Why am I killing Vitamin XL?

Posted on October 29th, 2012 in products - 39 comments

People who were right a lot of the time were people who often changed their minds.
-Jeff Bezos, Founder, Amazon.com #

About 10 days ago, I have introduced Vitamin XL and asked for your feedback. I got several enthusiastic responses (both for and against it).

I have decided to go ahead and kill this product idea. Please read to understand why.

Why I am killing Vitamin XL product idea

What is Vitamin XL & Why I thought of it?

Vitamin XL is a membership program that offers Excel training, resources & community access for monthly fee.

During last 1 year, many of existing customers & supporters of Chandoo.org have told me that I should have a membership program where people can access all our training programs, Excel resources & get help for a monthly fee.

A good business person must prioritize the ideas and work on most promising ones first. Since I have few product ideas in mind, I wanted to make sure that Vitamin XL is worth investing my time. As a first step to this, I conceptualized Vitamin XL and shared the idea with all of you on 19th October for your feedback.

How was the feedback?

With in 1 day of announcing Vitamin XL, it was clear to me that not many of you are excited about it. Although there were many who wanted Vitamin XL and could not wait to join, the negative feedback was overwhelming. Some of the concerns raised are,

  • There is no value in it. Already Chandoo.org offers everything for free.
  • It is too pricey. $30 or $50 per month is just not feasible.
  • It would divide our community in to 2 parts – members & non-members.
  • The offering is not clear. Can I still access all the features (forums, downloads, articles) of Chandoo.org?

My next options were…

Based on this feedback, I narrowed down to 2 options for future of Vitamin XL.

  1. Rework on Vitamin XL’s features & Reduce the price to $99 per year (or $10 per month).
  2. Kill it and work on something else.

At first glance, #1 seemed to be a natural choice. This is because I got several emails (and comments) telling me that Vitamin XL would work at lower price point.

So why I am killing it?

What is true loss?

There is no truer loss than nobody telling you when you are making a mistake.

I don’t know where I read this quote, but it came to my mind when deciding the future of Vitamin XL.

As many long time readers of Chandoo.org know, I run a poll / survey whenever I start work on a new product. Excel School, VBA Classes, Financial Modeling Classes, various crash courses are all born like that. And I do know that for any product, there will be some people who will not like it. So I take the negative feedback with a pinch of salt.

But in case of Vitamin XL, I got lot of personal emails, passionate comments telling me it is not a good idea.

The decision became obvious. Its time I let go of Vitamin XL and worked on something else.

What next?

There is no change whatsoever to Chandoo.org or all our awesome stuff.

  • I will continue to write every week and share something beautiful, fun & useful with you, so that you can become awesome at your work.
  • I will continue to post excellent examples, downloads & videos every now and then so that you can do more & become a hero.
  • I will offer new courses, products & books so that you can learn even more and become a ninja.

During next 2-3 months, I will be working on few more new product ideas:

  1. Advanced Excel School course (slated for launch in Jan 2013)
  2. An iPhone app to learn Excel
  3. Conceptualize & Design an MS Access course
  4. Upgrade our PM Templates to Excel 2010, 2013
  5. Ready to use Excel Dashboard Templates
  6. One / two more e-books

As always, I will take your suggestions & feedback about these ideas.

Meanwhile, you can continue to enjoy our courses & products:

Thank you & Sorry

I feel so fortunate & humbled to know how much you care about Chandoo.org & our future. Thank you.

My apologies for anyone who felt excited about Vitamin XL and wanted to be part of it. I am sorry I am unable to offer it at this time. I am thankful for your kindness & encouragement. It keeps Chandoo.org going.

39 Responses to “Why am I killing Vitamin XL?”

  1. Busymanjohn says:

    Hi Chandoo, I fully respect your decision to "Kill Off" Vitamin XL based on the thoughts ( and passion ) shared by your many members. I hope you continue to grow this site and share with your extended family ( after all, we are all like brothers and sisters in this community ) your many thoughts and ideas for Chandoo.org. I know that you will have more creative ideas on how your site will grow, Vitamin XL may not have been the way to go ( yet ), but don't kill it off, just put it on the back burner for now. Another thought I had was extending the range of products to perhaps include other applications, such as Lotus Symphony ( there are a lot of users out there ) and perhaps show how Microsoft applications and Lotus applications are different, yet strive to achieve similar goals. Keep up the fantastic work, and if you ever get to Scotland, let me know.

  2. Jitendra says:

    $10 per month is affordable.........
    Good Idea for those person who are looking for their first job on Excel...

    Like me ...     yeah...... 

  3. Juanito says:

    Chandoo - props to you for your honesty and willingness to listen. I suppose that's the reason you've been able to build this exceptional community in the first place.

    Best,   Juanito

  4. An iPhone app to learn Excel <--- great idea!

  5. Brian says:

    This shows a lot of self-awareness.

    With that said, you provide tremendous insight and value from this site. People turn that insight into business results. Those results are worth $$ to their clients, their employers, and themselves.
    So I hope at some point in the not-so-distant future you revisit the membership idea. Maybe it will include a different feature set, maybe it will be a different service offering altogether. But I hope you do it.

  6. KSSLR says:

    We appreciate you being in touch with the feelings of your community of followers.

  7. Anne Whitley says:

    I agree with Jordan - an iPhone app to learn Excel would be EXCELlent!!

  8. Dalmiro says:

    Thanks for being honest with us.

    Great Idea, IPhone app to learn Excel, for Android too, please.

    Your're awesome!

    Greetings from Perú. 

    • Peter Taylor says:

      Good Idea Dalmiro about going mobile so they can read it on the run, so to speak.

      I'm sure WordPress (your humble supplier for blogs) would support an extension to port/convert many of your webpages into a mobile that many phone like iPhone, Android, I suppose the new Windows 8 RT as well.

      I use Google blogger alot and I found it had features to convert what I already blog into a mobile compatiable web page for those who benefits reading from a mobile device.   

      Hey Chandoo another great idea...

      Have you considered using Trello from http://www.trello.com to help you prioritize "what is on your table" that assists making sound business decisions.

      Basically each idea you may have such as Vitamin XL would represent a "card" in Trello. All or some cards is grouped together by a name (think of them like a pile) such as, To Develop, To Research, To Write, Done.   You have the flexiblity to move a card from any pile. The good news is you can share the board with others to help discuss where to go/or obtain support.

      It is a great website to manage To-Do lists for companies and allow other people to put suggestions, vote on which one would be important etc. 

      Here is Bruce McPherson from Excel Liberation blog with his trello board available for others to see for your information.

      https://trello.com/#board/excel-liberation/4ff1644acb179efe1718ec61

      Ta,
      Peter.     

  9. Eugene Bielawski says:

    Have you considered developing an advanced class centered around a set of case studies. This class would develop a robust  Excel and Excel/VBA from the ground up.  

  10. Harish says:

    Yes, People are right. you are already exploreing your knowladge to us free of cast...... thanks to you.

  11. PPH says:

    A mobile app is ideal. The Excel selections for that type of thing are slim and not really special.  There's a tremendous opportunity there I think.

  12. If nothing else, I would love a mobile version of Chandoo.org. I check this site on my smartphone all the time. 

  13. fcvidoto says:

    I go for $10 month

  14. 5antiago says:

    This was a wise, good and brave post - kudos to you.  I don't think anyone here would begrudge you the opportunity to earn some more from your site (I know how much it has given me for free), just that the subscription model doesn't quite work here

  15. Stan says:

    I would love a local Chandoo Chapter, much like Joomla has done. I attended a Joomla workshop in NYC a couple years back, and it was a great chance to learn with peers, and share ideas. The class was fee based, but it was worth every penny.

    My suggestion is look to find Chandoo Experts in Prime cities, and occassionally plan yearly events where each chapter comes together to build on these classes.

    Just a thought... I'm an addicted Chandoo reader now.

  16. Andrew says:

    I'm so glad you killed Vitamin XL. Also Can't wait for the Access tutorials!!!!

  17. Sally says:

    Chandoo, you rock! Thanks so much for bringing so much Excel beauty to the world!

  18. Elephant says:

    Fully support the mobile app idea! Thank you again for sharing with us!

  19. Chris Melck says:

    It is a tough one. You have worked really hard to build your trust asset. People know you have the skills and they come to your site for help. The challenge is - how do you monetise that trust asset?

    I do training (including Excel) and understand your challenge - albeit on a much smaller scale. I wish you the best as you try to figure out how to do this.

    My suggestions - try to partner with one or two big companies and be their source of all Excel knowledge (eg consulting, auditing, engineering firms) get them to pay you a fat retainer and you keep their little people jazzed up on Excel. 

    I also like Stan's idea of Chandoo communities. I would sign on to host one in Brisbane - Australia for you.

    Cheers and good luck
    Chris 

  20. I love the honesty and opennesss. Keep going Chandoo!

  21. John Hackwood says:

    That kind of a post is why all your supporters love you, Chandoo!  Good for you.  
     
    On Chandoo MS Access course great idea.  Perhaps also Powerpivot is right in your zone and a short course on this would be fantastic.

    I also think a web based paid Excel conference could be a good idea.  There are no Excel conferences in my part of the world (Australia) but it would be a great thing.  Even better, organise a real live conference in the Asia region including Australia.   Perhaps start with your wonderful coastal Indian Vizag location.  I would come.  I think the Chapter concept as above is also a good idea.

    Cheers

    John
      

  22. Manny says:

    Chandoo I admire your honesty a willingness to listen to your fan base. Your skills and offering never go un-noticed I continue to promote your website to anyone looking to hone in on improving their Excel skills.

    Your charachter and genuine desire to help others is something I have never experienced on the web. It has been a little over a year since I have been visiting your site ot tips and general reading and I never fail to be amazed.

    Keep up the good work and I look forward to more of your online offerings.

  23. ahamed says:

    Dear Chandoo..
    Its really nice to hear that you have withdrawn the concept of Vitamin XL. The quote which you have quoted here is quite justifying your decision.  
    My opinion is that, let this site to be free,, that how you have been growing and will be known to the wold further,
    Take this site as a platform to voice the excel in your way, by this you may get chances to take over workshops/ sell products around the world.

    scarifies smaller losses with bigger prospect !!!!!!!!
    Thank you once again

  24. Ramesh says:

    Sorry Chandoo.... I could not get tme to respond.... I like your idea of Vitamin XL... if you have any such idea then i am happy to be part of that...

  25. Cognitor says:

    I agree with John Hackwwod - powerpivot!

  26. Wow! That's a very brave post Chandoo. I can feel your excitement when you announce a new product and also your pain when you kill it within a few days.

    Apart form business perspective, you are one hell of a honest guy. I honour you for that.

    Your line of products is awesome. Get going...!

    As all ways, we are with you!

    Regards,
    Ravi. 

  27. David B says:

    You have my deepest respects Chandoo! I hope in the long run this will make you more money for you and your family.
     
    I got goosebumps when I read you were starting up courses on Access. I never find as good information on Access as I do on Excel. This is a problem as my data for my dashboards tend to grow as I want to do more and more. I just never get into doing the dashbaord in Access instead of Excel. But I know Access is a better tool if I want managers around the organisation to enter their part of the data on their own.

    As a controller i find dashboards are great for personal use. If I really want to be able to compete with BI-systems... I have to go access.

    Regards
    David B

  28. ssuresh98 says:

    Hi Chandoo,
    My respect for you goes up another notch. Not because you decided to drop the idea but the way you did it. You have acknowledged how much the users comments mean to you. Hats off. Keep up the good work.

  29. Vijay says:

    Dear Chandoo,
    If you are starting MS Access site, I am sure it will receive same support as your Excel site as many of us want to explore Access true potential.
    Wishing you all the very best now and in future for more success professional and monetary. We are with you.
     

  30. John T says:

    WHAT A GREAT COMMUNITY!!
    WHAT A TOTALLY AWESOME HOST ,  CHANDOO!!!
    FIRST DAY,    LUVIN  IT    -        = )  

  31. Faseeh says:

    This is a good decision!
     
    I have another suggestion! you can add an emergency response button like 911 for emergency help against $1 for each problem - like Apple did with Music Stores, $1 for each song!! Does that sounds practical??
     
    Regards,
    Faseeh

  32. LeonK says:

    I would sign up to a Chandoo MS Access course.  The quality of it would be assured and it is a natural extension to what Chandoo dot org already offers - please develop this.
    I don't know if this is in scope but SQL is the only other skill that is as transportable as Excel, Access and VBA.  A person would, currently, be highly employable with all 4 of these skills, especially in the, slower, Public sector
    I honestly believe Chandoo dot org is defining a marque for all others to emulate in the same way that James Dyson, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Salman Khan have.  I know of no other training provider offering this level of real world training which is immediately relevant and useable within the workplace - Chandoo dot org just delivers.
    Personally, I'd like to gain formal Chandoo dot org certification as a mark of quality in ability within my industry.
    (What about a dream teacher team: Chandoo et al, John Peltier, Hui, Stephen Few. Andy J Pope?)
     

  33. Chris says:

    Chandoo,

    I have followed you for many years - let me say you do not need to apologise.

    You made me realise that a community of like minded people existed outside of my environment.

    You first forums gave the missing ingredients and motivation to persist in building my own excel dashboards from scratch - something I then realised other people were doing too!

    I love the idea of MS access input - just as you did for power users when you intoduced VBA classes (something I gave negative feedback about at the time, but now eat humble pie..).

    Also love the idea of more powerful, focused guidence for PM templates.

    BUT PLEASE - do not do #5 - don't hand things out to people - show them how to do it, but don't make it a site where people jump on, download and walk away. The special nature of this site is creating an atmosphere of wanting to learn and then providing the forum, examples and leadership to do so. That way people give back and share.

    Your site has benefited my career IMMENSELY. which in turn has added to my financial security too!

    • Peter Taylor says:

      Hi Chris,

      Would you say, similar to Chandoo's approach, provide a discussion with step-by-step instruction and provide a link for the entire exercise being mentioned the way to go?
       
      However, I am curious about your expression "...don’t hand things out to people – show them how to do it, but don’t make it a site where people jump on, download and walk away"

      Does this sort of invalidate my sentence I made eariler?
       
      I am reviewing my website at the moment while making some changes in the layout to make it more dynamic. Your suggestion seems to trigger an interest where I may need an open mind in how to present information to prevent as you say, jump on, download and walk away.

      Any tips?

      Thanks and kind regards,
      Peter.          

      • Chris says:

        Hi Peter,

        I'd certainly be able to offer my humble opnion - my background is a Business/ Financial Analyst with an operational B.I. and project spin.

        Worked in corporate/ private and public - Sales, Finance & IT(as well as stand alone B.I).

        My passion is to question, and I love refining the visual appeal of anything I create.

        It's funny though - have a think about this.

        The internet is absolutely saturated with anything and everything you would wish to plagiarise, borrow and steal - yet people who are really interested in learning find themselves at this site.

        A site where everything is not free and you do have to put in effort if you really want to take something away.

        You can email me with some details at christian.fleming@tpg.com.au

        I would honestly be very interested to see what you are doing - and offer my 2 cents if I can.

        Just as an aside, if you look back through the very, very early forums and discussions, Chandoo did some analysis of web page visualisation - i.e where to pace things to attract, then to leed peoples natural focus points on screen.

        Very interested in seeing what you are doing.

        Cheers

        Christian

  34. Terry Lavelle says:

    Hi Chandoo,
    I think you have made the right decision and respect you for it.
    When I first saw your proposal I was shocked, especially at the prices. Those dollars are not a lot, but they add up to quite a bit and I think you would lose a lot of support.
    If I have a specific problem I tend to Google it and see what comes up. I read the posts, and if I get to one with restricted access I move on - even if the restriction is just signing up or providing details. It would have to be a spectacularly good offer for me to subscribe.
    Having said that, I believe you are entitled to be compensated for the great service you provide. I just think there are better ways to do it. Your content and community spirit bring people to your site and keep them coming back. I feel, and I think others do to, a strong affiliation with you and what you do. I would enthusiastically recommend you (and have done so) to anyone, without reservation. You have built a tremendous amount of goodwill. I am also impressed with the extent of participation from your community, providing content, answers, comments and suggestions.
    I think you are doing things the right way. You are building goodwill by what you give away and leveraging it to bring people into your paid products. I think that, especially on the internet, people judge the products you're selling by the product you give away. What you give away for free is so awesome, I have to believe that what you're selling is even better. If you need to extend the range of money earners, why not go back to your community (us) and ask for some ideas? I believe there are a lot of people who want you to succeed, and there are not a lot of businesses who can say the same.
    I think you are building an extraordinary business. I wish you well in staying extraordinary.

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