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How I validated and beta-tested my product in 3 months for only $846

In Celi's beta test, I represented the technology and relied on the generosity of our tech stack's startup programs

At the bottom of this, is the world premiere of Celi’s website.

You can view it, share it, and reserve your username on it.

At the time of this send, there are currently 8,067,610,608 usernames left.

Celi’s MVP is over.

Next up is the MMP.

In Celi’s MVP, I represented the technology.

I’m not sure if our 163 users knew that.

Accounts were created via Typeform, connections made by hand, and notifications sent via an SMS partner but written by me.

In Celi’s MMP, technology will replace me.

Anyone, anywhere, will be able to create a Celi account and add their own dates, connect with their friends, family, and co-workers, and celi their connections after being reminded by text, WhatsApp, and email.

Before we unveil that, I’d like to officially close the MVP, reflect on its performance, and share lessons learned.

How it started

Celi’s MVP started as a survey.

The primary goal of the Celi survey was to validate the existence of a problem, confirm that individuals had tried and failed to solve it, and measure their desire to solve it.

It did that.

Of the 385+ participants:

  • 92% have forgotten a birthday

  • 76% have forgotten a friend's important life date

  • 75% have tried and failed to solve this problem

  • 89% want to solve this problem

The secondary goal of the survey was to identify and secure commitments from two populations: beta testers and investors.

In The Mom Test, Rob Fitzpatrick educates that there are only three types of commitments: money, time, and reputation.

When a potential customer commits to paying you money for your product or service, it's a strong signal they really want it. Money commitment.

When people are willing to spend their valuable time on your product or service, that's also a good sign of interest. Time commitment.

When people are willing to publicly associate themselves or their company with your product, they are making a reputation commitment. Reputation commitment.

Question 16 of the Celi survey asked If we build a service that reminds you of the upcoming birthdays and events in your friends’ and family’s lives, would you want to be a beta tester?”

275 respondents said yes.

Question 17 asked those 275 respondents “What username you would like to claim for your Celi account?”

265 reserved theirs.

The double opt-in of claiming a username after saying yes to beta testing Celi was a form of time commitment and reputation commitment.

As for investors, Question 18 asked “If we decide to build this consumer utility app or service, would you want to be considered for a pre-seed investment?”

97 respondents said yes.

Question 19 asked those 97 respondents “Which day next week are you available for an introductory call?”

78 selected a day for a call.

Of the 265 respondents who said yes to beta testing Celi and reserved a username, due to the technology restriction of Celi’s MVP, read as Ricki restriction, I was only able to invite 46 of these individuals to Celi’s MVP.

They in turn invited 116 of their friends, family, and co-workers, giving Celi a 2.52 viral coefficient.

This restriction will be lifted for the MMP, and the remaining 219 beta testers will be first invited to Celi’s MMP, followed by the 463 individuals who have reserved their usernames.

You still can here.

MVP performance review

The goal of the MVP was to validate Celi’s proof of concept product.

The MVP had three possible outcomes:

  1. Celi works and users receive real value

  2. Celi works and users receive no value

  3. Celi doesn’t work and users receive no value

Anything but Celi working and users receiving real value kills Celi.

During the MVP, I wanted to question my own instincts, patterns, and assumptions about Celi, and hold Celi up to hard scrutiny.

Celi’s MVP ran for 20 weeks, closing with the following data:

  • 163 monthly active users

  • 10% week-over-week growth

  • 2.52 viral coefficient

  • 91% activation rate

  • 76% engagement rate

  • 28 atomic networks

  • 463-person launch list (accounts created but not activated yet)

At the individual level, we found profiles had:

  • 3.7 dates per user

  • 15.3 connections per user

  • 71% of Celi users list 2+ dates on their profile

  • 54% of Celi users list 3+ dates on their profile

  • 32% of Celi users list 4+ dates on their profile

At the event level, we learned the most popular dates were:

  • Anniversary (listed on 59% of profiles)

  • Remembrance Day (listed on 30% of profiles)

  • Child’s Birthday (listed on 27% of profiles)

  • Pet’s Birthday (listed on 23% of profiles)

  • Workiversary (listed on 18% of profiles)

We also received feedback that:

  • 91% of users would be somewhat or very disappointed if they couldn’t use Celi anymore

  • 37% of users consider Celi to be a must-have

  • 55% of users have found magic in Celi

And, we received 14 testimonials that describe Celi better than I could.

Lessons learned

I am so glad to be building Celi slowly.

Permission to continue onto the next step has only been granted by the previous.

The results of the Celi survey gave permission to build an MVP, and the results of the MVP gave permission to build the MMP.

Because of this discipline, I’ve been able to build Celi on a strong as fuck foundation, with cost and resource efficiency, and preserve the current and future user experience.

I believe Nikita Bier’s warning about “prematurely exhausting your audience's attention and limiting future shots” and have no intent to prematurely invite you to a less-than-product.

I intend to ask you to create your Celi account and invite 16 friends, only once.

Now that the MVP is over, that time is coming.

The MVP gave us the necessary data to make informed bets, create a product roadmap with clarity, and truly solve this problem.

One of the first things we learned was that Celi had to solve two problems.

Forgetting a birthday or beyond date requires knowing the date and being reminded of the date.

To know a birthday or beyond date requires seeking, capturing, and cataloging each date, one by one.

To be reminded of the date requires remembering or relying on a notification system.

Calendars, whether physical or digital, birthday apps, and social media don’t solve this.

Calendars and apps require manual management and social media is limited to birthdays, meaning you’d miss out on 60+ of your friends' and family's most important dates each year.

Populating your calendar or app with all the birthday and beyond dates of your most important relationships requires making a list of your people, asking each of them for their birthday and beyond dates, and then entering each date into your calendar, one by one.

You also have to remember to set the calendar event to repeat annually, or manually transfer these dates to next year's calendar if physical.

To be blunt, that’s way too much effort, has too many points of failure, and is why 92% of your peers have forgotten a birthday or beyond date.

Being reminded of a date is actually quite easy to solve.

It requires the creation of a notification system that sends directly to an individual's priority inbox, bypassing calendar clutter.

Celi reminder notifications are sent directly to your priority inboxes by text, email, and WhatsApp.

The MVP informed us that we really needed to build a product that knew your local network’s birthday and beyond dates, and replaced the manual efforts and errors of seeking, capturing, and cataloging each date, one by one.

That’s why Celi is a networked product.

Here’s how we arrived at this decision.

To replace the manual capture and cataloging of each event, a solution could be to use a form that your friends and family can add their own important dates to, that when submitted populate your calendar or app, and you layer a notification on top of it.

Seems like a solution, right?

It’s not.

What happens when that individual, who just filled out the form you sent them, is asked to do it again next week, and then the week after?


We needed to augment them as well.

On Celi, when that individual submits that form, we save their information, create their account, and connect your accounts to each other, so neither of you miss a moment again.

This way they're able to use Celi too, and if a future friend asks to “add them to their Celi” they can just connect accounts.

It’s almost too easy.


During the MVP, we also ran an experiment with a user and Doordash, to test our gifting thesis.

On this user’s birthday, in addition to the standard Celi notification, we included their preferred gift, a Doordash gift card, and a link to it.

This notification was sent to this user’s 19 connections.

This user was gifted $75 worth of Doordash gift cards.

Without any user education, this test produced a gifted value of $3.94 per connection.

Super encouraging, but super early.

Our thesis is that through Celi, we can build a product experience on which celebrants indicate their preferred gifts and connections make micro-gifts with less than $10 in value.

The aim is participation.

If you have 50 connections, and each connection micro-gifts you a value of $5, on your Celi date, you’d receive $150 in value to your preferred retailer.

To receive $150 is no small thing, but to gift $5 is.

There’s still a lot of work to be done here, but in time you’ll be able to send micro-gifts and eliminate the guesswork of gifting through Celi.

The Cost of an MVP

Despite those 97 investment inquiries, Celi has elected to stay bootstrapped, for now.

The MVP cost $846.73.

The MMP will be much more, mainly due to developer and designer salaries.

At the current date and connection volumes per user, we’ll be able to fulfill users for less than $1.00 per year.

This means, that when it comes time to monetize, we’ll likely need to target an AARPU, annual average revenue per user, north of $10.

Celi is free.

Celi will always be free.

But at some point, we’ll turn monetization on to progress towards this $10 AARPU.

This will likely feature an upgraded version of Celi, Celi premium, the facilitation of on-platform gifting that we financially participate in, and a curated advertising or offers model.

Contributing to the low cost of Celi’s MVP and MMP is free tooling.

Our tech, admin, and product stack includes Amazon Web Service, Twilio, Customer.io, Segment, Prismic, GitHub, Mercury, Clerky, GoDaddy, Trello, and Figma.

During the migration from MVP to MMP, we reached out to each tool asking for start-up pricing and were either accepted into their “early stage start-up programs” which provide their product free for a year, or qualified for their free plans.

Without these, I’m not sure if we’d be here.

If you’re building anything and want to reduce overhead, send a message to every tool you use asking for start-up or compassionate pricing.

But, do so with integrity. We have every intention to become full-paying users of these tools once Celi matures.

Introducing TimeToCeli.com

You’ve made it this far, thank you for your attention.

Now, it’s time to celi.

Please enjoy the world premiere of Celi’s website.

View it, share it, and reserve your username on it.

If you’d like to congratulate anyone on it, please celi Preye Onita, Celi’s product designer, and Goodness Urama, Celi’s creative front-end developer.

Celi is unstoppable. Celi is written. Celi is a sufficiently good bet.

I’m back in TimeOut’s #1 coolest neighborhood for 2023, come say hi.