As summer draws to a close, we’re gearing up for a busy fall season at FoundersBeta! In case you missed our August Talent Match Up session which was all about finding the right early adopters and product market fit, we’ve summarized the key startup learnings from our feature speaker, Alex Leduc, CEO of Perch.
Used by thousands of Canadians to date, Perch is an analytics-driven digital platform that helps people make more informed decisions about real estate to build wealth. Perch provides users with personalized insights throughout all aspects of homeownership, from buying, to mortgage renewals, refinancing, and selling. The average Perch user saves $1,500 per year on their mortgage, compared to going with a bank. Perch recently closed its Seed Round and is currently focused on scaling operations. www.myperch.io
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
FoundersBeta: What tips do you have for non-technical founders building their MVP?
Alex: For anyone that’s thinking about starting a business, it’s important to expand your network beyond just your immediate role. For example, attend networking events where not everyone has a similar background to you. My background is in finance, so I had the ‘fin’ but none of the ‘tech.’
Starting out, we used freelancers and contractors to build our MVP which gave us flexibility without having to commit too much capital. I’ve also quickly learned the power of prototypes — we use Figma to design prototypes to test product market fit with our target users before ever writing a single line of code.
FoundersBeta: What was the first version of your product like?
Alex: This question always makes me laugh whenever someone asks. I think back to how awesome I thought it was, but it was atrocious. We initially built a fully automated solution to allow users to compare and select a mortgage. We soon realized people weren’t willing to make such an important decision without having the ability to consult a trusted advisor for 1:1 support, so we adapted. The UI/UX was awful at the start. We’ve made significant progress since then, and our team is much larger now.
FoundersBeta: How did you go about finding your early users and how did you convince them to try it out?
Alex: We’ve been really fortunate, most people are incredibly supportive if given the right opportunity to provide feedback. Start with your friends and family, and look for people who won’t just ‘pump your tires,’ in other words, you want those who will be honest with their criticism. When you’re ready for the next step, drive traffic to your site and make your contact info readily available so users know who to complain to. Learn where things aren’t going according to plan, and make the necessary changes.
Ideally, your best early adopters don’t only focus on the flaws of the product today. They believe in you and understand the potential behind what you’re building.
FoundersBeta: How did you recognize product market fit? What signs did you look for?
Alex: To be successful, you need to have a unique product. We really focused on making sure we were solving our users’ problems. With Perch, we knew we had the right product fit when people started saying things like ‘I’ve never seen anything like this!’ or ‘I can’t believe no one else is already doing this.’
FoundersBeta: If someone doesn’t have a technical background, what’s your advice on how to hire and test the skills of a potential candidate?
Alex: This one is tough to manage. When starting Perch, I had to hire a full stack developer and I had zero knowledge in this area. I took some courses so I could understand the bare minimum, and recruited advisors with a technical background that I could lean on. These advisors would help assess technical skill, and I could focus on assessing the candidate’s fit and attitude. Coding challenges were also useful to eliminate those who couldn’t meet the job requirements.
To get in touch with Alex, he can be found on LinkedIn. To learn more about Perch, visit www.myperch.io.
This post has been in collaboration with Alex Leduc, Katherine Wong Too Yen, and Perch team.