April 24th 2015

Mentors, Not Judges

Starting a business with a miminum viable product model is really hard.

I want to share the first lesson we learned building Dance It Yourself, a "side business" that my wife and I started.

The lesson is simple, but it does a nice job highlighting a benefit of an MVP model.

Call them Mentors, not Judges

Our platform lets dancers upload videos of themselves and select a respected, professional judge to critique their dance.

The idea is that they can upload a work-in-progress dance and get personal (and therefore impactful) feedback to improve that dance before taking it to competition.

We launched a beta version, and despite our beta studio's excitement, we weren't seeing video submissions.

The reason, it turned out, was the word judge.

Granted, there were files, functions, class names, and database tables based on the original term judge, but at least we were only two weeks in before we realized that dancers don't want to be judged.

When they know they're going to be judged, they feel a need to make sure their video is perfect. That certainly went against our work-in-progress feedback tagline, but more importantly, it's a barrier to uploading a video.

As it turns out (and as my wife suspected all along), calling them mentors made all the difference. Now, the whole product just feels better. Plus it aligns much more with Allison's true motivation, which is helping and inspiring young dancers.

The best part? We're getting submissions.