Do you talk to the people around you, do you put up a landing page and use adwords, or maybe you start building the product right away ? Something else entirely ?
I'm mostly interested in the validation phase, but I'm open to anything that can come up.
Usualy the validation goes in 2 phases : market interest and MVP.
The first phase is about faking it until you make it. Create your landing page presenting your product (don't spend more than a day on it, you don't care about design/ branding), post in your audience's facebook group, go to their meetups, shadow them to affine your concept. The goal is to have proof of traction and the assurance the market is ready / big enough. The best metric is usualy an email list you can reuse later.
Second phase, if the first is successful is building the MVP (main viable product). It's about having the most minimalistic version of your product that you can sell. Usually it's your main feature. You MUST hack it yourself, don't spend money yet, you'll lose it. The goal is to iterate quickly to have what's called a product market fit.
Product market fit is when you can write an equation like : "when a number P people see my product, there is a conversion of C% that get me X money". Then you can launch and the rest is about scaling.
Do not spend any money (aka > 1000$) until the product market fit. Not in ads, not in freelancers, not in consultants and especially not in PR.
If you product is expensive to make or need a big chain of production, sell it before building it. If you succeed it will be you proof of product market fit
It's difficult to make a standard advice since it depends a lot of the context but key insights are :
Your market is king, refer only to them.
Make them believe 80% of the job is done when you really just have a landing page
When proof of traction hack the main feature of the product and sell it.
If you have a product market fit, congratulation you have a business / startup.
And yeah I totally get the idea to spend the minimum amount of money until the market is validated.
Yeah that's also why you don't want to buy traction : your early adopters will be way more invested in your product.
But remember, done is better than perfect. The goal is to have your MVP out there asap. If less than a month idealy. Get feedback over your product > during building process.
Though depending on your appetite for twisting the truth, you could also make it sound like you've already built the product, but it's currently in an invite-only private beta phase, and lead the users into thinking they're signing up for the private beta by leaving their email. This might be a bit more effective, and isn't technically an outright lie unless you end up seeing lackluster interest and decide to ditch the product idea.
And to answer the previous comment : if a user/consumer have the reaction "Thank god someone have resolved my issue", then finding that you'll have to wait is not really a big of a deal.
For example a few years back I found this device to scan your food and have sorted the ingredients. As a coeliac it had huge value for me. When I clicked on the CTA I found that they were still "in development", well, can't blame them to work on it, let me know when it's available. I was a bit disapointed but still exited someone was working to resolve my problem !
The high level things about a startup are very consistent and good candidates to be fit into a framework. I'm not sure but I think these are just called unit economics. Things like "Our product is sold for $X because it saves our customer Y in time". However it's the unknown, and emotional values that I've found incredibly hard to fit into a framework. I'm fascinated now in seeing if the way the finance industry calculates risk is in any way a good framework for startups to assess which features to build.
What I've found to be the hardest questions to answer...
How do I find industry metrics on an industry that doesn't exist yet?
How do I prove people will want something that they don't want right now?
How do I measure emotional value? Tactile sensation(hardware)? UX, UI, etc...
These are the things that startups often believe to be their advantage over the competition. "Our product is much more fun/easy/fast to use/learn/teach" But how do we measure that?
The most valuable exercise I've come up with is this question...
How would your user recreate your product, if you're product didn't exist and they had to piece together the end result with existing technology?
I have a startup right now that creates custom educational podcasts by summarizing publicly available content (with attribution) to generate entirely new content and sort the corpus in increasing complexity. If you searched "Skateboarding", you would get a text document that taught you what skateboarding is, then the history of skateboarding, and then get into beginner, intermediate, and advanced skateboarding lessons. This would go through text-to-voice and be downloaded to your device for offline listening.
Search any topic and you get a 45 minute podcast to listen to on your commute.
In our case, I stepped back and said "Okay... If I wanted an educational podcast on skateboarding, the first thing I would do is search Google, then Wikipedia, then I would start going to skateboarding blogs and read them one by one in increasing complexity. If I wanted to consume this content during my commute I would take all of this content and copy it into a text-to-voice service, and download that audio file on my phone for listening offline." I walked through this entire process and it took me 1 hour to get 45 minutes worth of audio content.
Peter Thiel says that your solution must be 10X better than the existing solution.
Unfortunately for me, I think I will need to cut the time it takes to manually create a podcast by 1/10 and also 10x the quality of the content, which I don't know that I can do.
Tangentially, I often joke that if the problem your startup is trying to solve doesn't exist as a meme, than it's not a real problem for enough people.