An amuse-bouche of product-market fit
Here's some data as an appetizer—make sure to save room for the main course!
Dear Friends of Parsnip,
Wow, we’re really picking up speed over here! So much has happened in the last month that every time I sit down to try and finish writing this post, there’s more to add.
iOS beta launch
The biggest news: we launched our iOS beta on Reddit ~1 month ago on March 4, 2021:
This post garnered 592 upvotes with a 96% upvote rate, sat atop r/cookingforbeginners for 24 hours until the algorithm replaced it, and had 120 comments in the discussion. See for yourself what our users had to say!
Together with our previous launches, we are now 3 for 3 with a 100% virality hit rate on Reddit posts1, every time we have shared the app (previous posts: July 6, 2021 and April 20, 2021). Strikingly, there is almost zero overlap between these three groups and even the original “Duolingo for cooking” thread that pointed us toward this market.
One could argue that the lack of overlap suggests we are not able to retain our users yet. On the other hand, it also demonstrates the market is deep and an unlimited number of fresh users await each launch of Parsnip. As we improve the app with each cohort, retention will naturally improve, and we’ll even be able to re-engage earlier users.
User acquisition with Reddit almost feels like a piñata where a sizable batch of new users pours out with every hit. If only startups were always this fun!
In the first 2 days after posting on Reddit, our TestFlight app recorded 350 installs.
That number might seem small, but let’s contextualize it:
Parsnip is not in the App Store.
Getting Parsnip actually involves installing two separate apps. First you have to install TestFlight, then you have to go back and click the link again to get the app. Apple does not make this easy.
With that in mind, 350 installs is incredible! Maybe this how it feels to have users trying to rip a product out of your hands.
A month later, we are at 478 total installs, meaning another ~130 users installed the TestFlight beta since then. As we haven’t promoted or marketed the app at all (it’s not even linked from our website yet), there are two possible explanations here, hinted at from the Reddit post stats:
Word of mouth: the Reddit post has been shared 113 times.
Discovery via SEO: note that the post has received over 58,000 pageviews. A couple days after posting, it was only around ~50,000. How did we go from 50,000 → 58,900 views?
Well, it seems we’ve accidentally SEO’d ourselves into the #1 spot for Duolingo for cooking2, with organic traffic arriving through both Google and Reddit. And just to emphasize again: our website did not generate any installs last month3!
That attention was very fun, but so far nothing here is a surprise. It’s all consistent with our previous memo explaining Parsnip’s pivot—we had clear signs of market demand but the product sucked. So, our pivot aimed to test the following hypothesis:
By separating learning to cook from actually cooking and using a fun, simple interaction to present knowledge, we’ll see significant increases in user engagement.
So, let’s see what users are actually doing, which is where the rubber meets the road. Spoiler alert: it looks GREAT.
First, let’s look at onboarding. 82% of 478 users made it through onboarding, which is not bad for a first stab, and a huge improvement from last time. It also shows which steps are confusing and creating significant drop-off, which we’re going to fix. We’ve already further simplified onboarding and believe that >90% should be easily achievable4.
Next, 61% of users who install the app complete at least one level. Given how simple our levels are, this isn’t the best. But our goal with this launch was to kick the tires before going to a wider audience, and it surfaced some clear issues with the onboarding-to-usage transition being confusing. Luckily, this data plus some qualitative interviews made the fixes apparent and should encourage most users who finish onboarding to complete a level. Which is great, because…
…once users get into the app they really like it! The following graph looks a little weird, but it basically says that 162 users (=78+43+41) or 33.8% (=162/478) completed at least 6 levels in the app. A good chunk of users did far more—completing every single level available, multiple times.
One metaphor we’ve used to describe the vision of Parsnip is a 10 mile long path of personalized knowledge for anyone to walk down. If we’re going to spend the effort to build this path, the first thing we should probably test is whether someone is willing to walk down the first 10 meters of this path. 6 levels is probably about 10 meters, and we had an internal goal of having 40% of new installs get that far5—so that goal is very reachable.
Aside: these charts were generated by Amplitude, with data funneled through Segment. These are great products—we literally set these up as a dry run and did not expect useful data until the next release, but they’re already kicking butt. The learning curve is steep for the uninitiated, but it’s starting to feel like a lightsaber in the hands of a skilled Jedi (err… product manager).
Have any thoughts/opinions/feedback about this data? Tell us what you think!
We also have text feedback from the app going right into Slack. It’s generally risky to take this at face value because what users say != what they do. But since it seems at least some people (really) like Parsnip, let’s see what they have to say.
This is a great idea, I love the interaction and the whole design is super cute. Thank you for providing this app to the community, there is a real need! Great app, I’m looking forward to seeing it grow!
I like how I can learn facts about food in spurts. I don’t mind going through lessons I might be ‘too advanced’ for. I love the jokes and how friendly the app is.
These comments, among others, validate the hypothesis of our pivot.
I think it would be very helpful to see video clips of some of these things! Maybe it could be a paid unlockable
We agree that videos can be helpful for teaching (keep reading). Wait, what? Did this person just offer us money? 🤑
LOVE this. I recently discovered that I really like cooking, so I’m more of a beginner/intermediate but I’m passionate, so an app like this is PERFECT for me! I even played it with my family at dinner the other day!
Achievement unlocked: someone turns on caps lock while typing positive in-app feedback! 🔥
Beyond engaging folks on Reddit, we also did a handful of usability tests in front of Trader Joe’s6, by:
Offering $5 TJ’s gift cards to people walking in the door,
Handing them an iPhone with Parsnip, and
Looking over their shoulder.
Compared to paying >$100 to recruit users for “real” UX interviews, these are a steal! Beyond our UX learnings, several poor souls who were blindsided by us and our Snippy hoodies on their way to grocery shopping turned out to be just as excited as folks on Reddit. It’s very promising to corroborate our Reddit traction from an uncorrelated sample of folks on the street.
In other news…
HNGRY, an influential food-tech business newsletter, recently covered us with an article that wonderfully articulates where Parsnip fits into the food tech ecosystem. Write us if you’re a current or prospective investor in Parsnip and we’ll send you the article.
Many folks have asked us for videos in the app, and we agree they will be important. Videos are super effective for teaching certain tasks and actions that are much easier to show than explain. So here’s a sneak peek from an all-day video shoot we did with Cory Cavin, a Bon Appetit video director who has also shot on-set for Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon. Oh, and did we mention he’s won not one, but TWO Emmys among many other accolades?
As we develop Parsnip and prepare the app for a wider launch, we need help with design and meeting investors. On the design side we’re basically looking for someone who ideally combines three attributes:
strategic design and high-level product thinking
strong UX skills and the ability to refine our user flows
experience with game design and making things fun
After this next release, we’ll be raising another round and want to meet trustworthy investors that are a good fit. We're looking for angels/VCs that have one or more of the following:
Experience launching & scaling digital consumer products
Technical or investment experience with AI/ML products
Belief in cooking & food as an investment area
Interest in pioneering next-gen edtech
If you know suitable designers or investors for us, please send me a note!
Stay tuned for more writing as we build Parsnip—feel free to share this memo with your friends and subscribe!
This validates the prediction from our friends & family memo that Reddit would be an endless spigot of users with which to iterate on our product.
We’re fixing this momentarily.
What’s a good onboarding completion benchmark for a consumer app? Please comment below!
Inspired by the idea of Superhuman’s product-market fit engine. Maybe this fraction should be higher—let us know what you think!
Out of all NYC grocery stores, the clientele of Trader Joe’s are closest to our current target demographic for Parsnip.