Lessons from: Is Tomorrow Hartal?
In late 2014, early 2015 - Dhaka was going through a very strange political situation.
The opposition party would call hartal (a general strike) for 4-days a week (Sun through Wed), and then very late into Wed they would (sometimes) call for a strike on Thursday.
This - as you can imagine - was all very confusing. Everyone and their moms would look through any source of trying to find news of the hartal or people would ask on social media to random strangers - there just wasn't any reliable and timely information on it. It was imperative to know if there was hartal on that day so people could plan accordingly - most private universities and school were closed on hartals and people's commute plans could change significantly because of it. The lack of clear information would lead to many rumours and misinformation.
On one of these Wednesday's I decided to make a single page website.
It was a very simple site that took 30 minutes to make - but because of the need - it went viral almost immediately.
Pre-Pathao, this one website was a big deal for me. It got me in my first radio shows, I made a few tangible business contacts, and, made for some nice side-money for a struggling college student 👀
The reason today I write about a six year old website is because I wanted to share a few lessons I got even before I started Pathao:
Before I made the site, I talked about making it with many others. All of them had the time (30 minutes) and resources ($10 domain name) to make this. No one else did.
Lesson: If you have an idea, and can't find a team to execute it - try building the MVP yourself. There are enough tools in the internet for anyone to bring a simple idea to reality.
Lesson: It doesn't take a lot of resources to build the first version. Don't make it complicated.
When I talked about if I should make this - a lot of people were quick to point out different flaws in the model. "People can just go to a news site" "Is this too political?" "What would happen when the hartals are over?"
Lesson: People don't know what they want. It's almost always better to build first and try to sell. The feedback can be used to improve the product.
Lesson: People will pay for convenience even if there are other free alternatives.
I made the website as a joke. Yet, after it did go viral - I was able to monetize it through small ads. Best of all, this was a catalyst for me to eventually partner with Fahim Saleh (who reached out to give an ad for hackhou.se in the site) and eventually led to the creation of Pathao.
Lesson: Memes make money. (Basically how Elon Musk became the richest person in the world) Many good ideas started as a joke - it doesn't need to stay that way.
Lesson: The value of creation is not just through monetization.
Lesson: Be a creator.