Validating the viability of your product
November 11, 2023
There are two types of creators, those that go all in on one product, and those that are constantly churning out products one after another.
Those who choose to put all their eggs in one basket do so because they believe the more time and energy they invest, the more likely it is to succeed and the bigger they can grow it. On the flip side, there are those who understand there are many variables determining success with a project. They feel the more attempts they make, the more chances they have for variables outside of their control to favor them.
In either approach, the more we can validate the viability of our product early on, the less time we waste and the higher our chances of success.
Most people tend to start by attempting to validate their //idea//.
However, more often than not, that's the wrong approach. It's usually not necessary to validate your idea first, but other aspects of your business’ viability should be validated before you start work on the product itself. I'll discuss all of this below.
Our goal as founders is to avoid building products that don’t go anywhere and end up in the app graveyard.
Creators and founders can have a tendency to think that the idea is the only thing that needs to be validated, when in fact, ideas on their own have no value, and are the easiest part of the process to validate. They then skip directly to the building phase, only to discover that they've saved the hard part for last, which is where they realize the reason their business idea isn't a viable one.
Only after this, they realize the multitude of reasons why they need to abandon the project. This is what we want to avoid.
> Startup ideas are not million dollar ideas, and here's an experiment you can try to prove it: just try to sell one. Nothing evolves faster than markets. The fact that there's no market for startup ideas suggests there's no demand. Which means, in the narrow sense of the word, that startup ideas are worthless. -Paul Graham
Validating your idea
Here's a simple way to determine your idea's viability:
Do you have any competitors that have existing customers?
Are there other products out there that solve the same problem that your idea would solve?
If so, and you are confident that they have a fair amount of paying customers, then your idea is validated.
If you're considering making an email service provider, there's no point in trying to validate your idea. There's clearly a need, as there are many existing, thriving email service provider businesses.
On the other hand, are you trying to create a new market? Are you creating a solution for a pain that you have proven that people actually have? Or a pain that isn't actually that bad?
Are you attempting to solve something that has never been solved before, or in a dramatically different way?
If so, it is worth validating the idea itself. And by this, what we really mean is, are we solving a problem that people actually have, and that is bad enough for them to pay for a solution.
However, for most of us bootstrapped founders, we aren't generally trying to make a new market, we're solving a known problem in our own way, and can therefore bypass this step.
Validating your market is reachable
After we've determined if we need to validate the idea, or pain we can either tackle that, or skip that step altogether.
The next critical piece is ensuring we’re able to reach our target audience - that is - how accessible they are //to us//.
There's an emphasis on //to us//, because just because someone else what able to create a business for this market doesn't mean we can assume the same will be the case for us.
We're wading into a territory where some people have unfair advantages over others. The types of people you have access to is likely different from me.
For example, I can easily get in front of a lot of early-stage, and aspiring bootstrapped founders, because that's the world I'm in and that's who my friends are.
I'd likely have a very difficult time effectively getting in front of hedge fund managers, but that would be easy for some.
On the other hand, most of us can probably find a way to get in front of real estate agents.
So, just because somebody else found a way to capture a particular audience doesn't mean we can safely make the assumption that we can do the same.
Validating your solution
Now comes the moment we've all been waiting for.
Our idea has been validated.
We've ensured we can get in front of our target audience and we've honed our messaging to capture their attention.
Our final step is to deliver a solution that solves our promise, that addresses the pain we spoke to. The more we know our customers' pains, the better we'll be able to solve the problem.
It's still a process of iteration, but if we’ve gotten this far, we undoubtedly have gotten the most difficult parts out of the way, and if we talk to and listen to our customers, we’ll be able to iterate our way to a valuable business.
We can now see that many entrepreneurs and bootstrappers approach this series of validation steps backward.
They do so in a way that risks investing a lot of time into product development, only to find out later it was all for nothing.
We can now see that by front-loading the work of uncovering all the potential roadblocks, we can avoid wasting valuable resources before realizing our business is not viable.