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Invalidate this startup idea - 500 dollar prototype
12 points by padseeker 1782 days ago | hide | past | web | 31 comments | favorite
I had an idea based on my many conversations with non techies with web or mobile app based ideas. It seems they always spend way too much on building their idea from scratch, even if they use offshore resources OR they forgo it completely as it is too hard to manage.

I've lost track of the amount of times I've put palm to forehead when I listen to a non-techie tell me how they spent thousands building their idea from scratch, when they could have used using that was already build - like a wordpress plugin, a rails or django clone with some extra work, or goodness knows what else. But they never even thought to ask around about other avenues.

So here is the idea - A proposer (a non techie type) posts their idea, and a bunch of technically savvy hacker news types propose ways to build the prototype for 500 or less, and people up/down vote stuff like stackexchange. Perhaps use crowdsourcing for others to up/down vote the proposals. The winning proposal wins and builds it for 500, minus a nominal fee that goes to the company.

The proposer can always continue using the builder of the prototype after the prototype is built, or they could take it to someone else. And 500 bucks is not chump change but it isn't a huge investment on the part of the proposer.

Just upvote this post if you would consider putting your hat in the ring to build a prototype for $500, or at least vote in other proposals.

I guess the concept is ultimately a 2-sided market of 'proposers' and 'builders', so the challenge would be balancing them effectively.

I think its unlikely you'd ever have a problem with too many builders and not enough ideas. I think the challenge will be attracting builders (i.e. developers) who are willing to build these prototypes.

As you've probably heard, developers are in high demand right now. A hacker worth his salt is probably charging at least $100/hr, so $500 for a prototype doesn't sound that attractive.

Affordable prototypes make sense, but what about the $500 level setting false expectations for the cost of the production-quality app? If you're pitching this at non-techies, you'll also have to get them over the hump of realising that a lash-up is easily an order of magnitude cheaper than a decent, real-world-robust version.

"Hey, WTF are you doing quoting me £5000 for a full build of this app? I had the prototype done for $500 and it does almost as much as the real one I want."

Hate it. A decent developer based out of United States will not be able to work out the prototype for anywhere near $500. That means you open doors for off-shore devs/companies to bid and try winning the project, acting exactly like other hundreds of freelance sites. No one will up-vote proposals of the competition. I don't see how this is different from any other freelance marketplace sites out there other than putting a hard limit of $500 max. The poster still has to work hard in preparing the requirement of the prototype, answering questions and managing deliverables. Prototype also has expectations, designs, creatives, tests and what not. It's better to just hire a local person/friend. In general I feel freelance market places are hurting the economy of the country.

My main problem with this proposal, is that WE all know that $500 buys you a rough prototype or a proof-of-concept. But a quick search through Elance or Odesk shows that there are many many potential clients who seriously expect a fully-polished product for that amount. What happens to the poor contractor when the client comes back with a huge changelist, which they're honoured to complete before getting paid?

Having said that, there was a pretty successful version of this idea implemented for designers a while back.

99designs.com was the link, took me a while to remember

A neat idea. It's a nice fit with something like Bountify (you'd use bountify for the smaller things, and your site for the larger projects).

Here are a couple of questions. These aren't meant to be bashing or knocking! Sorry if they sound that way.

* How will you cope if an idiot claims to be able to do something, and wins, and then makes an awful mess of things?

* How does licensing work? If Ann writes some code for Bob who owns the code? (And if Ann is working at some place that claims ownership of all her code, do they own this?)

you could I guess have a process - for custom apps the winner needs to post their code on github, and others can review the deployed app on heroku? There are plenty of holes with that as a technical person could pose as a non techie then grab the code and make off with it. But the proposer's money would be in escrow, and if the finished product works and, oh i dunno if the other hackers give it the stamp of approval....

Which that is a whole other bag of worms, if enough hackers are vindictive enough to vote a working idea down. I'm making this up as I go along. I'm willing to be swayed in a different direction.

Thanks for all your comments - this post has certainly generated a bit of interest and there are some interesting ideas I'm going to have to consider. Although 11 points (at 9:30 EST) is hardly justification for building the thing out. If I get to 50 maybe I would consider it.

The funniest part is to see the comments coming from each end, the Dev person saying "I can get $100 per hour, why would I do it" versus the business person who counters "I can get it built for less than $20 per hour on ODesk". I think there is an opportunity here. It's not easy to find and manage an offshore resource, and there are not that many people who can justify paying $100 an hour.

I am a non-techie. I think I need to learn the technical part to make my thingamawhop. I don't think it will fly otherwise. Maybe my situation is unique. Maybe not. What if it is not? What if a lot of non-techies need to learn and grow with the process of trying to breathe life into their idea?

What if your idea amounts to the guy who snipped the cocoon to make things easier on the emerging butterfly, thereby tragically crippling it and permanently denying it the ability to ever fly?

I am a non-techie that also believes I ought to learn the technical part to breathe life into my thingamawhop.

I would still love the ability to know if someone could make it right now right now for $500.

If you snip the cocoon by putting it on doitfor500.com, that's on you, right?

Where there's a want, there's a product. I'd post my thingamawhop.

He asked to be invalidated. I was giving him the feedback he requested. I am someone who routinely either gets useless pats on the head or hatred from people. I can't fucking get anyone to engage me in meaty discussion of the issues. And that fact is helping to ensure that my thingamawhop will be stillborn or miscarried entirely.

Perhaps he doesn't appreciate being given what he asked for. Perhaps like everyone else on planet earth, he will not take my feedback seriously and will merely be defensive like it is a personal attack and not a well meaning, honest critique. And, gee, that's on him what he does with it. But he did ask for people to try to poke holes in his idea, presumably on the theory that it would help him uncover weaknesses and thereby improve the darn thing. But maybe it was just pc bs, like most of the blather on the face of the planet.

If you think it is invalid that is a perfectly acceptable response. You made a point and I countered. No need to get hostile Mz. I'm just glad you took the time to respond. You're feedback is appreciated, even if the answer is "your idea isn't worth building".

I want to hear what your thingamawop is - please share. Maybe this is the start of doitfor500, and you get the first version for free. Or at least we put you on the right path if you do it yourself. I'm really curious now what it is.

You seem to have missed my point entirely. I gave you the feedback you requested. That doesn't mean "it isn't worth building". That means I respect you enough to help you try to find the weaknesses before you build the damn thing, in hopes that it will hurt less should you actually launch. And if you can't come to terms with that, life will get really painful when you do go public with it.

My thingamawhop: I nearly died just about twelve years ago. Then I was diagnosed with "atypical cystic fibrosis". I have spent the last twelvish years getting well when the entire world thinks that is impossible. I would like to write a simulation -- aka "game" -- to more effectively share my mental model. But it might never happen. I get accused of having Munchhausen Syndrome rather than cf. Most people with cf have made it abundantly clear that they would rather die a slow torturous death than speak to me at all. And I have been lovingly called a "troll" by the good people of hn for trying to get feedback to resolve my problems.

Sorry if I am a tad raw over the whole thing. This kind of bullshit has gone on for years. It likely won't end. Ever.

Best of luck with your idea.

Well, I would hate to be accused of handing out pats on the head.

I was compelled by padseeker's idea, and honestly my similarity to your non-techie, want-to-learn-to-build position. I just wanted to point out that want-to-learn or not, it's on you to post a project to a public forum like that.

I appreciate your comment, just another POV.

No hard feelings. In the interest of not digging my grave deeper, I will leave it at that.

None taken. I'm just thankful for the term 'thingamawhop'.

I love the name - doitfor500.com. And it is available... I'm still on the fence.

While I have you engaged, I feel like I posted this in the wrong way - should I have put this on Ask HN?

From my non-techie experience of HN, yeah.

But, there you are on the front page. I'm sure someone building a filter somewhere is insignificantly bothered.

Yeah, go figure! I don't understand the algorithm for determining what appears on the front page of ask on hacker news.

7 points is not compelling enough for me to build this thing.

Most of your potential market may have never heard of HN, much less have established karma here. Not defending my lowly position and certainly understand what you're getting at, but I do not think you're doing your idea justice by taking 'Ask HN' as a solid interest gauge.

If I were trying to validate this idea, I would probably look to local meetups for co-founders and non-tech founders, LinkedIn groups for tech-business people, and tech-business students. They're your market, so ask them.

How long do you think it would take? Are there any substantial costs involved?

Well, it's basically bringing together 2 groups - technical hacker news reader types and non-technical people with an idea. If I can't get to 30-40 points on hacker news my hope is not that high. Which is not to say it does not have potential or is not worth pursuing. I might not be doing it justice. But based on the new school of thought, where you validate your idea before you build your startup, I am not feeling this is a white hot idea.

Still there is potential. I do feel like it may be worth exploring. The source of the idea was going to bootstrapper breakfast in Chicago and hearing a lot of non-technies asking technies what they should do. That was arguably my favorite part, helping those who were not technical figure out the best way to build out their technical needs. Anybody can hire a offshore developer or get a local student to help them out, but there is no guarantee what that person offers to develop is what you should develop.

Building out the MVP? I could build it in Rails in under a month as I work full time and can only code after hours. Costs could be close to none if I do the work. Maybe I would buy a bootstrap template so it looks decent.

What I really want is what stackexchange already has, with a bit more functionality as it relates to the payment part. I like the upvoting of answers to questions, the way it tracks reputation of users.

I'm going to send you an direct email, this idea is worth discussing. Thanks for not abandoning this post.

Having someone build the prototype can help you learn how to build/enhance/operate your thingamawhop. And if you feel that strongly then don't use this non existent business idea.

And you are not the typical non-technical founder. If you have any interest in learning by all means do it! This is not for you.

AND EVEN SO! This could be the thing that gets you or someone else on the right track to decide what to do. You might be tempted to build the thing from scratch when you should have bought a plugin for wordpress/joomla and then learned PHP and the framework where the plugin is built. It will help you make the most pragmatic decision, which might not be build it from scratch.

I don't really want to learn. I wish someone could help me zap it into existence. But that hasn't happened so far. And it is looking unlikely.

But my personal situation is neither here nor there. You asked for invalidation. That is my thought: That in spite of the number of times that the value of the "idea" gets pissed on here, there is some internal process that goes on in the founders. Y-combinator is more interested in funding the tight people, not the right initial conceptualization. Building the thing is often part of the growth process for the founders, a process I struggle to articulate adequately. Perhaps you would be killing that process, throwing the baby out with the bath water, so to speak.

This is something that I've toyed with. I wanted to offer a service to build an MVP for as low as $999. Living in a third-world country where a lot for very talented developer work for a lot less is an advantage that I had.

On my first try, my value proposition wasn't clear enough and I clearly needed to spend more time on the whole presentation. However, I think the idea still has merit, and its something I'll try again.

I quite like this idea and could maybe see myself posting on a site like this.

What I don't like is the "500 or less" part, at that point it becomes a bidding war and will inevitably be taken over by India-based devs just like every other coder for hire site.

Cool idea, but one question. Are you talking about developers ripping off non-techies buy building the idea from scratch, or the non-techies themselves trying to build it from scratch because they don't know better alternatives?

I think this becomes more compelling if you offer multiple price points and try to set delivery expectations at each level. I'm not sure how much can be built at $500 while maintaining reasonable $/hr rates.

Sounds like a subreddit, not a website. </irony>

yeah, I think that is a valid criticism. Actually it feels a lot closer to a Stack Exchange site, not including the way to transfer a payment from one person to another. I like how stack exchange tracks reputations and allows people to up/down vote answers to questions.

It does sound like a subreddit, actually. I don't see what's ironic about your statement?

Hmmmm... LaunchSky.com definitely comes to mind

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