We had the concept, we now needed to see if it was just one big dumb idea of ours. We’ve seen all sorts of attempts, both successful and unsuccessful, of testing ideas. Seemingly, the majority of them involved either building a minimal viable product (MVP) or a prototype, which costs time & money. We wanted to test the market immediately with our proposition, whilst spending the least amount of money possible. Easy right?

In my previous business, I’d spent a shed tonne of money on our MVP and it took months to develop. Granted it was a gaming platform and not contact lenses, but I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again. We wanted a quick, risk free solution that could give us an indication as to whether we should invest our time & resources into building hopi. It’s a key question we ask ourselves at all stages of the business, “Is it just us, that want to do this, or do we think other people would like it too.” 

The Michael Jordan of DTC

Kristian & I scoured the web and we stumbled across an article written by Jeff Raider on Tim Ferriss’ blog. If you don’t know, Jeff Raider is one of the founders of Warby Parker, before going on to create Harry’s. Both of which are hugely successful direct to consumer (DTC) companies. Jeff is essentially the Lionel Messi or Michael Jordan of DTC. Link to the article is here.

In essence, Harry’s created a demand generation campaign before they launched which culminated in around 100,000 email address!!! The campaign lasted 2 weeks, and they spent nothing on performance! Now we didn’t quite hit those heights but we sure did find demand for hopi. Raider’s strategy was to launch a referral campaign where you encourage people to invite their friends and family to sign up. The more people you refer, the more free product you would earn. If you recommended over 50 people, you’d win a year’s worth of free razor blades. Pretty cool right! Invite your friends and win free stuff! Consumers happy and Harry’s were thrilled, because they were launching to people who were interested.

On the blog, Harry’s made available their Ruby on Rails code to replicate the campaign. This is the first key lesson I learnt during this process. I messaged Omar Kassim (now our investor in hopi) and asked him if he knew any good Rails developers. I’ve still got the message, “Unfortunately, only person I recommend is DHH, what are you trying to do?” DHH is David Heinemeier Hansson, the man who created Ruby on Rails – he wasn’t going to help us was he!

Anyway, Omar suggested we check out Viral-loops.com – an off the shelf version of Harry’s campaign. For a monthly fee, we could create our campaign, customize it & use the widgets on our website. Right there, I learnt the value in off the shelf products. You don’t always need to build the fanciest thing on the planet – these days, off the shelf products serve as good a purpose as any. 

So off we went, we paid our subscription for the month which ended up being less than $250 (due to the amount of referrals we generated) and within 3 days, we had the demand generation campaign up & ready for business. Our gift strategy on the campaign looked a little like this:

Alongside that, allocated a spend of AED 2000 ($545) in order to drive people to the campaign. We curated an email list of our friends and family & did our best to push it out to as many people organically as possible. We were helped by certain people on social media too. We launched the campaign on a Friday lunchtime. Only reason was that we were too excited to wait until Sunday to launch it. To vindicate setting up a business, we wanted to amass 2000 email address in 6 weeks! We agreed, if we hit that number, we’d bootstrap the business & make it work.

We had work to DO!

Fast forward two days & we’d hit our original target, we knew then, he had work to do! What we didn’t expect was the virality effect that came next. Sunday, Monday & Tuesday were crazy and the numbers went off the chart. We added a similar campaign with our coloured lenses too, and by the end of the two week period, we’d generated just over 19,000 email address. 

Our referral mechanics were fantastic, of the 19,000 email addresses we collected, 88% of them came from referrals with over 25,000 shares on social media. We ended up spending AED 1762 on the campaign with a blended acquisition cost of around 11 fils per email address. Only 5 people crossed the 50 mark! Across the board, 94% plus referred between 2-3 people, leaving us with a really select segment of people we’ll be delivering free lenses to when we launch.

Around 75% of sign ups were located in the UAE. The campaign was targeted only at the UAE until we broadened the coloured contacts campaign in Saudi Arabia & in dual language, English & Arabic. What was really interesting were results from the Arabic language campaign in Saudi. Of the 821 who registered, not one of them referred it to their friends – they all signed up, assumingly because they were interested in the product. We also got interest from Egypt & we’ve now got a good idea of how we intend to scale hopi over the coming months & years.

We managed to test out our idea with an off the shelf product & just over AED 2000. It just goes to show, just take a step back & try and find intuitive ways to test your assumptions. The Internet is full of inspiration, you’ve just got to look in the right places.

The core of our mission is to build a community

Now I’m sure there will be a few of you saying, “you’ve tested nothing, you’ve just highlighted that people love a freebie.” Fair point, some people took the mickey but Viral Loops has a great system to highlight scammers & false email addresses. A real small percentage took advantage. Furthermore, we implemented an email campaign with all our winners to obtain their prescriptions. At the core of our mission is to build a community & our ability to generate those email addresses has opened up a direct channel now to our audience. 

We believe in our product & the service we’re going to provide and so all we can say is this:  

“To those people who signed up to spread the word & didn’t earn any lenses, thank you, we can’t wait to launch and change how you buy your lenses. To those who shared with up to 25 of their friends – we can’t wait to send you your lenses! Yes you’ll get some complementary lenses for up to 6 months but we’re confident once you’ve tried hopi, you won’t go back to your old routine. Finally to those who referred us to over 50 people (my mum doesn’t count) – we can’t tell you how much that means to us & we’re more excited than ever to send you those lenses & to hear what you think!”

Next week we’ll explain how we went from excitement to fear & how the ball really started rolling with the business. Until then, have a great week!

Charlie & Kristian


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