The reason why unsuccessful startups fail is many, but for many they don't have product-market fit. The reason they don't have product-market fit is because they start with a solution and look for a problem. This analysis follows that same general track. Validate something. But validate WHAT? What if you just have nail in search of a hammer?
Validation is good but often it plays second fiddle to really understanding the problem domain and understanding how the solution is a good fit. Validation can only happen once you have that good sense of a fit.
This kind of over simplification of popular founding stories doesn't help founders. There are almost always twists and turns in most founding stories, including the product; it's rarely a strait path. It's the ability to navigate those riptides that lead to successful execution. Thats why YC invests in people and not ideas. This post provides tools for founders to evaluate their ideas, markets, features, and other "leaps of faith", something that founders have to do continuously once they are in business.
And the reason why the fail is because they're often wrong.
It's exceptionally rare that v1 is right and targeted at the right markets and positioned right and priced right. If $hours of talking with potential customers saves weeks or even months of wasted time, money, and effort, the ROI is easy.
Or put it another way, founders solving a problem they themselves have with just enough skill to build an initial solution. Subconsciously many of us forego start-up ideas due to what Paul Graham described as schelp blindness .
> Validation is good but often it plays second fiddle to really understanding the problem domain and understanding how the solution is a good fit.
Often times, what the founders set out to build and what they end up getting to product-market fit with are often different things even when they intuitively understand the problem-domain. An example that comes to mind is https://meesho.com, a Unicorn now (with a very different product though roughly in the same domain), but back then failed to raise any capital on YC demo-day .
I agree. Understanding the importance of solving the right problem i.e. the problem with enough need gap that people are willing to pay for getting it solved and of course the problem which we want ourselves to be solved played a huge role in me building successful products later on.
So, I'm building needgap a problem validation platform where problems are the first class citizens. Posts are created by the consumers(incl. entrepreneurs) who have a problem, want to find a solution for their problem, check if others share the same problem, however small the problem might be. Builders can post their products in the comments if it solves that particular problem or else discuss with others to create a product to solve that problem(There are couple of products built/being built for problems from needgap).
I'm not saying I've solved the issue of validating problems, far from it. I think I now have a direction towards understanding the 'language, grammar of problems and startup ideas' which might one day result in making validation easier.
As for the front page ranking algorithm, it's similar HN/Reddit's Hot but the difference is that the problem/need gap karma is visible only to the creator of that post and the comment karma is visible only to the commenter although the profile karma is visible to everyone. This was done to limit populism, limit discouraging those who might post a problem which could be perceived as 'small', limiting hive behaviour and for the general health of the community.
You can read more about karma on needgap here - https://needgap.com/problems/2-contributor-guidelines-for-ne....
You say nail and hammer, and I say key and lock... ;-)
Just the original phone solved voicemail (with visual voicemail) once and for all in one fell swoop. It was just echelons better.
That part of the initial demo still continues to blow my mind. https://youtu.be/VQKMoT-6XSg?t=29m30s
Here’s the original introduction to the iphone: https://youtu.be/MnrJzXM7a6o?t=1m23s
It focused on a specific niche in a specific age group in a single country, which led to it expanding exponentially to 100M users in half a year there. Growing after that is a completely different story and not what's being discussed here.
I’d add that if you do nothing else, read the first 3 chapters of The Mom Test; it provides a great overview for evaluating ideas.
I'd love some book recommendations with actionable info and with actual details on how to execute.
He’s actually had a couple of exits which can’t be said for most authors in the space.
p.s. I've read Lean Startup, but will check out The Launchpad, thanks!
Thanks for your feedback. Genuinely appreciate it!
‘When talking to customers, ask about their current behaviors rather than hypotheticals (e.g., ‘would you buy this’).’
I have 20 years of experience in conducting customer discovery interviews professionally, so I found the information in the book to be incredibly simplistic and sometimes misleading or incorrect. I get frustrated every time I see it recommended as some kind of bible for startup founders doing discovery...
I quite liked:
Validating Product Ideas
Second, he says customer interviews must be face to face to be valuable. That is patently false, and even dangerous. In a face to face setting many people feel social pressure to conform and there is a strong interviewer bias. A mix of in-person and online methods is essential to get an unbiased read.
I’m on vacation right now, otherwise I’d spend the timing outlining my many criticisms of the book...
Would love to hear more of your thoughts sometime after you vacation.
Both companies also provide digital tools and I'm thinking about building one, too. Hey, we can take this post as an early experiment and see if someone is interested!
The simplest form of validation is to sell something to a few people. If you can do that you have some proof of a problem to be solved, and you usually get questions along the way that can help you develop the idea further.
It's absolutely not the finished article, and intended to be quick and deliver results.
The question: is there a distinction to be made between "startup" and "product"? How, if at all, would you change your process for a simple product idea, like, say, a new kind of umbrella?
As for the optional comments, I did find the "Read a book" a bit jarring in the bulleted steps of the process -- it is unlike the other steps in that you don't do it again and again for every single startup idea you might be evaluating, and so not really part of a process associated with each project.
The difference between startup and product is simple, and it's something I'm guilty of conflating (along with many others). The product is what you're selling, and the startup is the organisation built around it to bring it to market. I should really have used the word Product instead of Startup.
Thanks for the thoughts around the Read A Book bullet point. Yes, I think it could do with being re-written!
I do agree that reading definitely helps but one book isn't enough. There are several books in this space that are helpful but probably deserve their own thread. Especially around strategy. Maybe worth building out a collective comprehensive recommendations list one day.
Surveys are great but wont capture the true understanding of your customer or the heavy user of what ever product you create. One needs spend some quality time (1hr initially) with these customers so you can build out a better persona which will help you hone and focus on creating the right solution. Then you can use future surveys after gaining trust to get valuable feedback. I do however understand this is a "fill the top of the funnel" approach which isn't bad.
However that said you make some really great points throughout your posting about falling in love with the problem which will allow you to create a great solution.
Yes, agreed that there's much more that can be done, but this is attempting to put a basic framework around the very early stages of validation (which should obviously be an ongoing process, anyway).
It's frustrating because obviously stuff like persona building should be in there, but at some point if you include everything it becomes too unwieldy to be a simplistic, quick process. I'd love to get to a point where this is both simple AND comprehensive. But I expect that's a bit of a holy grail.