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The Startup Journey: Customer Validation To MVP

Posted by Walter Oh   Jun 6, 2016 5:23:07 PM


In my earlier post, I had just quit my corporate job. Of course I didn’t take the plunge without knowing if my idea would work. In startup lingo, validating the business idea would mean launching a (buzzword alert!) MVP, which means Minimal Viable Product, a fancy word for a prototype/demo that looks like crap. Customer validation would mean having a paying customer or user willing to pay or use your product. In our case, it would be having some customers willing to fork out $$ for a box of healthy snacks every month.

Just to give you an idea on how this whole thing started, Boxgreen was conceived in late 2013. Andrew, my co-founder, & myself used to meet for coffee at the office pantry just to whine about work and one day we realized how pathetic the pantry’s offering was. We thought, wouldn’t it be awesome if someone could send us a box of snacks every month? We turned to Google but couldn’t really find any snacks online. There are the several ecommerce sites that had a really bad shopping experience. So I went home and purchased that very night. 

Quoting Reid Hoffman, “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” I thought nuts to be a rather healthy snack and Andrew seems like a cute name for a squirrel (and our co-founder). We created a Launchrock site to start registering for interest and collecting emails.

So BoxGreen was started to make snacking easier and healthier.



We continued to work on the idea over the next few months and interviewed about 100 friends (potential customers) if they liked the idea. Unfortunately there were a lot of false positives from the start as we asking “would you use a service if we delivered snacks to you every month?”. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy because who would say no to that right? It did not identify a specific customer painpoint.

We decided to follow the Steve Blank’s mantra of “just get out of the building and make it happen” and I thought having money on the table would best form of validation. I got a simple Paypal button set up and blasted an email newsletter to the 100 email leads we collected. Within the week, we had 30 paying customers. That was the oh s#$% moment when we have to go out and find healthier snacks.

We sourced our snacks and decided to personally deliver the boxes our first 100 customers, just to get to know them better. We asked them why did they subscribe and found out that the customers don’t really know where to get healthier snacks and don’t really have the time to do so. Fast forward to today, we’ve had mums who are grateful for the service and individuals who simply like the hassle free approach to getting a snack box every month.


3 takeaways from Customer validation to MVP

1. Having an idea in your head won’t get you anywhere. A simple site can be set up in minutes using services like Launchrock ( to collect emails and register interest. Each email lead will give you more courage to make your product a reality. 

  1. Talk to paying/interested customers, don’t ask them what do they think of your product/idea. Identify their problem and gain insights through an interview relating to the problem. Check out on tips on how to conduct a problem solution interview.
  1. This is just the beginning. Customer engagement is an ongoing journey, which is a way of establishing a relation between the businesses and customers.



Walter Oh

Walter is a co-founder of BoxGreen, a discovery/e-commerce food company that actively introduces consumers and offices to better and healthier snacks. He currently lives in Singapore with his fantastic wife. He can usually be found on his blog.