To be a successful startup founder you need to have the insight and courage to invalidate your idea. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but; your untested, unbuilt, amorphous idea isn’t worth anything. The good news is anyone can test an idea these days!
“Since we last spoke, I went through the validation tests we came up with and looked for Facebook groups and reddit groups. As I dug deeper, it appeared demand for food to improve cognitive ability and for those willing to pay was low. However in the process, I discovered other ideas, created little tests and validated/invalidated them since. I’ve stumbled across a new idea, and I have come up with something I feel is gold. ”
~ Serena, early stage startup entrepreneur
So our Ideation workshops have been selling out in all three locations the past few months. This makes me so incredibly happy and not just because I run them. It’s because it shows maturity of the startup ecosystem. People realise solid business ideas come from workshopping, testing, researching and executing off the back of that. Not even something as simple as the slinky was conceived, produced, marketed and sold by just one person in isolation. It takes time, effort and diverse perspectives. That’s just how this works.
The pre-accelerator program workshops I’ve been running focus entirely around the validation steps you should be taking to understand the problem you want to solve and the people who have that problem. Product-market fit starts with problem-person fit! Just because you can build something doesn’t mean you should. In fact, you most likely should not. You should be asking as many of the relevant people as possible ‘Do you have this problem and what would compel you to invest in a solution?’ If you are willing and able to listen to what your market have to say before emotionally or financially investing in building what you think is the solution, then you’re already 5 steps ahead of other existing alternatives. Markets are essentially a bunch of people. At the end of the day, people want to feel listened to, understood, and served a delightful product or experience. That’s what validation is all about.
So start by asking, listening, do some research (then mock ups/preotyping) then get back to asking & listening some more. If you’re seeing a theme here then good!
Rinse & repeat
Get out of your head / Out of your way
The hardest thing for all founders is getting out of their own head and then out of their own way. A great founder is a subject matter expert in a highly specific customer or business problem.
Startup founders eat problems for breakfast! They’re like our spinach.
If you can’t confidently answer what problem your startup idea is solving, then it’s time to go back to your canvas and figure out if there is one. If not, you’re an artist not an entrepreneur. There’s nothing wrong with that but it’s important to know the difference.
There are a number of workshops and service providers offering validation help. I’m not sure I’d trust such a critical step to completely outsourcing but whatever works for your budget/schedule. However you go about it, investing in early stage validation is the best thing you can do to save yourself months and thousands of dollars of pain and sorrow down the line.