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9 Ways to Validate Your Startup Idea

A while back, @karthik_2206 shared this mind map graphic of lessons from having bootstrapped Flexiple to $2 million in revenues. I've been referring back to it a bit, so I figured I'd write it up in post form to make it more readable for fellow IndieHackers!


1. Just start small

Note

  • Remember that you are in this to build a business NOT a product
  • So, focus on what is the path of least friction to getting you customers. You can always build a product later to scale.

Case Study

  • Not every idea needs to start with a product. This is what we painfully realized at Flexiple
  • After spending tens of thousands on a complex product, we generated our first $100k through GoogleSheets.

2. Google Ads

Why

While SEO allows you to gauge the volume of searches, Google Ads enables you to get those users to your website instantly!
So, as early as possible, drive actual potential customers to your website and see if they would be interested in your offering.

Case Study

  • Foti of GrowthMentorHQ set up a simple marketing page targeting a few keywords.
  • Each click cost him $2 at an 18% conversion rate - overall, of 250 clicks about ~45 filled his form!
  • He now had actual interest that he could further build on!

3. White-label

Process

  • This involves buying a white-label product right off the shelf and just marketing it
  • Sure, the product might not be of top quality, but allows you to focus entirety on understanding the market rather than product building

Case Study

  • Dave of Hubstaff bought a white-label product and started directing traffic to it
  • He was able to Get REAL customers for the product AND understand what problems they had with the product

4. Relevant social channel

Process

  • Pick one that are frequented by your target customers and suit the content you will share
  • You can then learn what to build from your "audience" and get them as your first customers

vs. Newsletters

  • Even lesser tools required to kick off
  • Greater network effect
  • Content frequency can be much higher

5. Start a newsletter

Why

  • Helps you to showcase your expertise
  • Allows you to get subscribers whom you can later sell to
  • You can learn what to build in the process

Case Study

  • A newsletter can be started quickly & cheaply with little infrastructure
  • Ryan Hoover started Product Hunt as a side-hustle using a simple newsletter
  • It then gained a lot of interest while also giving him a clear direction to build PH

6. "The Dropbox way"

Story

  • Dropbox, a $10bn company, started as a simple video to depict the concept that Drew had for it
  • No complex product - beta or otherwise.
  • At the bottom, he added a form to join the waiting list. He shared on HN and it grew to 75k overnight!

Lesson

  • Don't assume you need a complex product to establish whether people would want it or not.
  • Even a simple video can be an "MVP". Sure, you won't get such instant success every time. But, you could get some momentum to build on top of!

7. Competitors & their forms

Why

  • It is VERY likely that your startup idea already has competitors. Don't worry, it is good news.
  • The presence of competitors confirms the existence of customers and gives you wealth of information to learn from.

Process

  • Their website and copy tells you what they think customers want
  • Read any of their interviews to understand their view of the market
  • On support forums, observe what the customers are appreciating and also unhappy about. Unhappy customers could be your first customers.

8. Relevant forums

Why

  • To get a good understanding of your market, you need to be around your customers and just LISTEN to them
  • If people have problems, they talk to others who might be facing that problem too. This is where online communities and forums can be super useful

Process

  • Say, your target customers are developers, try to find different places developers hangout, such as HackerNews, Subreddits, Dev.to, etc.
  • Browse through and see which problem(s) they are consistently unhappy about
  • Check the top performing posts and observe what excites them the most.

9. SEO

Why

  • When anyone wants something, they "Google" it. So, the problem your idea is trying to solve should also be visible on Google.
  • People might not always search exactly for your startup offering. So, think from the perspective of the problem and NOT your solution

Process

  • List the search phrases potential customers could search on Google to find your startup
  • Use a keyword research tool to find their monthly volume
  • A good monthly volume shows people do look for solutions to the problem you're trying to solve

What did you think about this list? Was it helpful?

I'm always looking for resources to share with fellow makers, founders, and hackers. If you want more, feel free to follow me over on Twitter: @JamieHoward

  1. 2

    Great summary, thanks for sharing!

    1. 1

      Glad to do it! I bookmark a lot on Twitter, but anytime I keep coming back to something, I know it will be useful for others too.

  2. 1

    Great summary there Jamie!

    I've got my 3 favorite case studies here if you are interested:

    1. Justin Mares validated his business of selling Bone Broths with just a landing page with a checkout process + some ads

    2. Samuel Briskar validated his SaaS business through a video of how the product would work by using Sketch and Screen Recordings

    3. Kevin Conti of the Software Ideas Newsletter validated and got paid customers within 2 weeks just by giving away his product away for free and engaging with his subscribers.

    If you are looking for more case studies of other growth strategies, please check out GrowthHunt.co where I curate and summarised the strategies shared by other founders.

    Cheers!

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