“We have a really good idea about developing a new web product.”
Usually, this is what we actually think, but in the sentence there is a huge mistake: “a really good idea”. No. It’s not necessarily a good idea! I read countless forums, articles, stories about failure in startups. Too many! But the most of them have a similar basic structure: a brilliant idea, a great product, a cutting-edge technology, an experienced team. And yet they fail. How is it possible?
I assume for sure that those startups actually have a forefront technology and a skilled team. The hardest part is connecting the “brilliant idea” with the “great product” in a logical way.
Normally in startups we get excited quite quickly: “new product? Yess! Let’s do it! Let’s invest all our money, time and effort…we believe it will be a success!”
Due to their trust in a technology’s, product’s or service’s superiority, many startups fail to spend enough time exploring alternative business models.
The aim is to find the best and more scalable technology and product, therefore also startup’s ideas should have a referring business model! Seems to be something theoretical and difficult, boring and useless.
Normally it could be but, believe me, for startups it’s not! (PS: actually, we’re not a startup anymore, but still our small and dynamic business well relates to many startup business models :))
An innovative idea usually leads to a product, very far from being a “great” product. This could probably end with being new, innovative, and potentially a success. The key word here is “potentially”. How to be sure that we can get rid of that adverb?
Well, we’ll obviously never be sure, but we can still try to do things in a more conscious way JUST ASKING! It’s so simple…
Ask your consumers what they think about that new product: would they use it? Would they pay for it? What’s wrong with it? Could it be improved? Etc… But be careful: questions have to be well structured! Never ask “would you use it?”. That’s an hypothetical question, it makes no statistic sense. (I’ll explain better how to create a good questionnaire in the next blog post :))
Seems simple, but it’s not. Very often startups don’t even know who exactly their users are. Identifying the customer should be the “step 1”, before everything else. And, we know, sometimes it’s not simple at all. How is it possible not to know at least which is your consumer?
Well, take Uxebu as an example: in our company, we (actually, they) are great web development consultants. We were thinking about launching a new product/service on the market, a very technical product, intended for expert programmers. Basically, a niche product. At the beginning, the “expert programmers” were our target clients. But it is perhaps too generic? Of course it is! Which exactely are our customers? What jobs are they really trying to get done? Are there enough potential customers to let our business grow? Do they have buying power? How can we reach them?
Defining all this is the first step to define the specific market in which you are going to operate. The most obvious advice is: sit down and brainstorm. Who could take advantage of our products? Computer Science students? Yes. Of every country in the world? Yes. And Professors? Yes. CTOs? Of course. And so forth, until you have a complete list of ALL of those that could be potential clients. The more specific the better!
…And now what?
And now start with your business model! Before even thinking of preparing a questionnaire for our customers, we structured our own Validation Board, one of the core tools for startups who want to innovate. It’s quick, simple and effective, and it also opens up your mind, helping to think constructively. Interested? In the next blog post we’ll explain you how we are using it: in our case it is turning out to be absolutely crucial! In the meanwhile, have a look at these slides, relating to a short talk I gave during the Lean Startup meetup in Munich