What I learned from using a Typeform survey to build a company
Using a survey to confirm a problem, measure the desire to solve it, and learn what features potential users valued most.
Author’s note: This letter will be the final time I write you about the survey. At the end of this letter is a list of areas I need help in if you’re able to.
Today I’m going to share all that I learned from using a Typeform survey to build my first experiment, Celi, organized into the following three sections:
The Celi survey received 323 unique responses. In the two weeks since concluding the distribution of the survey, I’ve had 73 follow-up conversations via email, phone, and google meet, with participants to further understand their responses, uncover product opportunities, and further avoid any self-deception. Each time, continuing to seek dissent, invite challenges, and risk the death of Celi. I’m grateful to those who accepted the invitation.
It’s my hope that how I am building Celi, with epistemic humility, can be admired or at least appreciated.
Onto the results.
The goal of the Celi survey was to confirm the existence of a problem, measure the desire to solve it, and learn what features potential users value most.
I also used the Celi survey as an opportunity to secure beta user commitments and discover any in-network belief capital available for pre-seed investments into Celi.
The survey too made Celi available for criticism by asking “Why should we not build a new consumer utility app or service that reminds you of the birthdays and life events of your friends and family?”
Here are the results from you and 322 of your peers:
91.33% of survey participants have forgotten a birthday.
69.65% of survey participants have tried to solve the problem of forgetting a birthday.
The importance of solving the problem of forgetting a birthday ranked 2.68 out of 5, with 5 being very important.
The most popular methods of remembering birthdays are Facebook, Instagram Story shares from birthday persons, group chats, digital calendars, and physical calendars.
Important Life Dates
72.13% of survey participants have forgotten an important life date of a friend or family member.
38.69% of survey participants have tried to solve the problem of forgetting an important life date of a friend or family member.
The importance of solving the problem of forgetting an important life date of a friend or family member ranked 2.73 out of 5, with 5 being very important.
The most popular methods of remembering important life dates of friends and family members are digital calendars, physical calendars, social media shares, and group chats.
The most important dates of a person's year, beyond the birthday, are Anniversary (romantic, work), Days of Remembrance, Soberversary, Holidays (religious, cultural, ethnic), Healthversary (surgery, transplants, remission), Adoptions (first Call, welcoming), Milestones (career achievements, personal achievements), Immigration (visa, resident status, citizenship), Identifiers (coming out, transitions, declarations), Festivals (religious, cultural, ethnic, personal), Children Birthdays, Pet Birthdays.
Birthdays & Life Dates
87.45% of survey participants want to be reminded of their friend’s and family’s birthdays and dates.
The importance of being reminded of upcoming birthdays and dates ranked 3.4 out of 5, with 5 being very important.
Participants would pay $1.77 monthly or $21.24 annually to be reminded of upcoming birthdays and dates and to never miss one.
64.08% of participants (207) claimed a username and created a Celi account.
22.81% of participants (73) want to be considered for a pre-seed investment into Celi.
Why not Celi
Here are some of the top responses as to why I should not build Celi, as submitted by you:
Consumers are assholes.
DIY solutions exist already that get the job done well enough, so how can you improve what I receive for no extra cost from Google, Apple Calendar, or Evernote?
Vulnerable to competition adding this service.
I’m not sure the stakes are high enough if you forget a friend's birthday/life date for somebody to want to sign up for a service explicitly to remind them of what’s coming up when other things serve that gap somewhat effectively.
The problem you’re solving is a real problem, but it’s not hierarchically a huge problem, meaning people are likely to prioritize it in terms of adoption and payment accordingly.
The hurdle I could foresee is how to position the product so that it makes people recognize that this is indeed a problem they have, and one that could be easily and effectively solved by Celi and not another app.
Everyone is tired of setting up and onboarding new apps.
In The Cold Start Problem, Andrew Chen who is largely credited for Uber’s slingshot growth, wrote “The product idea itself should be as simple as possible — easily understandable by anyone as soon as they encounter it.”
That is Celi.
In this section, I’ll share what I learned from the Celi survey responses.
There is no existing product, platform, or effective way to automatically collect, maintain the accuracy of, and inform a person of the birthdays and important dates of their friends and family.
In the absence of this product, you have displayed creativity in solving this problem. Each DIY solution though relies on a multi-step assembly of manual input, reminder settings, and frequency adjustments — a system with multiple points of failure.
Aware of the cumbersome nature of DIY solutions, we’ve universally abandoned solving and agreed to tolerate these problems.
Despite abandoning solving these problems, you still want to solve them.
The only solution, with any chance of adoption, is a simple web service or app, that automatically collects, maintains the accuracy of, and informs you of your friend’s and family’s birthdays and important dates without effort or error, so you can thoughtfully celebrate your friends and family, and never miss a moment again.
Your desire to solve this problem and willingness to pay $20+ annually expands the possibilities of a sustainable business model.
After never missing a moment again, you next want gifting or celebration options.
Celi does not need to be an app.
At a minimum, Celi will make sure you never miss the opportunity to celebrate your friends and family again.
At best, Celi will redefine the future of friendship by advancing your connections with and the intimacy in your most meaningful relationships, without any increase in effort.
With Celi, you can have your cake and eat it too.
Informed by the data, some of the Celi theses were formed outside of survey responses and illuminate why I believe Celi is important and will succeed as defined by user adoption and retention.
Celi will be as important a part of your personal tech stack as your phone’s digital contact book.
The social media platforms where you nurture and develop relationships today do not have birthday reminder systems (Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Snapchat).
The DIY solutions in place today that “Get the job done well enough” do not “get the job done well enough” if 91.33% and 72.13% of survey participants confirmed the problem.
Current solutions to solving the problem of forgetting birthdays and life events are too cumbersome to expect any sort of consistent adoption, engagement, or efficacy.
The action of learning a new birthday or event and entering it into your calendar as a recurring event with reminders is not a habit, nor will it ever be.
The only reason people maintain Facebook accounts is to access Marketplace, Groups, and Birthdays.
Facebook has yet to be successfully unbundled because any service offering attempting to unbundle Facebook without Facebook’s Ad-supported business model is unable to sustain itself. Therefore, Celi’s 3-prong+ business model will be the first to successfully accomplish this.
As a consumer utility service (social utility service) Celi is not a social media company. Celi incentives quality connections not quantity, reduces screen time, and provides a true value, providing it the opportunity to grow in the wake of the #DeleteSocialMedia movement.
Celi removes assumptions from your relationships. Specifically, the assumptions of knowing which dates are important to your friends, how your friends like to be celebrated, the love language of your friends, and the gifts of interest of your friends.
Celi’s beyond-the-birthday thesis is that other annual events are more meaningful to celebrants and the recognition, celebration, and acknowledgment of them strengthens relationships.
Distributed living and remote work are eroding the quality of, weakening the connection of, and decreasing the number of our meaningful relationships.
Distributed living, remote work, and social media incentives are contributing to and accelerating a loneliness epidemic that is far more dangerous than we recognize.
Celi helps the aging millennial or new parent maintain relationships at the same level of intimacy and connection while preserving your time, attention, and energy for your growing family and career.
Celi will help you maintain the friendships that you are at risk of losing or falling out of touch with due to distributed living, social media account deletion, and adult responsibilities.
Celi’s natural external network effects provide a stage for slingshot-like growth opportunities.
Celi is not for everyone. Using Celi will require you to recognize and admit that your current solution to solving these problems is flawed. This is a friction-filled exercise in overcoming the ego that few are willing to complete.
Despite Dunbar’s number supporting a maximum of 150 meaningful relationships at a time, Celi will become transformational with only 7–11 connections.
Celi is not and does not aspire to be an SSA (Shit Scrolling App, the type of app you default to scrolling through when pooping, on subways, or in bed).
To conclude, the excitement I have to build a consumer utility service that solves a real problem and not a social media product is borrowed from Michael Goldenstein, founder of Zenly, who wrote “There seems to be a renaissance in social getting back to what social networks initially set out to accomplish. Connecting friends first and foremost before the mission statements became connecting the world.”
By this definition, Celi is a social network.
Hmm, something to ponder.
Bonus: What is Celi?
Celi automatically collects, maintains the accuracy of, and informs you of your friend’s and family’s birthdays and important dates, without effort or error so you can thoughtfully celebrate them and never miss a moment again.
All you need to do is create a profile…once.
Then, you can connect with your friends and family and celebrate them on the days most important to them.
And good news — soon you’ll be able to create your Celi profile.
The next weeks to months will include the manual onboarding of users 1–107, hiring of a team (either full-time or contract depending on capital raised), and the building of the public Celi platform for the 207 of you who claimed usernames and your 2,007 friends.
Until then, if you’d like to advance Celi, please review my current asks below and get in touch if you are capable of fulfilling any:
Tell your friends. Introduce them to In Public and encourage them to read the published letters.
Provide belief capital. If you’re a value add investor with a stack of belief capital ready to be deployed, let me know.
Technical Co-Founder. My preference would be to build Celi with a partner. If you or someone you know has the skillset and wants to give this a shot please introduce us (can be part-time for now).
Outside of these three, if you’re interested or excited at the idea of Celi and believe you can contribute, knowing we have no ability to compensate at the moment, please get in touch.
In closing, if any of the theses shared today were received as too strong or overly bold, let me add additional clarity and confirm that yes, this is me calling my shot. My moonshot.
Calling Celi’s moonshot.
Celi is the bet.
I am the bet.