Ideas and Validation June 29, 2020

Are you finding it hard to *validate* your idea?

Neil Cocker @NeilC

We're a couple of serial-founders (and IH lurkers!) who have recently been discussing validation and:

a) How hard it is.
b) How poor most of us are at it.

We're thinking that there must be a better way to help us, and fellow entrepreneurs, solve this.

We'd LOVE your thoughts via this multiple choice survey - https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdSwINF3uDxeD2fx0Y5sWaX9esyrG39HzCzeXSPMcwMRo5wnw/viewform?usp=sf_link

It takes about 2 mins to complete.

If you consider that most entrepreneurs "succeed" on their 4th, 5th, 6th etc go around, then it makes sense to shorten that cycle as much as possible so that you succeed sooner! And validation is often the one thing that gets left behind, and can leave us floundering in the dark for months or years. Meaning we aren't starting on the next great idea!

Anyway, we'd love your thoughts and feedback because we're super passionate about perhaps finding a way to help early-stage founders validate more quickly, more effectively, and with smaller resources.

p.s. Feel free to add anything in the comments below that doesn't fit into the survey, as it's mostly multiple choice.

  1. 3

    Hey, to add to the survey...I've built dozens of projects. The challenge is always figuring out early enough, with the least resources if they are valuable. When I skipped the steps I ended up regretting it.

    1. 1

      This is so true.

      Sad story: I didn't get to do the idea I was pumped about
      Sadder story: I did the idea I was pumped about and wasted heaps of time and money because no-one else was pumped about it.

      1. 1

        Thanks gents. Sounds like it's a real problem - what stopped you finding a way to resolve it sooner?

        Also, I hope you filled out the survey...? ;-)

  2. 1

    Happy to add a data point to your survey!

    what I have found in my first go at developing a product is that the validation of an idea consists of multiple phases, whether that's validating the concept with someone in the field you are building the service for, validating the business model with a VC who has seen businesses like yours, or validating the tech with a mentor or another technical founder who is capable of tying links between the system you are building and the anticipated needs of your business.

    the product I am currently trying to develop has to do with introducing young investors to the risk of speculative trading, and to validate the idea I've gotten in touch with a research-first and research-heavy young investor to discuss the due diligence process with, and a VC to discuss the monetization/legal process of my idea.

    1. 2

      Great, thanks!

      Can I ask what you think those multiple phases are? Are they the same each time?

      1. 1

        the three phases of validation that I usually do can be. divided into perspectives:

        1. business: can the product be monetized
        2. demand: is there a market for the product (what's the problem, how do you
          fix it)
        3. legal: can you build the product without any legal issues

        those three questions usually help me identify whether my idea is a valid one or just another shower thought. After that you get to building and the passion takes it from there I suppose!

        1. 1

          This is great that you have a structured process. Do you use any specific tools or methodologies? Or just pen, paper, and instinct?! :-)

          1. 1

            I try to have a methodology of making the conversation all about them so that I can write down any pain points they mention. But every now and then my inner introvert comes back out and I just go with the flow! :)

            1. 2

              Thanks - really useful insight!

  3. 1

    What if the problem is that idea validation itself is fundamentally not an effective approach?

    That "infinite loop" you can get stuck in isn't a mistake, it's designed into the process which makes the process flawed to begin with!

    https://stackingthebricks.com/validation-is-backwards/

    1. 1

      It's an interesting angle, although i'd be tempted to suggest that ethnography is a method of validation itself.

      Validation is a process of improvement (to get closer to product market fit) that can be taken once, or on a repeating basis.

      Ethnography, or what they're suggesting, is just another form of validation. Also, they're selling something, which makes me less inclined to take them seriously! ;-)

      Genuinely, though - I'm interested to hear your thoughts on this, and if you think i'm misinterpreting the article.

      1. 1

        I'm the "they" who wrote the article so you can take me as seriously as you like! It's good to be skeptical 😉

        Ethnography is distilling answers about the market's wants and needs from observations. Good research is also iterative, yes, but it's not "guess and check" iterative because your conclusions come from data instead of your imagination.

        Good ethnographic research stems from observing what people already do and how they communicate their pains when you aren't trying to get them to match a pre-existing condition or idea, and then creating work based on those observations. The iteration can come in the form of how much work you put into that work before releasing it (e.g. we typically recommend people ship MUCH tinier things based on their Sales Safari research, or even better, using Safari to drive early marketing efforts on things like articles, podcasts, reference sheets, micro-tools, etc ).

        This puts the actual iteration in the right stage: putting out more things that you know match a pain/problem that exists, rather than trying to pluck those iterations out of thin air and hoping one sticks.

        In my experience - based on my own businesses and the thousands of students we've taught - creative people apply their creativity at the wrong part of the process. Reliably figuring out what to make that people will buy isn't a generative process, it's a deductive process.

        When you start with a product you know the market wants, you get to skip that whole painful loop and apply your creativity where it really matters: helping people!

        1. 1

          Hahah, no offence meant. :-)

          I suppose maybe then we have different definitions of validation, as for me i don't agree that it should be guess and check either. It should be as data based as possible, and the risk mitigation comes through asking the right questions of your customers. I think any customer question that's asked within the framework of an existing proposed solution is bound to provide flawed feedback.

          I think we're actually agreeing, but are using different words for it. Validation, by definition, is seeking truth. And getting to that point will be quicker via data than via guessing.

          My main issue is that many people don't tend to do it at all, and rely on their instincts that they have a GOOD IDEA... ;-)

          1. 1

            I think any customer question that's asked within the framework of an existing proposed solution is bound to provide flawed feedback.

            We definitely agree here!