Incubator Update: Mike at Goodz

Daniel Kim
This article is also available in: español

By tuning into the specific words that potential users employ to express their challenges, we can tailor our messaging and solutions to resonate more deeply.

The 3rd session of the thoughtbot Startup Incubator is underway and we are back at our post reporting to you with the latest updates. If you aren’t familiar with the Incubator and our recent launch with 2 different sets of founders, you can find all the launch details here.

Today we will take a look at the first two weeks at the Incubator with Goodz founders Mike Rosenthal and Chris Cerrito.

The focus of the first few weeks is to educate the thoughtbot team on everything the founders know and assume about the opportunity, and then to quickly identify a market segment to research intensively.

The Goodz team had done a lot of lightweight research on their physical prototype before joining us, so they already had a considerable number of insights and assumptions for us to work with. We were able to quickly itemize those assumptions and then rank them on risk vs. understanding – i.e. we want be sure to focus first on testing the assumptions that pose the biggest risk to the business and that we have the least confidence in.

In our case, that riskiest assumption is demand: Will people want this?

  1. Conversations with labels and artists, conversations with consumers
  2. Marketplace experiments (tk!)

Where do our customers hang out? Do they talk about this problem at all? Which words do they use? What solutions have they tried?

We wanted to get to the answers as soon as possible, so we created some projects to learn more about our assumed target customers:

  1. Playlist Creators: Individuals who love creating playlists and share them out to friends, family, or the public.
  2. Music Merchandise Buyers: Individuals who frequently go to concerts or live shows and purchase merchandise from their favorite artists/bands.
  3. Adult Gift Givers: Individuals who purchase gifts for their adult siblings or family members.

Going into the interviews, we felt the product would resonate most with the Playlist Creators and Adult Gift Givers especially with the holidays coming up. We quickly realized we weren’t getting meaningful information from the gift givers and decided to bring some of those users into our other studies to focus on the Playlist Creators and Music Merchandise Buyers.

There’s still so much we don’t know yet but we’re starting to hear some common themes come up about users and their relationship to music:

  • Music is deeply personal to users
  • Music is a reflection of themselves and their connection to others
  • People buy music merchandise as a form of memorabilia
  • “Retro” forms of music (especially vinyls) are growing in appeal for younger generations but the barrier to entry is relatively high
  • There is an appeal to exclusivity especially when it relates to access to your favorite artist/musician

But we’re not done talking to users yet (and we never will be)! We’re using our interviews to help refine our ads and test them out in the wild. With the site now live ( our goal for the storefront from here on out is to tune our ad campaigns to drive site traffic and ultimately, sales.

Founder’s Journal

These first weeks at thoughtbot have been a whirlwind for me. Right out of the gate we worked with the team to identify initial target user personas and then quickly built and launched an e-commerce site as an experiment for our first product - a “mixtape” NFC-powered collectible. Getting that stood up in just a few short weeks before Thanksgiving was…exhilarating to say the least, and felt like a massive accomplishment. Our first stab at social ads taught us a lot, especially about the need to refine our marketing message and hone in our target audience. That has led us to conducting a lot more user interviews, something I didn’t really have any experience with before. Seeing strangers interact with your website and read copy you wrote feels quite vulnerable, but also such a quick way to see things that need to be changed. Very powerful.

Working with the thoughtbot team has been incredibly rewarding. They have skills in coding, design, and product management that have really moved the needle for us and their structured approach to the process has been a big help, surfacing learnings we wouldn’t have figured out on our own. Figma has been a powerful tool for us in our daily syncs. It’s been great for sketching out ideas, voting on them, and breaking down complex concepts into chunks we can actually work with and execute on. These are pretty standard practices for product development I imagine, but it was new to me and has proven super useful.

Looking ahead, what’s got me excited is the chance to dive into the B2B SaaS component of our offering. Applying what we’ve learned with thoughtbot to this aspect of our business should give us some key insights into what our future partners might need, and what they won’t, saving us valuable time down the line.

The biggest thing I’ve taken away from all of this is how important it is to question and test our assumptions. We came into the program with a lot of concrete ideas about our product and target market, but rigorously testing those assumptions on a daily basis has let us refine, pivot, tweak, and then double down on the ones that are borne out by data. This is making our product stronger and getting us closer to finding product market fit.

Halfway through the Thoughtbot program and we’re feeling good. The momentum we’ve built is solid, and we’re excited about what’s coming next.

Next Up

Throughout the next few weeks, we will continue to conduct more interviews as we hone in on our target market. Design has started to focus on building out prototypes that we can share in future user interviews to optimize our purchasing flow while Development is continuing to investigate technical capabilities/limitations of using Shopify as our ecommerce platform.

If you are going through a business validation process, or hope to in the future, this programming can be a resource for you as well. We have recently launched the Customer Discovery section of our playbook, so that you can tap into our customer discovery exercises to help your team find (or regain) customer, product, and strategic focus.

We are also doing weekly livestream broadcasts with the Incubator team to dig even deeper into what’s being uncovered as it happens on LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitch. Follow along!