I’ve noticed that there’s a certain mythos around the idea of an “entrepreneur”: brash and bold, risk-taking, willing to bet it all with no salary and long hours in the hopes of striking it rich as their startup takes flight.
In an entrepreneurship seminar I took at Stanford, Perry Klebahn (d.school professor at Stanford, creator of Atlas Snowshoes) was quick to dispel these notions. He noted that “most entrepreneurs are actually more risk-averse than most people; they just know how to craft clever experiments to mitigate a lot of risk ahead of time.”
One of the easiest ways to de-risk your startup idea is the 48 Hour Test. Take an idea, and within 48 hours, run one test to see if other people also find the idea valuable.
While this is easy to implement when you’re highly motivated by a particular problem you want to solve, many people (myself included) can still get trapped in endless ideation, feeling like nothing is “good enough” to even run a small test like this. In order to overcome these lingering feelings, I decided to choose one of the silliest ideas I had brainstormed and treat it like a serious endeavor.
48 hours later, I transformed this idea into a functional website, ran a small ad campaign, and acquired some interesting results to share.
I present to you: PigeonLogos
I think this idea came from reading an article on people painting racing pigeons in bright colors. Given all of the advertising channels nowadays, including sports team uniforms where advertisers are more prominent than the actual team, my mind wandered to an image of a flock of pigeons, all decked out in corporate logos, flapping around a plaza. After a 2-minute brainstorm on potential startup names, PigeonLogos was born.
The 48 Hour Test
Does anyone actually want to put a logo on a pigeon?
Instead of spending a lot of money on a flock and learning how to paint logos on pigeons, I wanted to make sure that there was demand for this niche product.
To find out, I created a free WordPress website, adding barely-passable photoshopped images of logos on pigeons, a tagline, a company logo, and a contact page within a couple hours.
I decided that my overall goal in the 48-hour test period was to get people to reach out using the contact page, either “signing up for the newsletter” or “requesting pigeons”. Both forms required someone to input their email, so filling it out and sending it would indicate genuine interest (as opposed to simply saying “I like the idea” without intent of ever using the product).
I want to acknowledge that there are various ways I could have tested this idea for free: going to a local park and asking avid pigeon-watchers, cold-calling companies and pitching the idea, or even just discussing with friends and family to see if they (or someone they knew) would be interested. For the sake of broader reach, and because I wanted to play with online ads some more, I decided to spend $20 on Facebook Ads and see what would happen.
After quickly creating a Facebook page for PigeonLogos on a Friday night, I started going through the ads creator, narrowing down my audience to several major cities in the US and adding target keywords, like “birds”, “pigeons”, “advertising manager”, and “startups”. After changing the desired ad response to “receiving link clicks” (people actually going to my website), I set the ad to run until Sunday night and submitted a simple design for approval.
When creating the ad, I looked for an estimate of conversion rates using FB Ads, as well as cost. From the quick research, I estimated I would receive around 150 link clicks, and that the industry norm was around a 2% conversion rate for getting people to add their email (“email capture rate”, or “newsletter signup rate”).
Based on this, I decided that my threshold would be 3 signups. If I got 3 or more people to sign up for the newsletter and/or request pigeons, I would continue on with the idea; otherwise, I would shelve it for now, and consider a different approach if I felt strongly about the premise of PigeonLogos in the future.
Overall, I received 115 link clicks from Friday to Sunday night, with a slightly higher cost-per-link-click ratio than I anticipated ($0.18/click), but a reasonable click/reach ratio (3.1%).
My demographic skewed very heavily male, the majority of my ads were featured on Facebook Marketplace or the Mobile news feed, and most people who saw my ad were from California or New York.
The final conversion results were… disappointing, but perhaps not surprising.
Of the 115 link clicks registered by Facebook, a grand total of 0 joined the newsletter or inquired about obtaining logo-adorned pigeons.
There are a lot of reasons I could give for why I didn’t get any signups, but many of them are just excuses. After all, if things had gone the other way, and I got a good amount of signups, I wouldn’t have questioned any flaws in the approach. Instead, I want to be mindful that I ran a test with a pre-determined threshold and I didn’t meet it. Thanks to the nature of the 48 Hour Test, I can reprioritize my time and money elsewhere.
I’m shelving PigeonLogos for now, but I did enjoy the thrill of actually trying something out, and the ads targeting practice will be helpful with future endeavors. In the meantime, if I pick up PigeonLogos again and you want to stay informed, go ahead and add your email to the list!