Zero to Sold by Arvid Kahl

Zero to Sold by Arvid Kahl

Purchase the Zero to Sold book via Amazon (affiliate link)

The Feedback Panda Story

That's when I learned the true nature of entrepreneurial life. It is fun, but it is also painful at times. It is full of responsibilities, real or imagined, and it can bring great joy as well as significant pain.

The Four Stages of a Bootstrapped Business

Preparation, Survival, Stability and Growth.

The Preparation Stage and You

  1. Find your niche audience
  2. Find and validate their critical problem
  3. Invent and validate a solution to their problem
  4. Build a product to implement that solution
  5. Build a business that can repeatedly sell that product to your audience

Question to ask should be in this order:

  1. Who am I helping?
  2. Why do they need help?
  3. How can I help them with that?
  4. What can I create to help them that way?

The Power of the Niche

Low-Cost Marketing: Shared interests will allow you to speak to the needs of your niche audience directly.

If your product is shareable, spend time creating a referral system early in the life of your business.

Deciding on a Market For your Business

Is the audience large enough?

Is the audience small enough?

Can and will they pay?

Determine The Size of a Market

Talk to people in the industry first

Purchase industry reports

Look at conferences and download the vendor map

Identify a Critical Problem Working on the Right Thing

Once an audience has been found, you can then start working on problems

If you want to build a profitable business, you have to solve the most critical problem your customer is facing, the one that, when solved, will change their life.

Find the critical problem that when ignoring will cause lower quality of life.

Find the critical problem at the intersection of something mandatory and something wasteful.

Find the critical problem where people would love to opt-out but can't

Find the urgent problem where people need to do the same thing over and over again

Find the urgent problem where solving a problem takes a long time every time it occurs

Find the urgent problem where people are solution-aware and have already created their simple systems to solve the problem

Identifying the Most Critical Problems in the Market

Pain can be grouped into three categories:

  1. Time
  2. Resources
  3. Self

The four essential concepts in self-related pain:

  1. Reputation: is a measurement of trustworthiness and expertise
  2. Accomplishment is a measurement of success and respect
  3. Advancement is a measurement of progress and alignment
  4. Empowerment is a measurement of liberation

The most intense pain comes from a task that is both important and urgent

The second-best problems to find are tedious

Third, are pressing tasks

Finally, annoying little issues

The prospect awareness scale by Eugene Schwartz:

Completely Unaware

Problem aware

Solution aware

Product aware

Most aware

What Questions to Ask a Prospect:

Write down the problem, the intensity, and the underlying reason for the problem.

Make a list for each prospect you call and merge those lists, counting problem occurrence for every problem mentioned multiple times.

Problem Validation: Talking to the Wrong People

Avoid people who tell you their ideas.

Customers have a hard time understanding what they truly value, so their solutions are limited to what they know.

Important Things to Consider

Be aware of cognitive biases in your conversation, both on the way you say and how your customers respond.

Step 3 Solution

A solution is a more general answer to the question "How could this be done better"? A product answers, "What do I use to deal with this?

Solution Validation Doesn't Happen In A Vacuum: Talking to your future customers.

Explain what it will do, what steps your customer would have to take, and how you envision it to be part of those work

There are two significant perspectives.

  • Workflow Impact - your service is embedded in some workflow. A good question, "At what stage in your workflow will you be using this solution"?
  • Jobs to be done - "How does your solution impact the jobs to be done"? Could this solution cause friction in other areas?

Asking the right questions: Focus on problems, not solutions.

Avoid these questions:

  • Asking about features
  • About things that annoy them
  • About their strategies and tactics to much

What you should ask:

  • Where progress is hindered
  • Tention and friction during the value creation
  • Context of the job to be done

Find the most impactful, most value-producing solution with the least friction and the highest possible adoption rate into your customer's workflow.

The Myth of the Finished Product

It's a good idea to reflect on your assumptions, analysis, and accuracy now and again. Every quarter, as a form of Continuous Validation of the business, the product and alignment with your vision.

Release Early and Often

  • Prevents horizontal overengineering: every release is precisely one feature.
  • Allows for feature implementation feedback
  • Allows your product to evolve progressively: keep your documentation and SOP up to date.
  • Release early prevents vertical engineering
  • Allows for feature integration feedback
  • Allows for features to evolve progressively
  • Never release something you can't rollback

Three main things to create a system capable of automated rollbacks are artifacts, versioning, and bidirectional links.

  • Package releases into easy-to-deploy artifacts
  • Version your release artifacts
  • Synchronize your database using bidirectional migrations
  • Automate the process
  • Release when it's a good time
  • Consider slow rollouts and feature flags

Optimize for Hot Paths

Fine a repetitive tasks and create an automated solution.

Finding Balance

In general, if it's not part of your core business, consider buying the solution.

From Product to Business

Building a Repeatable System

Churn hurts your growth two times. To reach net-zero, you'll have to replace the lost customer and onboard another.

Architectural Reliability: measuring uninterrupted access to your product

Operational Reliability: how does your system handle external interruptions

Create a process and prepared a response when things go wrong to send to customers

Resilient Business: Independent, adaptive, extensible

An Entrepreneurial Operating system (EOS) is an alignment between vision, real-world data, your people, critical issues, processes that systemize consistency, and discipline and traction.


Three rules to early pricing: never perfect, it can be adjusted, and it should be aspirational.

Value Metric: if your product helps others make money and charges more over time, so should you.

The Survival Stage

Mental health

Responsibly of Founders

Start with essential impacts first. Do this often, which will keep you ahead of the competition.

Building The Right Things

First Things First: Prioritization Frameworks

Rice Method:

  • Reach expresses how many users this feature will affect.
  • Impact, how much will this move the needle
  • Confidence, a percentage that expresses how confident you are in your estimate about this feature
  • Effort is the time needed for this feature. Time is represented in person-months when a person needs to work on this project to complete it.

Multiply Reach, Impact, Confidence divided by Effort. A Higher RICE score is the feature you should work on.

DIE Method :

Demand, High (1), Low (3)

Impact, High (1), Low (3)

Effort, XS (1) through S, M, L, XL to XXL (6)

Add all together. Lower the score, the better.

Story Mapping:

Is a way to get customer workflow implemented. Kanban cards are used, arrange them im the order from the start of the customer experience to the stage that gets the final result.

Then order the steps by importance, with most important at the top, decreasing matter downwards.

Finally, create horizontal slices grouping these steps into releases.

Pick a method and constantly revisit your choices every few weeks as a fork of continuous validation.

Build For Value, Not For Applause: Product Management Under Heavy Constraints

Three approaches for product decisions

  1. Qualitative impact
  2. Quantitative impact
  3. Minimum of usability


Service should always be integrated through an abstraction.

The Kinds of Services that Should Be Abstracted Away

  • Payment providers
  • Authentication
  • Notifications
  • Email, including transactional, marketing and customer communication
  • Database connections
  • Logging
  • Metrics collection

Re-evaluating Your Audience

Audience-Problem Misalignment

Most fundamental misalignment solving a problem that your target customer doesn't have.

Audience-Solution Misalignment

It doesn't resonate with your audience

Your product should be simple, easy, faster than anything they've encountered in the past.


Treat customers well, value their input, and say thank you. They are more than credit card numbers.

Book recommendation - Farm, don't hunt by Guy Nirpaz.


Pricing initially will be experimental. Don't underprice your business. Give a good reason for changing pricing in the later stages of business.

Moving up Market

Going after big and bigger customers is not recommended while you're still struggling to survive.

Sub Tiers - Paid and Free

Naming pricing plans matter. Fundamental vs Professional imply, low level of knowledge vs high level.

Not all subscriptions are equal. Dealing with plans that no longer work

"The voices of those bothered will always be much louder than the silence of those who don't mind."

Removing a plan, you have two choices: upgrade all users or grandfather in.

An excellent way to grandfather in is to allow the customer to retain the price for a year if they upgrade to a yearly subscription. Else, force them to upgrade to the new price.

Yearly Subscription and Discounts

Should discount yearly subscriptions for two reasons. First, the cheaper sub will incentivize customers. Second, a discounted plan can come with a non-refundable clause.

With lifetime accounts, be explicit in TOS what that means. Life of customer, version, etc.

Referral Systems work

Works when your product is established.

Create a reward system for both adopters and the customers. Who join.

Surviving a recession

AAAH! Framework: Awareness, Anticipation, Adaptation, Healthy Optimism and Action.


  • Legislative changes
  • Changes in technology
  • Market movements
  • Labour
  • Competition

Adaptation: Short and Long Term

  • Short term - cut unnecessary spending, cancel non essential subscriptions
  • Long-term: problems are concerning, but the opportunity will also arise. Expand into other areas outside the initial market.


You want to be part of the tribe, participate in the discussion. Eventually, you'll want to lead the tribe.

Communities - places like Reddit- are great for chatting about topics and hearing about your category as it's talked about clearly.

The Stability Stage

Customer service, success and retention are essential in this stage.

You Want A Tribe

Seth Godin " a tribe is a group of connected people, an idea, and a leader.


Have a good P&L statement

"build to sell."

When going through the purchasing or selling process, do your due diligence.