How to validate your idea

Testing your idea is mission critical 🔬  

Most entrepreneurs think their idea is gold, yet most startups fail. This tells us founders aren't great at evaluating their own ideas. Idea validation is the primary way you can determine whether your big idea solves a real problem in a desirable way. Your idea is good if it does both of these, bad if it does neither, and lacking if it only does one. It's a more reliable approach than asking your Mom for her opinion and it can save you thousands of dollars.  

Seem simple? It's harder than it sounds. Trust me. 

The shortlist of effective tests 📝

There are lots of ways to test your idea but only a handful of tests are effective. Which test you choose depends on the market you're targeting, how much money you have, how much time you can spend, who you'll take your findings to, and the questions you're trying to answer. The one thing we recommend, regardless of those factors, is starting with customer research.

  • Customer Research: This is low-cost in terms of money but high-cost in terms of time. (Hire us if you'd rather spend money and save time.) It's an excellent precursorto the options below and it's especially useful for finding consumer pain points and habits - particularly the ones you don't know about yet. 🔎 Research also builds a list of leads and teaches you how to speak to your customers. Those are crucial to your future marketing efforts. 
    • Best for: assessing whether there's a real problem + gathering customer insights
    • We strongly recommend starting here 
  • Strategic Landing Page: We used the word "strategic" because you want to make this page work for you; it needs to test a specific hypothesis beyond, "will people give me their email address?" Email addresses are great for leads but they don't indicate whether someone will open their wallet. The best strategic landing pages we've seen ask customers to take steps to select a pay level or fill out a targeted survey. 📊
    • Best for: assessing revenue potential 
  • Manual Solution: It's not scalable but, for some ideas, you might be able to test a manual solution 💪. While this is time intensive and best pursued after you're sure people are interested and/or willing to pay, it's useful for refining implementation ideas.  
    • Best for: exploring how you can solve a proven problem 
  • Beta Software: After you've done some preliminary validation, and if your idea is technical, getting a beta version of your idea live really accelerates customer feedback, refinement, and investor interest. 🤖  (We'd love to guide you through this.) 
    • Best for: verifying previous tests and assumptions + securing investor interest
  • Hubris: Hoard your idea, don't test it all and start building a business around it. It's risky and very ill-advised, but hey, it's an option. (Although, if you're looking to blow some money, we'd be happy to give you some suggestions. 💸)

How do you know if you're on the right path? To pursue any of the serious options above, you'll define a problem, solution, target audience, and pricing strategy. If you're testing and thinking through those, you're moving in a good direction. 👍 

What if I find out my idea is 💩? 

Congrats! You just saved yourself thousands of dollars and countless hours. It may feel like defeat, but it's a big victory. You know what direction to avoid and you probably know quite a bit about a target market. You're in a great spot to find your next Big Idea and there's some good advice out there on how to do that:

  • Paul Graham, co-founder at Y Combinator, recommends looking for a mistaken question or problem instead of a million dollar idea. (He also recommends not getting too hung up on your initial idea because most ideas change anyway.)
  • Julie Zhuo, Product VP at Facebook, suggests talking to people, anyone and everyone, to uncover those problems
  • Justin Jackson, founder of MegaMaker, suggests paying close attention to what other people struggle with 
  • Jessica Livingston, founding partner at Y Combinator, advises honing in on what people want
  • Tomer Sharon, head of UX at WeWork, recommends going beyond noticing a problem and falling head-over-heels in love with it to glean deeper insights 

These share similar ingredients: a willingness to listen 👂 and pay attention 👀, the ability to identify obvious problems, and a field or market you understand.

p.s. Have an idea you're excited about, but not sure how to validate it? Take our 30-daystartup challenge! ✅

" ...be open to adjusting your idea, because most good ideas evolve ."

- Jessica Livingston, founding partner of Y Combinator

Want to see us cover a topic? Dealing with something tough in your startup? Email andrew@builtbykrit.com