how to validate your idea before BUILDING an mvp

You have an idea for the next great start-up (!). Now you have to iron-out out 3 things to see if your idea is viable -- or has potential for product market fit:

  • Who your customers are -- be as specific as possible here.

    • Note: If you’re developing a 2-sided marketplace, you have two sets of customers: buyers and sellers.

  • Iron-out what pain point(s) you’re solving for them; there are over 30 to choose from.

  • How your business will make money.

Before you spend any money on developing a solution, talk to your prospective customers to really understand their needs -- and see if they’d be willing to pay for a solution to their problems. Sometimes it feels like a catch-22, you need customers to find more customers. How do you get started and find your first one?

  • Can you bring value to the prospects during the interview?

    • e.g. Are there publicly available (or paid) resources you can leverage to provide insight(s) they didn't have?

    • e.g. If you're considering developing a 2-sided marketplace, what will you offer the supply side to convince them to join before the demand is there?

  • Industry and vertical conferences (free or $$$)

  • Meetup groups by vertical, expertise and/or industry (free)

  • Offer (paid) studies on social media ($$$), especially if cold emails and follow-ups are getting no response

  • Join start-up communities, such as 805 start-ups to meet other founders (free)

  • If developing SaaS, consider offering consulting services to prospective customers, to help you prove out and fine-tune the idea

Following Eric Ries' idea of the build-measure-learn cycle from his book The Lean Startup, you'll want to build a questionnaire to help you listen to your customers, see if:

  • measure/identify themes that come up; and

  • learn if there are themes that come up again and again -- and any words/phrases your customers are using to describe their pain-points.

    • By using their words to describe your idea, you'll be able to resonate with future customers.

If you found promising themes around your customer pain-points, consider developing your product as interactive wireframes, for the next stage of idea validation -- to help you see if people would be willing to pay for an MVP/service.

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