NextGen Bootcamp is a computer science education company dedicated to providing middle and high school students with state-of-the-art education in coding and design. Our services include hands-on immersive summer camps as well as both in-school and after-school courses that are customized to meet our students’ needs. Students can learn a variety of coding topics including web development, Python, app development, and game design. All of our courses boast an 8:1 student to teacher ratio and are taught online or in person at either our New York City or New Jersey locations.
Before we got to this description of our company and services, we ran countless experiments to test product-market fit, find out our customer archetype, and understand our customer funnel. With the help of the NYU Leslie eLab, we were able to run these experiments successfully and learn extremely valuable lessons. Though this process was a frustrating one at times, our team learned an immense amount about our business and ourselves. We all recommend testing every idea. Even today, we are still testing every new initiative we think about releasing. Everything we do is tested thoroughly multiple times! In this short blog post, we will talk about our problems and the tests we administered to solve them along with some valuable lessons we learned.
Coming into the Summer Launchpad program, we were faced with two large problems. First: how do we create a "moat" around our service-based business? Second: how do we turn this seasonal business of a summer program into a scalable year-round profitable company? Our company’s survival was predicated on solving these problems, so we decided to focus a majority of our experiments on finding a creative solution to these two major issues.
The first experiment we ran was to test the main value proposition of our business. We initially listed value-adds we provide to our customers. However, we were not able to identify our main value proposition which made it increasingly difficult for us to identify our competitive advantage. How can we don that if we do not know why our customers are signing up? We decided to create 5 variations of a landing page for our company. Each landing page was advertising the same service with the same design but with a different value proposition section. In order to get traffic on the site we ran a small Google Adwords campaign and in the link text, we wrote the value proposition. After 5 days, we analyzed our click data and were surprised by the results. Our initial hypothesis was that our main value proposition was improving your college application but we later learned that students were taking our programs to learn how to code in a fast but low-pressure environment.
Another experiment we ran was to test a specific growth solution that would turn our seasonal business into a year-round one with limited start-up costs. Our idea was to use the curriculum and other materials we developed for our summer program and sell the courses into schools. Instead of developing a menu of offerings and launch a full sales campaign we decided to create a one-page teaser that spoke about the concept in a very limited capacity. We then sent out the one-pager to specific private schools within the area and asked if they had any interest in getting on the phone to talk about this possible venture. We had an overwhelmingly positive response from schools. We realized through testing that this is a viable growth strategy.
The experiments above are just a couple of the hundreds more our team ran over the summer. Some returned positive results, some negative, and some results left us confused, which in turn led to more testing. I would highly recommend testing any idea or new initiative you have for your startup. We are living in a world where technology makes it very easy to track and collect data to make informed business decisions. Testing saves times, money, and is one of the most important entrepreneurial skills a person can learn.