to uninstall/unsubscribe screen.

And yes, best way to do that is to try make 100 sales personally before even bothering with marketing stuff.


"What features are not in the beta, but that I can expect soon?

Database connectivity. Right now, you can only access REST apis, and local files. Support for MySql, PostGreSQL and others is coming soon."

That is killing you in my opinion. I'd wager it's 90%+ of your typical use case.


Yes, I agree with you, I'll definitely need to push these features. The problem is that it's hard to define where to stop..

Well, you’re missing out on free marketing by not having your app listed here and now. (https://www.jigdev.com/)

Looks like a great tool. I know people who have built similar things in Java for example... You are competing with Jupiter notebooks and R in some sense here. Is your market business analyst? Data scientist or something else?

How expressive is your DSL and how easy is it to learn?

A few other things, can I export one of the models I develop to a web server so that I could deploy it to my internal network for someone else to manage?

Can I export it to Powerpoint?

Do you have connectivity to spark, snowflake or a hosted database?


yes business analysts, quant/devs, people with some coding experience who talk to business guys.

This DSL is javascript. It's not the easiest of languages tbh, but it's better than it used to be. If you're curious the runtime is based on www.observablehq.com, these guys run it as a notebook.

Right now, you can't export to a website, but that's the plan (for the paid version - still cheap, ha).

Export to Powerpoint / Pdf is definitely something I'll want to add in the not-too-distant future.

Connectivity to PostgreSQl, is something I am working on right now.


The current site is not very informative. Copywriting is hard. Fortunately, your own rewording from one of the comments here is much better at explaining the tool:

'It’s a “Rapid application development” tool, targeting developers who create internal apps'. Now I get it.

Many developers build many internal apps every day. They want to do it rapidly. Now hire a technical writer to help you write this story.

It's Ok to namedrop as it will help with postitioning of your product against more famous tools:

"Hassle-free Excel"

"Dirt-cheap Tableau"

"Salesforce on JavaScript"

The other thing that's missing is an example of the tool in action in the form of a short video/gif or a small case study.

First fix your site then try to get more visitors to it otherwise they'll bounce like crazy (leaky bucket).


Some programs are solutions to problems that only you have. In this case, the problem is that you want to work in your comfort zone, not Excel. You built something for yourself. Many other programmers have the same sort of problem, but a different comfort zone, so it becomes a different problem. They'll build something for themselves.

Your actual selling points then seem more like post-hoc rationalizations:

"LIKE EXCEL, JIG IS A LIGHTWEIGHT SOLUTION TO CREATE DYNAMIC BUSINESS REPORTS AND APPS IN MINUTES."

Okay, I already got Excel here and everyone is trained in it.

"UNLIKE EXCEL, JIG FILES ARE AUDITABLE, MAKING JIG APPS INHERENTLY SAFE."

I don't care. Even if I switched some of my workloads over to Jig from Excel, I'd still be using Excel. The threat model that somebody sends me a malicious Excel file remains. The threat model that somebody sends me a malicious PDF file remains as well. It's also not the case that Excel files can't be audited, nor does the ability to audit something make it "inherently safe", because I still need to actually do the audit.

> What would have most impact in getting the app in front of people?

Maybe a better use of your time would be to just accept that there is no product-market fit, move on to something else. You still get to enjoy a program you made for yourself.


It's interesting to see how way more brutal the feedback is when the post reaches the front page...

> the problem is that you want to work in your comfort zone, not Excel.

No, you shouldn't assume stuff when you write comments. My comfort zone is Excel. I've been writing Excel-based apps for 13 years, and from what I gathered, I am really good at it. I built this because I reached the limits of it. And I think that many other people have.

You think Javascript is my comfort zone? I loathe javascript. But at this stage, I truly think this is the best option.

> Your actual selling points then seem more like post-hoc rationalizations.

No they're not. Excel is unsafe not because of malicious files, but because people make mistakes all the time in excel. This is a straight consequence of how Excel was designed. There is a history of major financial fuck ups directly linked to excel mistakes.

Whether this tool is the solution remains to be seen. But that the problem exists there is no doubt.


> It's interesting to see how way more brutal the feedback is when the post reaches the front page...

...and refreshingly so. You're getting rid of a social filter. People lie to your face all the time.

> No, you shouldn't assume stuff when you write comments.

You can't do anything without assumptions. I got an assumption wrong and you got offended? Not a problem for me, you're the one soliciting feedback after all.

> You think Javascript is my comfort zone? I loathe javascript. But at this stage, I truly think this is the best option.

Yes, everyone's out there hating on Javascript and shipping Electron apps at the same time. That doesn't necessarily negate my point. As you say, you built it for yourself first. You had ideas on how you want to do things. Those ideas inevitably conflict with how other programmers want to do things. There's a reason why there's a hundred Javascript frontend frameworks still coming out every month, even though we already have React as the de-facto standard. Getting traction in such a domain is incredibly difficult.

> No they're not. Excel is unsafe not because of malicious files, but because people make mistakes all the time in excel.

If that's what you mean, here's your N=1 statistic saying "people don't get your message".

> This is a straight consequence of how Excel was designed. There is a history of major financial fuck ups directly linked to excel mistakes.

There's a history of major fuck ups in ordinary programming languages as well. It's not obvious how your solution might prevent such mistakes, especially without introducing a whole class of new mistakes.


You are marketing toward the wrong person in the company, and I'm not sure how to fix it because:

In a big/medium company, business analysts do this work.

A business analyst doesn't know javascript. They use Excel.

The javascript devs know how to make charts themselves.

That's why nobody came. :)


If you're a dev doing data work, it looks useful.

In particular, it seems nice that in a single file you can keep both your data and code, together, easily.


How would this compare to jupyter notebook?

"The Jupyter Notebook is an open-source web application..."

Seems like you need an internet connection to use Jupyter, and you rely on them staying in business. OP's software and data is customer owned, it seems.


Had this exact thought.

Like a node/electron version of jupyter.

IIRC jupyter has a node kernel too, though not sure how well it integrates with the plotting API etc.


I know!

Some feedback: I looked at it and I don't understand how its different from someone just importing a charting library and plotting the data. It really needs a better explanation of what it does/how it works.

On a similar note, I built quite a few things, one of which resulted in millions of daily active users, getting its own Wikipedia page, articles in The New York Times, Fortune and 50+ others.

I built an alternative to a popular website and it slowly snowballed from there. I did no marketing other than to share the link with a few people and it just went viral.

I did not build every feature the original had, but I was spending a lot of time engaging with users and making sure they feel welcome. I event sent them postcards for Christmas! What made it work in the end, is the fact that I treated users with respect and dignity.

Now, the above was a community, and I loved building and nourishing a community.

When it comes to building a business, however, a whole new set of rules kick in, and with no marketing experience, it's bound to fail, especially if you think that people will come, and all you need to do is build it. This stopped being true a long time ago, and marketing is crucial. The last SaaS I built definitely has a market, but without reaching out to actual people who need it, chances are, they will never find it on their own. This is where a co-founder with marketing skills and a network would be great, but finding one is super difficult, especially for me as a dev.


Just wanted to say thanks for sharing (again I guess). I have heard of d3 but not the observable project or jig. Not sure how I can use it exactly, but having it downloadable does give the user the confidence to put data In they would not feel comfortable online only. Like some other users have said going to be hard to take on excel / tableau but for programmers they can prototype something fast and cool. Look forward to trying them both out. Keep up the good work!

Thanks for the kind words. You may be right. Prototyping is definitely a simpler way of getting things adopted first. Thinking LinqPad for javascript. Would anyone use this rather than jsfiddle, codepen, etc?

I think there could be something there, just needs to be tweaked. I recently came across this tool: https://www.tillerhq.com and instantly signed up. Think it's $10 a month or less. I think they do pretty good as well.

All it is is syncs your bank data to a Google Sheet and has pre built templates.

It doesn't have a great way of doing graphs tho, i'd love something like your tool but for analysing my transactions (not saying you should focus on that demo)


I was a former Mint user and switched to PersonalCapital which in my opinion is a much better Freemium product than Tiller, with PersonalCapital there’s an option to pay for financial advisor or just use dashboards from the free version

Did you try to find for online spaces (reddit, fb groups or other) where you can get an audience that might have the problem you are trying to solve.

Your problem might be a niche problem, but unless the niche is extremely small, there must be places online where you can get a relevant audience and throw the idea at them to start collecting some feedback.

It is also possible that the problem you see is not perceived by other people, so always take a critical stance towards your own idea. Try to evaluate based on facts and not your own passion.

My 2 cents


> nobody came...

If nobody came, then talk to somebody; somebody who is willing to pay you. The success of the search for these elusive first paying customers is what makes a startup succeed or fail.


It's a data science package from the looks of it, and I, as a data science person would be interested. But then, Javascript? I only know Python, and my Notebooks are sort of similar to this, but in Jupyter-lab I have Pandas and Seaborn (among many others, and I can access any file, any api, any database). If those were available I might have tried it, although my Jupyter-lab notebooks also make nice PDF reports, the only difference I see is that you can place cells next to each other, right? Maybe there is an extension for Jupyter-lab that can do that. So what is the USP? Javascript? Just Ducking around I found I can also do that in Jupyter-lab: [0]

[0] http://bluegalaxy.info/codewalk/2017/12/04/javascript-how-to...


The important thing is not to market your app or product but focus on the job it performs. Write about that job, what can be done to get better at it and then pitch your product sometimes when its relevant. The core idea of this is to focus less on the product and more on making the job of people easier more productive even if its out of your products scope. Iterate your product to get closer to above goal. For more: read about Job to be done theory.

This is a startup in a similar space. https://usesummit.com/

It is a replacement for Excel that is much more powerful. Target users are CFO pulling in different financial data.

If you listen to the Out of Beta podcast, you can hear the founder as he progresses through creating Summit. Might help for learning product and marketing process.


You do that to address your own itchy, so you don't have the pressure to promote it.

Just use it as usual, if others find it useful, the popularity will grow organically.

If it stays low profile, like many npm packages. Let it be. Unless you need to relay on others using it to pay your bill.


True, I need to keep that in mind. Thanks

You landing lacks a concise paragraph about your tool, I don't see documentation, and I see others commenting they didn't understand anything when they downloaded your tool.

You should assume that people is tired and has not much brainpower left to understand anything new and complex.


I can see that. You could have included a link to your product in this post and yet you missed.btw, i just checked out the product and i love it.

ha ;-) Thanks! HN generally doesn't like that people use Ask HN for promotion, yet this is just what I did and got to you. So it's not that bad :-)

Drop me a line at edb at jigdev.com if you think of features that would make it better.

And if you like it, please tell others! That'd be a big help.


Check out the videos from https://startupschool.org

Launch repeatedly and talk to users


Another idea: Quite often when I see a tool that isn't useful to me immediately, but might be in the future, I like to follow them on a social media channel like Twitter. This way I get reminded of the occasional update in the future, at a time when I might be in a position to use it. I think other developers would be the same.

Might be an idea to make a quick Twitter profile to allow this kind of thing to occur. Currently, you would need to remember to check back on your web site each time, whereas with the above approach, you have the option of pushing reminder content to people who previously expressed a "keep an eye on this" level of interest.

Of course, it does assume that you are wanting to keep the product around for a while, and continue developing it :)

A mailing list (often presented under the guise of "Sign up for the Beta program, and keep up with future updates") is another way of achieving this.


Have you tried posting to Indie Hackers? https://www.indiehackers.com

IH is a community of people working on their own products, often solo devs, and it may be a good place to introduce yourself and your project (possible customers could read IH), but also ask for some more advice.


Yeah it's on there. Honestly, I didn't really find on the website how useful it could be. I guess I'll dig a little more

One of the things I've learnt is the size of your audience doesn't matter - at least not initially.

What is much more important is that the messaging you use cuts through the noise. That means they read the half sentence of your headline and think "I need that".

You have literally four or five words to show them that you 1) understand their problem, 2) know it's a problem that they NEED solving and 3) have the solution they've been waiting for.

The rest of your copy just consolidates this initial impression. And without that "I MUST HAVE IT" initial reaction the biggest audience in the world is a waste of time.


On the same boat, I built an API to check for pirated links inside text content. I moderate a discord server and need to make sure no one is encouraging piracy according to ToS. I automated that using the API.

I have listed the API on rapid API. I have little idea how to get customers for it. I do think the API can be useful in many places. Any help?

Link: https://rapidapi.com/searchableland-no-piracy-team/api/pirac...


Interview with some real users. Ask them to open the product and tell you everything about how they feel and what they miss and what they think and what they want. You mentioned that you already knew HN users aren't the audience. But, do you know where you can find at least 5 of them to do usability testing?

Thanks everyone for the great advice. So far what I take away from this is:

1. People who do download the app are completely lost. This is a major screw up that needs to be addressed asap.

2. I am not very good at marketing. Getting a cofounder who is would be a simpler way forward. Otherwise I need to crank up my skills there, or pay people to do this.

3. Changing the website to specifically target CEOs/CFOs produced strong reactions. This was intentionally bold. Not sure what to do with this.

4. I need to at least give people a comparison to other tools in the field.

5. Be more aggressive in chasing potential customers. Paid ads, linkedin campaigns and other user acquisition mechanisms work.


I have recently built a product(https://www.buyitforquality.com/) to test how easy/hard it is to get new customers. It is REALLY hard. Even if you are willing to spend money on Google Ads, the result may not be satisfactory. Given the popularity of this post, I'm wondering why no one is building a solution for cheap and efficient marketing. Building products essentially is to solve people's pain points. We need a better solution for such pains.

just checked your website and here's a tip - there's no way I found that I could limit the scope to a general area - i.e. kitchen appliances.

Thank you for pointing out! It's in the backlog. I will work on it in the following days.

This is so cool! Don't know what the best way to contact you is, but I shared some thoughts at the email in the footer.

Talk to and show it to customers. You'll quickly see if they like it or not.

> What would have most impact in getting the app in front of people?

Can't it be web-based? I'd like to try it, but I'm on Linux.

I mean - Linux certainly isn't your problem, but not being web-based probably doesn't help.


I've used Cluvio (cluvio.com) for what I think is a very similar use case. Have you seen that tool?

Killer features there (for me) are:

1) seamless integration into the Segment -> Redshift stack

2) Postgres-flavored SQL for building queries

3) easy to publish as a nice-looking read-only dashboard with fancy-looking graphs


Sorry. I am actually working on Linux... i just didn’t create the packages for it, as it’s more work to maintain and probably not very useful business-wise...


Yeah, I got to front page of hacker news but I'm only getting 80 unique users per day on my website. Through there are now also 200 unique bots per day. (Where do all these internet bots come from?)

Yeah, I got a load of those bots too. Not sure if it's the same as yours but from what I can see in the system log, most appear to look for vulnerabilies by trying to access places like '/admin' or '/passwd'.

Thankfully a RewriteRule in .htaccess catches most of these although I can't help think if there's anything else I missed, security related. :\


If I had a thinkphp install it would of been hacked 10 times a day.

I recommend you read the first four chapters of The Startup Owners Manual by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf. In those chapters, they talk about the importance of understanding your users, not “build it and they will come.” I think if you understood people’s response to what you’ve made very well, you would know a few things to tweak to fix a lot of concerns.

The premise as I read it from the website was "You have a problem with tool X, replace it with tool Y." Why would I do this, I know tool X, everyone uses X if we need to move from tool X there's DBs and web apps, tool Y is a total unknown with no clear benefit.

Other issues: There was no Linux option for download so I can't try it & it's an electron app meaning there very well could be.


Thanks for the feedback. I've been trying a few different messages since that thread got traction. The Excel one clearly doesn't appeal to many...

Re: Linux, I've just built one there: https://github.com/jig-dev/jig-releases/releases/download/v0...


Your questions have been answered by pretty much every startup book going, but try "Running Lean" for a quick read that covers most of it.

Here's some quick advice, but tbh you could write a book answering this question. I suppose the general point of this answer is _you're asking the wrong question_.

Firstly: the mistake nerds make is asking "Can I Build it?" rather than "Will they buy it?"

There is a distinct difference between a _business_ and a _side project_. Nerds enjoy and are great at building side projects. Building a business is much much more than that. It's much more difficult. It requires a range of skills. And absolutely crucially, the software is _part of the business_ rather than the business being an "add on" to the software.

Writing software is almost never the difficult part of the business.

You should have a business model canvas describing your business. If you don't have one, create one (or more) to match your different models. You can knock one out in 15 minutes.

Now you have the canvas in front of you, you know exactly what you think the problem is and who you think your potential customers are. Great. Now you can go gather information that tests those hypotheses. No problem if you're wrong - you'll just need to adjust your hypotheses and try again.

How many of those potential customers have you spoken to and formally interviewed? I can guess it's none or very few, because those interviewees become your customers and you're having trouble getting customers. It should almost never be a "release the product on the world and sell it", but "build a product with users / potential customers". Most of us are not Steve Jobs or Apple.

Go back to basics. What are the three main painpoints you're fixing? What is the problem they have? Now speak to a CEO. Ask them what their biggest painpoints are. Mention excel, as them if they use it. Talk about it. See if they raise those painpoints. If they don't, you're off the mark. Find out what they _do_ care about. Be open minded to the idea of having to change your product.

Diving into specifics about copywriting or marketing strategies is pointless if you haven't gotten the fundamental right, that is: "make something people want" as some incubator likes to say.


Say more with less. I had a look at the website and it's not easy to understand what your product does. For some reason I thought it was code analysis software at first. If I go back and read more closely I see that it is an editor so to speak. I think a video to explain how to make a basic app would be nice, it's hard for me to see why I should learn to use your app when I can't understand how I get to a finished product.

I highly recommend going through YC's startup school. After having gone through YC once and in the middle of my second attempt at startups, I'm still learning every single day. It's extremely difficult, and I feel I need to absorb everything to even have a chance. Doing anything else besides their playbook and mantra is going blind.

https://www.startupschool.org


> now what?

Now comes 99.9% of the work.


The journey can end if you want it to but it doesn’t have to. I’ve built stuff and didn’t have the immediate viral adoption I wanted it to have, but it’s not over.

I takes time to refine and market your product, a long fucking time. If you’re not in it for the long haul (not really committed to the idea) that’s fine, but it doesn’t have to end if you don’t want it to.


What does it do, what user segment are you looking at?

It’s a “Rapid application development” tool, targeting developers who create internal apps.

Have you asked other developers if they want to use such a tool? (most developers don't want to use a custom, web-based IDE, also fear vendor lockin)

RAD or low-code should be targeted towards non-developers in the org.

This market is heavily saturated with most solutions falling short of expectations and being limited in what can be achieved.


This is the crux of the problem. In the organizations I have worked at, there were job positions for "business apps developers". Those people would make quick and dirty apps using whatever they can find (Excel, VBA, Windows Forms, etc.). They would have very little programming experience but would manage to bootstrap enough knowledge to get shit done. My view is that these people want web-based apps, but they struggle with html/css/test/deploy. Problem is these people are usually fine with what they already have.

In other organizations, such roles don't exist because it's too expensive to make business apps, and they don't want shitty solutions. It's a little hard to find how to put the foot in the door.


I am building something similar [0] (think Jupyter for the web, without the Observable black box, supporting clientside Python), also to scratch my own itch. I think you need to solve a problem directly, instead of being "a new tool that I now have to learn".

In my case I am trying to get Javascript/visualization/web developers to embrace the literate programming paradigm. The tough part here is that those familiar with something like Jupyter don't often know web APIs very well to really build a simple "app" in 100 lines, and those who do have probably never used a "notebook" at all and wouldn't even consider it.

How I am currently adressing this issue is by embracing content authoring first. The base of my tool are now WYSIWYG blocks, with the "super powers" being use-as-you-learn. Think gitbook but it's actually notebooks: that's not too scary. In your case it may mean some pre-built drag and drop no-code visualizations.

Importantly: don't give up now. My project has gotten some attention, but not nearly as much as I think it deserves. Follow the advice of others: see who really has a need for your product and let them help guide your next steps.

Finally, check out ellx [1] too as it's quite similar in its target audience.

[0]: https://starboard.gg [1]: https://ellx.io/


I think you could investigate offering a free open source version to the wider develop community to help them experiment and use the tool before committing to purchase it.

Then later on, plan on adding paid add-on features and professional support, etc.


Yes, the basic version is and will remain free. Will add paid features in the future.

Pricing will be somewhat similar to LinqPad.


Why not post it right here? Most HN users are developers.

I did.

It didn’t even reach the Show HN page. And I don’t want to spam by repeat-posting...


To save anyone else a few clicks: https://www.jigdev.com/index.html

This is definitely interesting but i imagine i wud use it so rarely that it wudnt warrant an install :(

For a really good effort-to-payoff, it would probably take you a couple of hours - put three example documents in the downloadable application. That was the first thing I looked for and it would make it far easier for me to understand how to start playing with the app.

Yes, totally agree. I was working on this. Then I thought why not ask HN what they think the most valuable path is going forward.

I have to admit I don't quite understand your product. With that said. I work a lot in excel. So does my co-workers. Why is this better than xlwings? As you said - people learn VBA - why is this better than learning Python?

Excel files are not safe, as in you can't know what changed between two versions of a sheet, and because usually many things change between two versions of a sheet. So Excel sheets are very prone to having mistakes in them. It's usually fine when you have a few sheets handled by a few people. But when sheets start to pile up and people leave, then these errors tend to accumulate, leading to actual financial risks.

Just read through this thread and this is your value prop. Please just say "Version Control for Excel" and everyone here will get it.

In my experience time is the key. Keep posting, keep mentioning it, it takes me several months for any MVP to actually judge its value.

In the meanwhile find and describe use cases to make it more discoverable.


Thanks, I'll push forward ;-)

I think a lot of the negative sentiment are people who havent tried enough. Good luck!

My best bet is to do effective marketing. Marketing connects people all around that specific niche. People need to learn more about the existence of your application.

What you need to do is called usability and value testing.

Startup Owner's Manual by Steve Blank will show you the way: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1119690684/


It looks like you're targeting a very specific niche. I don't think you can just assume your target audience is going to seek this one out. You'll have to be active in getting in contact with your potential users and help them see the value you are providing to drive early adoption.

Yes, this was what I realized too.

What do you think the best way of doing this is though?

I need to 1. find potential users 2. Get in touch with them 3. Convince them that a half baked product will eventually solve their problems.

Going one on one seems easy but with limited reach, while “trying to build an audience” seems hard but with more upside.


1 + 2 are the same. It’s possible they won’t respond. Treat that as the end of the loop iteration; change tactics and try again.

What appeals to you about your MVP is likely not what will appeal to your target market, unless they are you. In which case, you should know where they hang out!

Marketing and value prop refinement is hard. You have to nail it, and nail how you talk about it. 80% won’t cut it - spend the time to refine by putting it out there.


Do both. Building an audience takes time, you're not going to see much fruit from that labor for a while.

I guess you've changed your landing page after the suggestions here, but the first question "CEO or CTO?" seems like a great filter. My reaction was "No I'm not, so does that mean I should't look at this program?"...

> Now I posted it here and there and sent it to a few people I know, but it doesnt seem good enough.

Finding users to use your product is by far the hardest part in my experience. Just expecting them to come doesn't really work anymore. It did back in the early 2000s. I remember how back then even the average projects I was working on required almost no marketing to attract a significant number of visitors and rank well in Google, but since ~2010 I found this no longer to be the case.

Personally I've found marketing efforts to be largely luck. Sometimes you'll write a couple of blogs that take off, or perhaps you'll share a link to HN, Reddit, Twitter and people will upvote / retweet it. But in general the more you can write and post the better chance you have of something working.

SEO is more predictable, but it's very hard these days as there is always so much competition with established products. Personally I don't even focus on SEO as a way to attract visitors anymore. Although perhaps if you are confident you had a strong niche which you could target in search it might be worth it.

I would strongly recommend against adding more features at this stage. In my experience this never works and is always a waste of time. If you have people coming to your site, using your product and then commenting that they wish it did 'x', then you might want to consider adding new features. I've wasted years of my life adding features to products that literally no one used and now I regret how much of my early twenties I spend working on products no one cared about instead of spending time with friends and family.

Finding a really good co-founder would probably be the way to go. You want someone with a lot of connections who can push your product into businesses and get it shared online by influential people. They're hard to find, but they can be found at local meet ups and you may also know a few people like this from your past / present employment. But this is where I would focus (ideally before you've built something).

Other than that paid ads could be an option, although it would be good to know if you can convert organic users first. If you have the budget in my experience paid ads are the best way to get users in front of your product, but for it to be worthwhile you need to be sure you're converting enough visitors at the right price point.

Not to be too negative, but personally I've given up on bootstrapping startups. I've found out the hard way that if don't have a great co-founder or if I'm not able to put serious cash behind a product it's almost certainly going to fail. It was different twenty years ago, but competition is so high today it's extremely hard to break through all the noise.

There's an interesting post on Indie Hackers which highlights just how hard what you're trying to do is: https://www.indiehackers.com/post/holy-heck-this-is-hard-8eb...

I think a lot of people massively underestimate how hard it is to build a successful software product today if they don't have funding or an amazing team backing it -- although ideally you should have both. So give it your best shot, but also know when to quit. Your time is valuable and what you're trying to do is extremely hard and success is largely a product of luck. If it doesn't work out you can always keep it on the backburner for when you do find a great co-founder or an investor for your project then you can give it another shot.


Thanks for the great insights, and for not downplaying it.

I definitely see how having access to influencers and/or money could make the process infinitely easier.

I didn't realize it until I read a piece saying a16z was a media company first.

I guess I'll push my luck a little bit with bare sales/marketing tricks.


Is your project JigDev? I actually had a need for something like that awhile back. I needed quick visualizations for data from my database. I used Google Sheets as a solution by calling API calls inside the cells and having a chart rendered from that data.

Yep! Glad to hear that you've experienced that problem. It usually ends up in hacky spreadsheets... Give it a shot if you face the same problem in the future :-)

If any hacky spreadsheet can do it, wouldn't developing with JS be harder and slower? Spreadsheets date from 70's and found their optimal form in 80's, so are much alike today. What does this tool provide beyond ie. OpenOffice?

Do you use the tool for your own need, eat your own dog food?


Yep, I agree. I don't even think spreadsheets are that hacky. I prefer them to using JS, or any sort of coding. The visualizations Google Sheets provide are even more cleaner/visually appealing than the ones I see in most web apps too.

Yeah, but if you add complexity, they won't scale. So it's features like that that can make a new product stand out.

Get a content writer. There are a lot of words saying very little on your front page.

This sounds like something I could use for my job, but what I’m wondering about is:

What feature does it have (or will it have) that R or Python doesn’t already do better? I don’t see why I’d choose this over generating a report in R Markdown


Did you try becoming an excel or sheets power user first (using macros/vba/apps script)? What specific thing/things/usecase do they suck at which you are doing well?

Yes, I am a 10y+ finance excel-based app developer. In short:

- sheets cant be audited

- too many formulae

- not webable

It’s inherently unsafe to run apps on Excel. Yet, people are more productive with Excel than with any other platform.


Can you be more specific on what you mean by "audited" ?

What does "too many formulae" mean? Like what is a specific example?

What does "not webable" mean?


audited as in "version controlled". In Excel, if you insert a column somewhere, all the cells move, and all the formulae change, so it's really hard to spot the differences between two versions of the same sheet.

In excel, a lot of operations are "atomic", they work on numbers. If you get data in a table, and then want to operate on that data, you have to copy over the formula for each row in the table. Now, what happens is that sometimes, someone will need to change one of the n formulae, for some specific reason, and then forget that they left the change there. So suddenly, the data that's output by the sheet is garbage, cause someone screwed up. And since the sheet can't be diffed between versions, nobody can easily notice what had happened.

Not webable means that people now like to have things available online. I guess this is not true for Office 365, but a lot of people I am talking about rely on technologies that are not compatible with office 365 (COM stuff for instance)


In all of this 200+ comments thread, this is the first time you've clearly articulated examples of the pain to solve. Here's what to notice about these three comments:

In all three, you still want to ideally be using Excel. In a sense, these are three feature requests for Excel...and each of them is valuable:

-Getting a tool that instantly turns Excel into something made available online, that can be easily manipulated - that's great. (Not Google Sheets. Not Tableau. Not CSV. Excel) - A Diff tool for excel spreadsheets, or a version control tool for them - also amazing.

Your tool is none of those things. It demands so much upfront, and supposedly targets those who have neither the time nor the desire to spend that time fiddling with what is ultimately pitched as a sort-of-Excel-but-not-that-solves-maybe-one-problem-but-presents-five-new-ones.

Beware of the sunk cost fallacy. You've put all this effort into this and now it becomes how to patch it up into something someone will buy.


:)

I see. These feel like super user problems? Except for the last one, which isn't a problem in many cases in that if it's that important, the user could have just changed to Google Sheets.

It appears that you have a pretty tough battle on your hands - you are straight up competing with Microsoft and Google, and an army of super users who probably have a large incentive not to change? You also have a network effect to overcome - even if you get users, they need to convince other users to use it at their org/whatever.


Yeah, I am honestly not looking at disrupting the industry. If I can sell this to a bunch of guys and make $200k/yr, that'd be totally fine for me...

I get that you don't want to compete with MSFT and GOOG. But, you are. That is, unless you follow the above advice from he11ow...

I couldn't figure out how to use this tool.

Consider making a screen recording with a voice over what it is doing.

Put an excel work flow side by side vs. this. That shows why this is better/faster/cleaner ... etc.


You just need to appeal to someone's dream. What are someone dreaming of (and willing to pay for) that this MVP is about to provide?

Pay someone with social reach to write about it. Effectively, it's marketing of the subtle kind.

So what can this do (much easier) what excel can't do?

Product and distribution are usually two distinct things in business. We've all learned this the hard way.

I think you just need to answer two questions:

Why do I want to use it?

How do I use it?


Market it like crazy. Product is 33% of the work

The first thing to do is add a link to the MVP to this post.

yes, I didn't really expect the post to have so many upvotes... https://www.jigdev.com

Perhaps telling us what the app is really about would help.

Open-source it.

This is not the solution for every business. Especially a small app that is hard enough to monetize already.

First, apparently they didn't find anybody interested in it, so throwing the code into the open is still better than the trash can where it would disappear forever. Maybe as open source they find somebody willing to invest time and energy to make it more useful and/or accessible which then even flows back to benefit the original author. For free.

Second, open sourcing does bot preclude making money from it. If it turns out that enough people actually find it useful. As long as nobody does, the argument "butbif I oprn source it then I can't monetize it" is void in any case.


You're 100% right. I just wouldn't give the advice that you should "open source it because it's better than it going in the trash" after a little bit of trying. Business is hard.

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