How would you test a marketplace Startup idea at zero cost ?

4 replies
I failed when I tried to build a marketplace Startup a few years ago, so this one is close to my heart. The good thing was that I learnt so much from the experience. Whilst my obsession now is about making sure that I share my knowledge with everyone, I'm also curious about how you've been able to solve this riddle. There are several playbooks on building marketplaces, you can offer one-side of the market a service, and this could be anything from building a community to sharing a monthly newsletter (somewhat ubiquitous now). So if I were to do it again today, I'd start by finding one thing that both sides of the market wanted and help them to achieve this whilst building a community, with zero tech :) How would you do it today in 6 months and what would be your biggest challenge?


Ondrej Dobias
Hi @oluadedeji, are you trying to test your riskiest assumptions or are you looking to explore on the needs of the user groups? These are two very distinct scenarios and different approach could be taken. Having launched few marketplaces in a specific niche (Fashion), I suspect that your chosen market will influence your methods a lot.
Hey @ondrej_dobias1 thanks for your question. Extremely insightful. The former of the two. testing a risky assumption. I'm keen to get tech founders to understand how to collide their ideas with reality as quickly as possible without building tech. You are right though, a marketplace where there's a need to be visually stimulated by the product would require a medium like instagram, somewhere to see and comment on the aesthetics of the product
Alexander Moen
I can only offer you my failed experience and compare it to what I'm doing with my current startup I launched on here today. Marketplaces are one of those things that really build off the community that is available at any given moment. As a new startup, that community is probably zero. Probably the biggest thing that you have to keep in mind is that potential customers are looking for social signals all over the place for whether your company/marketplace/etc is worth engaging with. If you launch a community and it's not packed and vibrant (which is virtually impossible with a startup with zero budget), that is a subconscious signal that it is not wanted (which isn't necessarily the case- you're just new). Being social animals, having that outside validation is important. In the past, I've had failed marketplace/platform launches that I attribute to this. Now, I'm taking a different approach. I'm building up the social signals of one social media platform at a time and building my email list. Then and only then will I attempt to build a public community when I'm sure that I have the private demand built up to make it work. For an example, you can check out my LinkedIn company page that got the most initial focus: My goal was to get 1,000 followers pre-launch, and I did. On LinkedIn, that seemed to be a very strong number for companies of any size, as most companies do not get follows and views. I, however, am lucky enough to now regularly get 5k+ views per post. It is also the social media platform that I am strongest at. I focused on it and am ignoring others, such as Facebook or Instagram or Twitter because I'm weaker there. To build a community I don't want to be everywhere- I want to be super strong in a handful of areas and I started where I already had personal momentum that could carry over. My next steps are to build my YouTube channel (which is at square one) because that's where I'll have lots of visuals for my business placed, but also my email list. That way, when people are watching my onboarding or explanatory videos they can feel safer seeing 1000+ views per video there and a 1000+ subscriber count. Then, before I launch a more public forum where users can interact with each other, I'll be able to gauge things better based on my email list. If I ask a question, how many people respond? How many people are sharing or replying in general? Those will be the types of markers I will use to ensure that the private demand is ready to spill over into the public sphere, where it will certainly impact the social signals I mentioned before. At least, that's the plan and the reasoning behind it. So, to summarize: what are you good at and what can you build as stepping stones to a full-blown marketplace? That'll probably get you further on a bootstrapped budget. Hope that was helpful.
@alexander_moen This has been extremely helpful and I had to read it a few times. Thank you so much. PS. I do like your direct approach with asking people EXACTLY what they've done to generate traction and/or interest. It just removes the fluff :)