Testing a Startup Idea on the Market

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Testing a Startup Idea on the Market

There is no better way to test an idea than to actually build something and take it out to market. By doing this you can quickly determine whether people will actually pay for the product and if there is anything which is fundamentally broken with the idea. It can be super simple to knock up a landing page these days and doesn’t cost much if any money so the barrier to entry of doing such a thing is pretty much zero.

I thought I’d share my initial findings by using this method with a startup idea that I had which was to bring bus tickets online in Nepal. Nepal is a super interesting country which is developing fast. The lack of development in the country make it quite appealing for startups as there are so many realities in daily life which could be made simpler and slowly are. One of these is bus tickets which can be quite a hassle and booking online would save a lot of the headaches involved. Well this is what I thought!

The main reasons for creating a website such as this were the following;

  • No websites exist which solely look at this
  • No websites take card payments to complete the booking online
  • It is difficult to see timetables and information online
  • More and more people are visiting Nepal

 

With the idea and a way to fulfill the tickets on the ground I got to work on putting together some basic framework. By using an old WordPress theme which I had used for other projects and combining it with Stripe and WPSimplePay I managed to knock up Kathmandu Bus in a few days. With the basic functionality of being able to book a ticket and the popular destinations encoded it was just a case of setting up all the reminders and notices so that when someone did book I would see them.

For this I used mainly Zapier and Slack. If someone booked – a trigger would be sent to Slack letting me know and providing me all the details to fulfill. An automatic trigger would also be sent to Zapier to write them an email confirming their purchase and letting them know we would get the ticket to them shortly. Perfect! The less work that I need to do the better. The final addition to the website was setting up some analytics in the form of Google Analytics and adding the Drift plugin. Drift is great as they have a free version for testing ideas and it works similarly to Intercom letting visitors to your page interact with you directly on the page.

With everything sorted and ready all that was left was to change the website over from the staging environment to live on Kathmandubus.com, ensure that the SSL certificate was working and ensure that the email addresses were working. Bingo! Let’s rock said nobody ever when making a website…

Deciding on how to promote the website was simple, I did a bit of research on Google adwords and found that not a lot existed for the routes and keywords you would expect someone to search when they would be wanting to book something like this. I set up an account and pushed a small budget for what I wanted to achieve to test the water. I also did the same on Facebook to see if that would also be effective. After everything was set up it was a case of waiting for the ad approval and then things went live.

Testing the results for a month was quite fun. During that month we filled out the quota of free Drift conversations and had a lot of traffic to the site. The first booking came on the 1st day of ads running for 2 persons going from Kathmandu to Pokhara, perfect! Over the next days, more bookings came in. Pokhara was popular, Chitwan also and people were crying out for the Delhi route through Drift. I spoke with my partner on the ground in Nepal about this route and we got the details to be able to fulfill it. I switched it in for another route we offered and it wasn’t long before we got an order for it.

The $$$$$$ Bot on Slack was enjoying the testing

What did I learn from this initial testing? There were quite a few things and the obvious things were;

  1. There is a clear demand for online booking of bus tickets in Nepal which should be explored further
  2. Most of the bookings were done by foreigners so tourists and expats. Most of the questions on Drift were by locals, perhaps if we had better local support we would be able to convert these better.
  3. People were asking for routes not exclusive to Kathmandu to other parts of Nepal and other routes into India which should be included.
  4. Visitors were also interested in private transfers, flights and different luxury style buses.

 

It was a fun project to set up and even made some money which can’t be scoffed at. The starting of Kathmandu Bus was definitely a positive one and something which will be pursued further. Shortly after the experiment, I registered NamasteTravel.com and NepalTicketz.com with the view of creating a nationwide ticketing platform to solve the transport ticketing needs across the country for all sorts of transport. This will go live by the end of January 2017 and will be the evolution of this initial test.

stuartl

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