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How to validate your startup idea

How many times have you heard someone say "I’ve got a billion dollar idea."

Chances are those billion dollars will always stay in their head.

One of the fundamentals for any entrepreneur is to validate your idea before getting started. It’s very important that you’re building something that people want and will use.

Even though it sounds obvious, you should only work on a problem that exists. Yet the biggest mistake startups make is to solve problems that nobody has.

The best startup ideas tend to have three things in common, they’re something the founders want themselves, something they can build themselves and something that very few others realise are worth doing.

Microsoft, Google and Facebook all began this way.

Problem

You need to ask yourself, what problem are you solving?

Successful products are always solving a pain point for the end user. Successful entrepreneurs take a problem/solution approach when they’re brainstorming.

You can do this by identifying problems and then building something that will provide the solution.

If you can solve someone's pain and that product adds value to the user, they’ll continue to use it and pay you for using it.

The perfect example of a startup that solved a big problem is Uber.

Catching a cab used to be a painful experience. Uber came along and solved that problem.

Users

When you launch a startup you need some users who really need what you’re building - not users who could see themselves using it one day, but users who want it right now.

This group of initial users is usually pretty small, for the simple reason that if there were something that millions of people wanted urgently, it would probably already exist.

This means you have to compromise: you can either build something a large number of people want a small amount or something a small number of people want a large amount.

To validate your idea you can use something like Leadpages.

The beauty of using landing pages is that there’s no wrong answer. They’re just way to gauge how people will respond.

You can present yourself as a fully operational startup with something to offer.

They enable you to A/B test which allows you to experiment with different variations of the same page to see what gets the most traction.

The first question you’d want to ask yourself is, who is your intended audience? If you’ve solved a problem, who have you solved it for?

When people with this particular problem are out there looking for a solution, what are they searching for? How can you use your landing page to get in front of those people?

Using a landing page is one of the quickest ways to understand who is interested in what you’re offering - and who knows, you might find a completely different market altogether.

Competition

What’s the deal when you find a competitor already doing what you were planning to do?

Chances are it’s not too late, it’s very rare for startups to get killed by their competitors.

Unless you find competitors with some sort of lock-in that would prevent users from choosing you, keep going.

If you’re still uncertain, all you have to do is ask users. The dilemma of whether you’re too late is overshadowed by the question of whether anyone urgently needs what you’re planning to build.

If you have something that no competitor does and a subset of users that urgently need it, you have a beachhead.

A beachhead is a position on a beach taken from the enemy, from which an attack can be launched.

A lot of inexperienced founders usually give competitors a lot more credit than they actually deserve. Whether you succeed or not depends on you rather than your competitors.

It’s better to have a good idea with competitors than a bad one without any.

You don’t need to worry about a crowded marketplace either, as long as you have an idea about what everyone else is overlooking.

It's also usually a good sign because it means there’s a demand and none of the existing solutions are good enough.

As a startup, you can’t expect to enter a market that’s big and has no competitors.

If you want to succeed you’re either going to enter a market with existing competitors, armed with a small secret weapon that will get you a lot of users, or enter a market that looks small but will turn out to be a lot bigger.

When Airbnb first launched they didn’t realise how big a market they were tapping. They had a much narrower idea.

They were going to let hosts rent out space on their floors during conventions.

They didn’t really foresee any expansion of this idea, it gradually forced itself upon them. All they knew at first was they were onto something.

That’s probably all Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg knew when they started their companies.