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How to validate your startup idea

You have these many ideas in your head but you don’t know if customers would like them or not. How to validate a business idea?

You have these many ideas in your head but you don’t know if customers would like them or not. How to validate your startup idea? How do you know if it will work? This article highlights necessary steps that you need to take to validate your idea.

Entrepreneurship is hard and it’s a long journey, and only a few get lucky enough to succeed the first time, while some do a lot of hard work to get to a so-called “overnight sensation”.

It took 20 years to create an overnight success out of Pokemon Go for John Hanke, the creator of a game that is breaking all records in the app world. His journey started in 1996, when he co-created the very first MMO, then continued in the year 2000 with ‘Keyhole’,  a way to link maps with aerial photography, and create the first online, GPS-linked 3D aerial map of the world. In 2004 Google bought Keyhole and with John’s help, turned Keyhole into what is now ‘Google Earth.

Pokemon GO

That’s when John decided to focus on creating GPS-based games. John ran the Google Geo team from 2004 to 2010, creating Google Maps and Google Street View. During this time, he collected the team that would later create Pokemon Go. In 2010, John launched Niantic Labs as a start-up funded by Google to create a game layer on maps.

In 2012, John then created Niantic’s first geo-based MMO, “ingress” and in 2014, Google and the Pokemon Company teamed up for an April Fools’ Day joke, which allowed viewers to find Pokemon creatures on Google maps. It was a viral hit and got John thinking the idea could be turned into a real game.

John decided to build Pokemon Go on the user-generated meeting points created by players of Ingress, and the most popular became the Pokestops and gyms in Pokemon Go. John raised $25 million from Google, Nintendo, the Pokemon Company and other investors from Dec 2015 to Feb 2016 to grow a team of 40+ to launch Pokemon Go in 2016. John and his team launched Pokemon Go on July 6th in USA, Australia, and New Zealand. Since its launch, the app has generated over 1 billion dollars from in-app purchases.

 

How to validate your startup idea

It started as an April fools joke, yet it turned out to be a great method to validate the product. People went crazy for it and they wanted it to be true. That was the right moment for John Hanke to push the product forward.

The lessons learned from this process are certain stages that an entrepreneur passes, including idea, connections, hard work and prototyping to validate. This means that you get to know what others say and understand that if you’re the only one who truly thinks your idea is good, then it’s time to reiterate and go through the process again.

A great tool to use for validation is the free Validation Board from Lean Startup Machine, which helps you test your startup idea without wasting time or money and make faster decisions, improve team accountability and build better products.

 

Prototyping

The prototype, also known as the MVP or Minimum Viable Product, helps you understand how customers behave around your product. The goal of it is to prove that your concept works, in the easiest, quickest and most affordable way possible.

As a startup, you know that getting your product to market fast is key, and your prototype is the shell that makes the first step towards full functionality. If it’s a hardware product, check your competition for insights to save time and money, while if it’s an app or web app try using something like invision, freelancers or similar tools for prototyping.

Don’t put too much energy into it. Make it as simple as possible because you’ll iterate and this will help you understand your customers better and make it easier to explain your product to people. If needed, reiterate again.

 

Hypothesis

When you have the idea and the prototype you can move towards forming a hypothesis for customer problems and solution, which takes you more towards the the path of how to validate your startup idea. The hypothesis should sound something like: How will your idea specifically solve the problem you identified?

A rule of thumb is to determine what 20% of features will satisfy the other remaining percent of customers. Such a minimum feature set will form the basis for part of the Delivery phase. On the other hand, the solution hypothesis includes details around Product Features, Product Benefits, Intellectual Property, Product Delivery, and Schedule.

When you form a list of 40-70 potential target customers (using mailchimp or something else to collect emails) that somewhat fit your customer brief, you have to find out ways to reach out your customers and spread awareness through the most effective channels. The ones you target, must be willing and be able to be your customers. If they’re unaware then your launch might not be successful and you end up with having a great solution for a big problem, but without no deal to complete.

These people also define your target market, because they’re affected by the problem you’re trying to solve and they can quickly become paying customers. When you reach out 1:1, trying to ask questions that go beyond a yes and a no.

 

Analyzing

After you go through this process, you gather the data, document the results and analyze the necessary information on how to validate your startup idea. This means that whatever assumptions you might have had, you get the chance to iterate and make your prototype better until you’re ready to go full scale.

On the other hand, you can also end up like Dropbox, handcraft a demo (without actual working, releasable software); post it; orient the messaging to the early market; promote it and see what happens. They got substantial traffic on the video and sign-ups for product information, which meant excellent pre-release validation. That’s one great way on how to validate your startup idea.

If you have any comments on this, we’d love to hear them below.