It's a familiar story: a startup launches their beta. The tech blogosphere writes up the news: "Sign up now!" Droves of people rush to do so (well, hopefully). There's a spike in traffic and solid number of names and email addresses of interested people. But then what?
Do you have the right people in your beta? Are you going to get the right feedback?
These sorts of questions are particularly important if your target users are from a specific group - a specific age, perhaps, or job-title. Such is the case with the new educational app ShowMe, which just posted on its blog detailing its strategies for running its beta.
ShowMe is an iPad app that lets educators record their lessons for students - think Khan Academy, but for any teacher.
The Viral Launch Page
Of course, getting any users - whether they're specifically teachers or not - to find out and sign up can be a challenge. And like many other startups, Easel implemented the viral sign-up page - something popularized by LaunchRock. In other words, when people sign up for the beta, they're encouraged to share the information via Twitter and Facebook, helping spread awareness of the app and the beta.
Finding the Right Users
So clearly, Easel Learning, the makers of ShowMe, wanted to make sure the early testers were educators and students - in other words, the app's actual users. So Easel Learning added a text box into the beta signup form, asking for interested people to tell a little bit about themselves. According to founder San Kim, "We were able to find out a lot about each of our users that way, and find some amazing educators who were super enthusiastic."
Having more background information on users also made the follow-up and feedback process easier. Kim describes that process as "old school" - the startup conducted phone-based interviews with beta testers. But by having more information about users "just made things run a lot smoother."
That decision to have conversations, rather than send surveys is an interesting one. it's a lot more work, Kim admits, but he contends it's a lot more effective. As the startup is interested in building an app that its users will be able to easily use - something particularly important when building an ed-tech tool - being able to listen to users this was important.
Planning the Timing
As Easel Learning notes in its blog post, it carefully planned the whole beta process to coincide with what it knew would be significant press coverage. The company knew it would be getting some attention based on Princeton Review's licensing of its technology. So it wanted to make sure everything was in place to take full advantage of the spotlight.
And it has. The startup has had over a thousand signups for its beta - and most of them are, indeed, educators.
The company is planning on launching in mid-to-late May, and if you're interested, you can still join the beta. Invitations are going out in waves, but as Kim insists, "we're looking for as much feedback as possible from educators. Do sign up for the beta, but also email us at email@example.com with any thoughts you might have - positive or negative."