We’ve worked with a lot of awesome startups at Launchpeer, but few have impressed us more with their MVP than Purple Panda.
It’s not that their MVP had some incredible tech breakthrough or beautiful design. It’s that it had none of that.
When Greg and Gavin came up with the idea of Purple Panda it was really out of frustration. Greg was trying to move an incredibly heavy dresser up a narrow staircase into his second story loft in downtown Charleston. No easy feat, and Greg will be the first to tell you he’s no Hulk Hogan; there was no way he was getting that thing up there on his own.
Greg ended up posting everywhere trying to find someone to help him haul this thing up his staircase. By the time some college kid in town replied to his post on Craigslist, the dresser had been sitting outside in the elements for two days. Not ideal.
The ordeal left Greg wondering why there wasn’t an easier way to hire people for one-off, non-skilled labor jobs. Besides, the economy isn’t that great, and there’s always someone out there who would love an extra $20.
That’s how Purple Panda was born.
Choosing an MVP
Greg and Gavin aren’t newbs to the startup game. Each came to Purple Panda with their own unique set of skills; Gavin is an expert in working with funded startups, and is well connected to investors across the U.S. Greg is an Intellectual Property attorney who frequently works with startups on myriad issues…plus, he’s also started a few of his own.
For most inexperienced founders, the process of building an MVP is a daunting task. Many think it involves finding a tech co-founder, choosing a brand, doing design, and a ton of other labor (and cost) intensive activities that seem overly restrictive.
Purple Panda went back to an old staple of online listings: Craigslist.
The reason for choosing such a minimal MVP was two-fold. First, Gavin had worked with startups in the past who had burned millions on building an elaborate and incredible MVP, working for months writing code with large dev teams and creating brand buzz, only to find that once launched, the product had little hope of survival. Second, Greg and Gavin still weren’t sure whether their idea would work.
They still had questions about whether a marketplace for labor would be able to work. Would people be willing to pay a flat $20/hour fee for workers they didn’t know to perform non-technical labor? And would workers be enticed to do that labor for a flat $16/hour?
A couple paragraphs of copy and a Craigslist post later, they began the process of finding out.
No website. No mobile app. No design or brand. No real workers in place. Nothing except a little ol’ fashioned entrepreneurial figure-this-shit-out-ness.
And it worked.
The strategy was simple; they posted on Craigslist offering people help around the house with tasks like raking leaves, painting, and moving household items. The Purple Panda model relied on this labor being at an easy to understand flat rate; $20/hour per person.
Once someone responded to the listing, Greg and Gavin would create a separate post in Craigslist offering people $16/hour to do whatever the job was. After doing some background on the worker to ensure they weren’t shady, they would match them up with the person who asked for help in their other post.
The two entrepreneurs did this for three weeks and made $3421. Boom.
Don’t convince yourself that an MVP needs to be shiny, new, and pretty. A real MVP is just enough to get you your first users — ideally paying ones. The last thing startups should do is waste precious time and money building a venture without proving its chance of success in the market. You’re just shooting in the dark.