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Ask HN: What is your process for validating startup ideas?
29 points by jonnygoodwin 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 10 comments
I'm curious as to what everyone's process is for validating their ideas. I've always just built a landing page, sent some traffic to it, and tested if it converts. If that test "passes" then I try to sell something. Only then does an idea have legs.

This seems to be what everyone's doing. But there's got to be other ways to validate an idea. Is anyone doing anything unique?

I provide free startup ideas at startupsfromthebottom.com, and everyone's next question is: "Did you validate this?" I need better/more ideas for how THEY can validate it.

So...what do you do to validate your ideas?

From my experience, it's mostly about creating value or filling a need, most of the interviews I have read, they either did user interviews, built a simpler version of the product and iterate on it. In a nutshell I would say there's not a single way for all startups to validate their idea, it depends on the industry an what you are building as well as where the idea originated from.

https://launchbasket.com/interview-with-laurent-pellegrino-t... https://launchbasket.com/building-a-30000-month-user-testing... https://launchbasket.com/building-a-60k-month-online-lending... https://launchbasket.com/the-details-of-building-a-15k-month... https://launchbasket.com/building-a-1000-month-slack-bot-an-...

Companies don't exist without customers. You can make zero profit, sell no useful products, but still be alive because you have customers.

Knowing that there is a potential market is a start. But your goal is customers.

My advice to validate a startup is to find your customers. Not your friends or peers, but push yourself to find customers everywhere. Start stalking linkedin profiles, get emails of potential clients. Tell them what you have. Will they pay for this? Just go out and amass a wealth of potential customers. People who are willing to onboard before you even launch.

Finding customers is like attending a career fair, you meet every recruiter (customer) and try to get them to hire you (buy your product). For every good match you hand a resume, and that's your landing page. But you can still get hired without a great resume, just meet as many of the recruiters and have great conversations. For those who you didn't get to talk to, your resume (landing page) speaks for itself. But your greatest chances are with those who you spoke with personally. Throw your landing page everywhere, but get out and find customers 1:1.

Startups fail because they can't find customers.

Step 1. Get the idea in front of users as quickly as possible. Pre MVP.

Step 2. Get the partial MVP in front of users as quickly as possible. Mid MVP.

Step 3. Get the MVP in front of users as quickly as possible. Post MVP.

Really, I just care about getting things in front of users. I've launched and failed like 10-15 "startups" at this point. I tend to solve problems that don't exist, or that aren't correctly solved by my software.

I built out UserInsights.com exactly for this reason. And you better believe I had it in front of users at every step of the way. Probably why it's my only success to date.


Think about validation like an iterative series of steps.

The first step (even before you have an idea preferably) is to identify who you want to serve. What target market are you going after?

I think it's wisest not to go after beginners. More about that here: https://justinjackson.ca/beginners

Next, you need to observe your target market. What do they struggle with, that they'd be willing to pay for? What evidence do you have of this?

Thanks Justin. I've followed your blog for the past few years, and really appreciate the input. So ideally, you know the market and are part of it? That would make less work on the validation side of things. But if you don't think you know your customer perfectly, how can you find out what they struggle with and would be willing to pay for?

Surveys, landing pages, etc...? Got any more?

not related to your post but I am getting a security warning from chrome when trying to access megamaker

Agree with other comments here about the priority of getting user feedback. But one lesson we learned is that the best feedback comes from strangers, who have no reason to support your idea (ie. unlike your mom who will always love it). There is a graph about this in the Startup School courses. We used a service called Erlibird to get this feedback (there are plenty of others too) - reasonable cost, high-quality responses.

startupsfromthebottom.com looks interesting! Do you come up with the ideas yourself, or what does your process look like?

What you describe (building a landing page or an MVP) is how most people do it. I would start even before that, since you should try to spend no more time than necessary on something that you don't even know is actually viable.

However, you obviously need to find out if potential customers are excited about your idea. In my experience, the following validation process works best:

* Write down a) the problem you're trying to solve and b) your solution. It's tempting to skip this step, but a lot of ideas may sound awesome while they're in your head, however that might change once you transform it from an abstract thought into 2–3 sentences. Try to be as succinct as possible while still capturing the core of your value proposition.

* Create a questionnaire based on your idea. Make sure to ask questions that are actually predictive of whether your idea might take off, such as "How often are you facing this problem" rather than "Have you ever faced this problem". Use a tool like SurveyMonkey or Typeform to put your survey online.

* Identify people in your target audience. This is hard. Don't simply email the survey link to your friends - because of something called "Interviewer bias", your friends & family will rate your ideas more favorably than an idea coming from some other anonymous source. Also, it's highly likely that your friends aren't actually in your target audience.

I run IdeaCheck.io[0], where we generate a questionnaire based on your idea and use a panel of respondents to gather direct feedback from your actual target audience. You can read more about IdeaCheck in my Indie Hackers interview[1].

[0] https://ideacheck.io

[1] https://www.indiehackers.com/businesses/ideacheck-io

Thanks for the insights. I've actually never created a questionnaire before, but that sounds like a good idea.

Right now, we base our ideas off of problems that we or others find. But who's to say our ideas are the right solution? Obviously they still need validated.

Also, I like you're idea. Very interesting concept.

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