How I launched a new company in 24 hours
Two flights, a 3-hour lay-over, a bout of jet-lag, and a laptop. Say hello to TriviaCloud.
It appears I have a pattern: I get on a very long flight, and by the time I emerge at the other end, I’ve created a new product or company. It turns out that being disconnected from the internet for a few hours is tremendously helpful for inspiration and getting shit done.
As I boarded a plane to Portugal via Washington DC, I decided to see if I couldn’t make an idea that’s been percolating for a while at the back of my mind real: A trivia-night-in-a-box solution.
What’s the company?
I run a semi-regular pub quiz at my local Irish bar. The weeks when I can’t do the quiz myself, the pub owners buy a set of questions from a provider, and have someone substitute for me. That got me thinking: I’m spending all this time creating awesome pub quiz questions from scratch. It would be possible to publish them online for free, of course, but why not see if I can sell them? There must be other pubs out there who have the same needs for fun trivia nights in-a-box.
What does it do?
It’s pretty simple. For $39.99, you can buy a set of 60 trivia questions, in a ‘Trivia Pack’. The pack includes instructions for how to run a pub quiz, templates for answer sheets and scoring sheets, and the questions themselves. Buy the pack, spend some quality time with your printer, and job done — you’re ready to run your first trivia night. It’ll save you a ton of time.
I also added a $59.99 (20-team pack) and $64.99 (30-team pack) tier, in case you want everything printed out and ready to go in a handy bundle. Of course, I have no actual plans for how I’m going to deliver that yet, because I don’t really expect anyone to ever order that — but if they do and I’m near a printer, I’ll figure it out. If not, I’ll call up my local print shop and get them to deal with it. Either way — it’s there for much of the same reason the digital download versions are there — to measure whether this is something anyone will actually want.
What’s it called and why?
It’s called TriviaCloud — so named because it rolls of the tongue nicely, adn I like the idea of trivia raining down from the heavens. Also, the .cloud top-level domain is cheap and has tons of domains available. Including Trivia.Cloud. It also helps that /TriviaCloud and @TriviaCloud were available on Facebook and Twitter, respectively, too.
How did you build it?
I have a ton of ideas for how to turn this into a tech-first business, where each trivia quiz is generated on demand based on a set of choices the customers makes. Pick which categories you want, whether you want it rated PG-13 or R, and so on and so forth. I want the questions to be grabbed from my database at random (so no quiz is ever the same), and for the platform to remember which questions a user has had before, so they never see the same questions twice. I also want automatic print fulfillment in case someone wants the full pack printed on demand.
The problem is… That’s a couple of weeks worth of development (I’m not a very good coder…), and I wanted to get something live in under 24 hours. So I decided to go down a different route.
Part 1 — Customer-facing
Front-end: Shopify — I decided to not build a traditional website for the site at all, and instead build the whole site on Shopify. It means that it’s an e-commerce-first website. I also know Shopify well (it powered the Triggertrap shop for many years), so it makes developing on the platform very quick indeed.
Delivery — I added the Shopify Digital Downloads app, which means that a customer tho orders a set of quizzes can receive an email instantly after they place an order. The email includes the Trivia Pack, including all the files they need to run a quiz night.
Part 2 — Quiz generation
Because I didn’t have time to build the full version described above, I went with the simplest possible solution. I added all the quiz questions I’ve done so far to a Google Sheet, with a column for “Question”, one for “answer”, one for “category” and a couple of validation columns (check that the question isn’t too long, that the answer is present, and that the category is set).
With Google Sheets as my ‘database’, I needed a way of pulling random questions and answers out of the set, and present them to the customer. I brushed off my PHP skillz (I use that word ironically and in the loosest possible sense of the word) and wrote a script that grabs the data set, selects 6 categories at random, then selects 10 questions out of those categories, before rendering out a HTML document that looks… Well, it looks like shit, but that doesn’t really matter — the questions have to be readable, that’s the important part for now. And making it look pretty is something I can focus my attention on later.
Part 3 — Design the rest of the pack
I’ve run quite a few trivia nights by now, and there’s a number of things I do that could be done better — so I decided to design best-practice for running a trivia night. I designed some new answer sheets (3 different versions, in fact, usable for different contexts) that of course have a reference to TriviaCloud in the footer — gotta think marketing, after all.
I also designed a scoring sheet, which I should have done a long time ago — it isn’t as if scoring a pub quiz is hard, but it gets messy quickly when the pressure is on to get on to the next round.
Finally, I wrote up a guide for how to run a pub quiz. It’s a bit spartan for now, but I wanted to include something to help people out as part of the trivia pack. In due course, I’ll expand that with additional blog posts (how to deal with hecklers, what to do if someone disputes a ‘correct’ answer, how to get the room involved, how to run your first trivia night… The possibilities are endless there) and a more robust guide.
Part 4 — Launch it and see what happens
Is it pretty? Not really. Does it work? It sure does. Was it fun? Hells yes. I love the early stages of building a product — everything is possible, nothing is a problem.
For now, I have to generate each quiz and add it to Shopify manually. Not a terrible hardship (it takes less than 30 seconds per quiz to generate a new one, plus another 2–3 minutes to add it to Shopify), but obviously that doesn’t scale very well. Of course, that’s also not a problem — if I start getting 4–5 orders per week, I can start worrying about automating things further.
Part 5 — Add more questions
The next step is to add a ton of additional trivia questions so the database is well-bolstered. Right now there’s around 1,500 questions, which should last me a little while, but I decided to throw a couple of hundred bucks at UpWork to generate a couple of thousand additional questions, too. The first few sets are back from the freelancers (with varying results), but it’ll be fun to see how quickly the database can grow.
I have no idea. I think my next step will be to put a couple of hundred dollars into Google AdWords (and possibly Facebook adverts) to see if I can find a ROI that works. The cost of delivery is very low, and it’s a high-value product (if I’m able to target it at people who are recurring customers). Further down the line, when I pick up a couple of recurring customers, I may look into offering subscription services at a discount — but to do that, I’ll need to figure out the automatic quiz generation and fulfillment.
And that was how I launched a new company, complete with e-commerce solution, an early product, and some marketing collateral in under 24 hours.
Haje is a pitch coach based in Silicon Valley, working with a founders all over the world to create the right starting point for productive conversations with investors — from a compelling narrative to a perfect pitch. You can find out more at Haje.me. You can also find Haje on Twitter and LinkedIn.