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84 Comments

How to validate an idea?

Hi all - I have an idea/hypothesis for a problem currently faced by SMBs in taking and managing their business online. I would like to validate my idea before building a product to ensure that there is a market for the product.

How can I validate my idea/hypothesis and find my early adopters?
Any help would be appreciated

Cheers

  1. 35

    Talk to these people. Read "the mom test"

    1. 6

      Couldn't agree more. That book was a game-changer for me.

    2. 2

      #NotAllMoms ¯\(ツ)

    3. 1

      Read "Mom test", then talk to people :)

    4. 1

      NIce, I'll check that out

    5. 1

      Can you please tell me any distribution channel through which I can reach out my target audience?

      My target audience are brick and mortar stores, small business owners, homepreneurs, entrepreneurs who are looking to start a small business or are trying to scale their small business.

      Any advice would be helpful

      1. 6

        Reach out to where they hang out, if it's local, walk in to those stores and talk to the owners

        If it's online, try Google maps, get their emails and start talking

        If it's communities, try reddit, forums, facebook groups etc.

        1. 1

          This comment was deleted 2 months ago.

    6. 1

      I have heard about that book. Many have said that it is the best. WIll check it out for sure.

    7. 1

      That book is the beast

    8. 1

      Best advice. To the point.

  2. 12

    Hi Vivek! Jose here!

    I help valdiate my customers in my validators community and with my validation product StartupBuilder.mba, so I hope this quick tips can help you!

    I recommend to validate your idea in 5 steps or "factors". Very quickly:

    1. Validate the market. Have a look at google trends, forums, competition, is already market for the idea?
    2. Valdiate the problem (talk with customers, understand pains, outcomes and what they want to achieve). What is not solved and the audience will be willing to pay to solve it? Mom test is a great book.
    3. Validate value proposition. Build it focusing on the outcomes your solution brings and how it is different from other solutions. Test it with a landing page. Share screenshots in communities where your audience is (find your audience with sparktoro.com + syften.com tools) and ask if somebody will be willing to try.
    4. Validate channels. Find where your audience is with the help of sparktoro.com + syften. Validate that there migh be demand asking for beta testers through those channels and talking with industry leads to know if they might be interested in share/promote your idea.
    5. Valdiate the willingness to pay. Ask for money as soon as possible in your landing page.

    Have a look to this post I published on how I valdiated my idea validation product: https://www.indiehackers.com/post/validating-a-product-in-2-weeks-my-checklist-800-in-pre-orders-789ba20392

    I hope it helps!!! Let me know if something is not clrear ;)

    good luck!

    1. 3

      Thanks Jose.

      Very helpful and much appreciated. Will definitely use the above tips

      Cheers

      1. 2

        You're welcome! I'm glad to help! Follow me on twitter for more validation content @josberco ;)

    2. 2

      very helpful! thanks a lot!

      1. 1

        Thank you! I'm glad you've found it useful!

    3. 2

      Thanks Jose, what a great summary!

      1. 1

        Thanks @gyurisc! I'm glad you found it useful :)

  3. 8

    The only way to validate an idea is by speaking with potential customers. Even if you don’t do that and jump into building something, at some point, you will have to speak to lots of potential customers. So you may as well speak to lots of potential customers as soon as possible.

    There are many ways to do that but a relatively straightforward way is to create a customer persona. Narrow down to a particular type of customer. SMB is way to wide. Narrow down to who the buyer in the company is. Then email 100 of these people with an email that isn’t trying to sell them anything. But instead, trying to understand the problem better.

    When someone replies, engage them in a real conversation. Respect their time.

    After while, if you’re open to learning from them. You will know more about the problems they face, how they currently solve them, and if they really care about solving them.

    1. 1

      That's insightful.

      I have created a customer persona of the target market, but I am confused about how to get their email info.

      How can I get the email of those people. Would a landing page do good here? Or are there anything more?
      Is there anyother I could reach my target customers?

      1. 3

        Find the company. Find the people who work at the company with LinkedIn. Then use Hunter.io to get their emails. You won’t always get lucky. But you’ll find a whole bunch of people if you try. Also. Use something like HubSpot to email them. It will show if they opened the email. If you’re not getting replies. Then change what you’re saying. It takes time and effort but if you write good emails, then people will reply. Also set reminders to follow up. People often don’t reply till you follow up a couple of times.

        1. 1

          That sounds good. But I am afraid that my target customers dont have LinkedIn profile.

          Let me explain my case. My customer persona is something like a brick and mortar store or business which has annual revenue from 10L-50L, whose owner is very eager to expand his business online and create his identity. But he is not much of a fan to already existing ecommerce platforms, (Amazon, Flipkart) due to some reasons (not to be discussed in public). So he wants a product to take his business online and manage it seamlessly to build, market and grow.

          I know a couple of businesses in my community who are looking for such product. But I need some more target audience to validate my idea.

          1. 3

            Then go speak to them. And if you’re focused on small retail stores. Google maps has heaps of contact info.

              1. 4

                I am currently working on validation for a project as well, and this is what we are doing talk to potential users and customers. At first we were a bit worried that no-one will want to talk to us but, you will be surprise. If people are interested on what you are going to offer they will listen. I encourage you to do it, it really helps.

  4. 5

    I've actually prepared an entire repository around this topic: https://airtable.com/shrN6vGlIqWmI7Fcg

    PS - 'The Mom Test' is a fantastic book and is included in the list.

  5. 4

    Here's a classic article from @csallen https://www.indiehackers.com/post/how-to-brainstorm-great-business-ideas-ab51c3d51c

    But as other posters say, the very best way is to ask potential customers to give feedback (not if they want to buy or ask them to buy).

  6. 3

    When working on an idea for a new business or startup, most entrepreneurs ask themselves: "Is this idea good enough? Is it worth pursuing?" But how do you know if the product/service is going to be a good one?

    How to decide whether your business idea has a potential for success, or is it just an "excuse" (i.e., some kind of motive you have that makes you want to start the business) that will eventually lead nowhere?

    First of all, if you think about any startup inspired by ideas that are either very simple or are somehow connected with one's personal experience, you should be careful. A successful startup is a result of a lot of hard work and serious commitment.

    The second thing you need to be aware of is that most great startups are inspired by some pain felt on the market (or at least perceived). If your idea is niche-oriented or is somehow connected with solving some kind of problem, you're on the right track.

    A truly great startup should aim to solve a big and important problem, not only for yourself but for the whole society as well.

    A typical mistake made by entrepreneurs before they start their business is that they are too focused on making money. Hence, it's important to ask yourself the question "Is this idea really useful?" If it is, then you might be on your way to creating a great startup.

    But how do I know beforehand that my idea will also appeal to other people? Won't they think I'm crazy? Many entrepreneurs wonder about the perception of their ideas by other people, and even if their idea is good enough for them to pursue, they lack the self-confidence that would lead other people to believe in them as well.

    They're also not sure about the concept of "great opportunities" and whether it even exists in real life or this is just another myth.

    In many cases, great startup ideas are hard to describe in a way that would make other people understand the need for them. This is not easy, but don't get discouraged!

    In order to prove that your idea (i.e., business) is worth pursuing, you need to be able to describe it in simple terms and also bring some kind of proof that would most probably convince other people.

    If you're really confident about your idea, ask for feedback from your friends and family members. It's better to know whether this is going to work or not while you are still in the early stages of developing your startup.

    However, don't expect everyone around you to be honest when it comes to criticizing your idea: some people will try to protect you from possible disappointment, while others will probably just laugh at you.

    There are also some investors who might be interested in your idea and would be ready to offer their help with investment, but they too have no guarantees.

    The most important thing is that your product or service should be valuable for other people – if it's not, then it's going to be almost impossible for you to succeed.

    So, before deciding whether your idea is good or not, give it a try by creating a prototype.

    The best and fastest way to test the feasibility of an idea is usually its implementation in practice. If possible, this should be done as soon as possible (ideally before you start to spend money on the development phase).

    It doesn't matter if your product is not ready for beta-stage yet and it's far from being perfect or finished. What matters, in fact, is that you have a prototype (even just a simple one) and that it allows other people to put their hands on it!

    This will give you an opportunity to get useful feedback from your target audience. You will be able to see how eager people are about the product or service, and whether they are willing to pay for it.

    Of course, there are some pitfalls with this approach as well: first of all, if your prototype is not attractive enough (or even clearly useless), you will be heavily discouraged.

    Try to avoid starting a business that is not for the "general good." It's better to work on projects that are morally clean and have no negative social consequences.

    Unless you're working with an existing and well-established brand, it's best if your product doesn't cause any harm to people, animals, or the environment. This is a good rule to follow for creating a successful business.

    One thing you should never forget while developing your startup idea is that it's not the only one in the world, and there are many similar ones.

    So if someone did come up with an idea identical to yours before (and there is always a chance of this), they most probably failed, so think about what went wrong with their project.

    It's important to realize that society is not changing too rapidly, so any idea which relies on a technological disruption of some kind (e.g., Bitcoin) will take its time to develop, and thus needs at least five years before it can become profitable.

    The best startups usually develop ideas and products which the market really needs, but it's hard to predict what is going to be successful in the future.

    Thus, you need to find out if people will really want this project or not before even starting developing it (you can do this by asking for their opinion, talking with potential customers, and so on).

    As already mentioned, the best and fastest way to test whether your idea is viable or not is to try it on actual people. This will save you a lot of time and money in the future if you are about to start developing it.

    There are many ways how you can do this: for example, create an online survey (by using free/popular SurveyMonkey platform, for example), send out mailings (using platforms like MailChimp), or even create a landing page and test it on the Internet.

    Then gather feedback from customers to see if your idea is worth working on. One of the best ways to do this is to pass an interview with people who might be interested in your project.

    If you are about to create a new product, try to ask questions like: What would you consider as the coolest (or most useful) features? What makes this product better than similar ones? Is this feature missing in other products of the same kind?

    Startup owners often forget that the main goal of business is to satisfy customers. It's better to ask other people what they like about your product and what could be improved.

    It's not a bad idea to hold several interviews with different people in order to get a more objective view of your project. Look for the real fans of your product, so you will learn how strongly they believe that this is going to be successful and if they are ready to pay for it.

    You should also think about the future of your project and how you can make it profitable without spending too much time or money on making a product perfect from the beginning (in this case, good enough is just fine).

    Another mistake that startup owners make is that they try to appeal to everyone. And what happens then is that your product will be too complicated and will have a limited audience.

    Try to focus on the people who really need your product, so you can avoid creating a complicated system that won't offer any real benefit for customers.

    The best startup ideas are those which solve the problems of many people at once.

    This definitely increases the chances of success.

    If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in the comment section below. I'll get back to you as soon as possible.

    Suggested Reading: Once you've established a startup, you will need to learn how to promote it using digital marketing channels. Please do check out some of my articles that will guide you through the process. https://aliliaquat.com

    Good luck!

  7. 2

    If I were you, I'd first find out if there's such a product in the market. If one or more exists, I'd then find out how long have they been in the business.

    If I could find such product in the market, and they have been in business for quite some time, I'd probably skip this validation step. To me, it's already an indication that there are businesses that use the product, and they're willing to pay for it.

    But this does not mean you do not talk to potential customers at all. You should start your work by talking to potential customers, and you should rigorously keep doing that. Respectfully ask for their time to share what they're struggling with. If they're open to that, end your session by asking if they're keen to hear from you if you've build something that could help them.

    Skipping validation step is exactly what I do with my product, and it saves me energy and effort. Instead, I could focus on building the product right away.

    1. 1

      Thats nice @sensen. Here are my thoughts. You can skip validation if already a product exists in this market, but we can get some really loyal early adopters during the validation part. It could also get some customers from the target niche who would bring in more customers from their community. Correct me if wrong

      1. 1

        Absolutely. I'm all in with you. One should start the work by talking to potential customers.

  8. 2

    Build a landing page, run some ads, see what the reaction is and who/how many sign up.
    You can do this through this tool I built as well: https://iwanttobuildthis.com/

    1. 1

      Hey mate! Your tool could be a nice fit for my list Bootstrap Toolkit. Do you mind if I add it?

  9. 2

    Is there a universe where you can outsource idea validation? I’m sure we all face this issue of having too many business ideas. It’d be nice to submit them to something that can give some level of validation to them and spit back out a report of the ones you should give more attention to. An initial sniff test - if you will.

    1. 1

      I believe there are such services. I've seen several people post here on IH saying they have an idea validation platform. I don't recall who they are though.

      Might be worth a search here on IH to see what pops-up.

    2. 1

      To my knowledge, a sniff test is a set of questions that reveal info about the TAM, current competitors, customer acqusition strategy etc. Am I right?

      Some more info from your side would be helpful.

  10. 1

    Hey Vivek,

    Great question!

    Unfortunately, "read 'the mom test" is probably the best response you could receive in this area as conducting proper Customer Discovery has been overlooked for too long.

    Customer Discovery is the first core step in building a startup which puts the user's needs at the forefront of the founder/founding team.

    There are 4 main steps to doing this properly:

    1. Identify the key risks you are trying to validate - for this stage specifically they are Customer Segments - who are your target audience?
      Problem - what are their biggest problems?
      [It's important to remember at this early stage that these are ASSUMPTIONS]
    2. Plan an experiment to validate your risk - for this stage specifically I'd strongly recommend problem-interviews. Although Rob Fitzpatrick, author of the mom test doesn't like referring to them as interviews, the principle has always been the same - collect deep, insightful qualitative data from potential customers.
    3. Run interviews and store the key insights - I'd recommend doing at least 10, or at least until you see strong patterns with their pain points.
    4. Analyse your results - What was the result of the interviews? What pains did they note? Which customer segment best fits a description of your 'early adopter'?

    The Outputs:
    If done correctly at the end of this 'Problem Validation' stage you will:

    • Identify your early adopter
    • Update your problem statement
    • Create an early adopter persona

    At BizNest - I am building a market validation particularly for innovative projects. The platform enables founders to validate the market-need for their product by conducting experiments with real customers.

    We are launching our Beta product in late October and if you'd like to give it a whirl (for free) then check it out here:

    https://www.biznest.io/

  11. 1

    Go to LinkedIn, Facebook or Reddit, search for groups with these types of people, and either attempt to connect to them, message them or comment on their post (about the solution they are looking for).

  12. 1

    Hey Vivek- often ask myself the same question.

    A few ideas...

    Reach out to your target persona on LI, share that you're conducting research for your hypothesis, offer them a $5 Starbucks gift card for their time
    Read competitor reviews on capterra, g2

  13. 1

    Talking to your customers is a great way to get some early insights. On the down-side, you just get weak evidence from what people say. Letting people do something provides you with stronger evidence.

    Find some good experiments and sequence them to get strong evidence for your hypothesis. A good resource for experiments and how to run and sequence them is "Testing Business Ideas" by David Bland. Check it out here: https://www.strategyzer.com/books/testing-business-ideas-david-j-bland.

    This one is also a good resource: https://www.precoil.com/

  14. 1

    Hey, we just launched an Idea Validation Bootcamp!
    1-week fast paced cohort based bootcamp to validate your idea and:

    • Understand your customers
    • Estimate demand
    • Find real customers

    Check it out: curiorevelio.com/idea-validation-bootcamp

    Next cohort starts 17th July!

    Special Launch offer applicable for this cohort only!

  15. 1

    I like the idea of the "mom test" as well but maybe discuss with your close friends (unrelated to the idea) and talk with your potential customers. You have to understand if this is really an idea worth exploring.

    Often times you can do this with PowerPoint presentations, mockups, and things that do not require an initial investment.

  16. 1

    Hi Vivek, it's super hard. If your idea is valid, you will know.

  17. 1

    Hi Vivek, I started my own little stack of experiments to help validate ideas. Maybe it can help? https://www.teststacks.com

  18. 1

    We validate ideas as a productized service over at https://validation.run/

    Here's our methodology in a nutshell:

    • keyword research to get an idea of search volume around your topic
    • get clear on positioning so you know who you're addressing and why
    • setup a landing page with the positioning and a simple opt-in form
    • setup an ad campaign to drive traffic (real people, looking for your solution) to landing page
    • compare engagement metrics to benchmarks to derive a measure of demand

    We use ads to accelerate the process, making use of search and PPC metrics. Also if it's a great idea you'll get your first leads in the process.

    The general validation process in a nutshell:

    • find examples of your ideal customer profile and speak to them
    • focus on the problems they're having, ask open ended questions, let them do the talking, listen
    • show them mockups of your idea
    • once you have a critical mass of people wanting more info you know you're on the right path

    Continuing on to build phase:

    • build an MVP to address their stated concerns
    • get early adopters one-by-one, build a relationship with them, empower them to help with feedback
    • focus on one main acquisition channel, using the insights you gain from your early adopters
    • once you figure out the lever you can scale
  19. 1

    If you want to save your money in the future and minimize losses you need to pass discovery and build the MVP of your future product. It helps you to test market demand and make your idea bulletproof. I attach the link for more information concerning the MVP stage https://linkupst.com/blog/what-is-the-discovery-phase-and-why-is-it-necessary

  20. 1

    How to start from idea to product ("The Mom Test")

    Questions to ask a potential user:

    • What is the hardest part about doing the thing that you're trying to solve?
Ex.: What is the hardest part about working on a group project with school computers?
    • Tell me about the last time that you encountered this problem.
    • Why was this hard?
    • What, if anything, have you done to try to solve this problem?
    • What don't you love about the solutions that you've already tried?

    Idea Stage:

    Find first users with problem

    • Friends, coworkers, intros
    • Drop by in person
    • Industry events

    Tips

    • Take notes
    • keep it casual
    • careful with their time

    Prototype stage:

    Find numerical answers

    • How much does this problem cost them?
    • How frequent is the problem?
    • How large is their budget?

    Product market fit:
    How would you feel if you could no longer use our product?
    A) Very disappointed
    B) Somewhat disappointed
    C) Not disappointed

    Product market fit achieved if “A)” > 40%

    Launched Stage

    Tips:

    • Ask for phone # during sign up (get real user feedback)
    • don’t design by committee (ask users to buy before building features)
    • discard bad data from users (hypothesis, complements, …)

    PS: just posted here https://www.linkedin.com/posts/gfarianunes_pitch-mentoring-startups-activity-6780444254025117696-AFvj

  21. 1

    I admire people who comment here with one-liners. I think, that the matter is far more complex and it's impossible to advise you, before talking more about you, your idea, budget, skills, talents, etc. I work in a software house and we deal with this kind of challenge, to advise future app owners on their idea potential all the time.

    We've even launched a dedicated service, that aims exactly on that: verify your app idea, before investing anything in the development part. As the result, you receive about 100 pages of long documentation with comprehensive market research, competitor analysis, technical documentation, initial wireframes, and advice, what functionalities are essential to your idea success and which are not. Then you can decide on your own - do I want to change that idea into reality, or not? No strings attached, the decision is entirely yours.

    If anyone wants to know more about this Consulting Service, you can download an entirely FREE Ebook with the documentation examples here

    If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn Cheers!

  22. 1

    If you haven't built a landing page yet I feel very strongly that doing so is a waste of time. I've built a site that let's you put up a simple page with email sign up form in minutes for free, I believe it's more than enough while you try to validate your idea: LandingPing.com.

  23. 1

    I would strongly recommend conducting user interviews - it’s what’s suggested in The Mom Test. When you’re ready to find your first interviewees, I’d check out The User Interview Exchange where you can find interviewees in your target market.

  24. 1

    Hello Vivek! Founder of customer discovery.co here, we help founders with idea validation and user testing with potential early adopters. Our prototype has just been completed and we would love your feedback on it! I'd be happy to help you with idea validation in return for feedback

  25. 1

    Hello Vivek,
    My cofounder and I are working on a solution that intends to solve this exact problem as we face it often.
    We're building a platform that helps startup founders test if their idea is potentially profitable. Would you be interested in testing it out when the MVP is out next Month?
    https://valii.co/

    1. 1

      Hello Obi_valii! Founder of customer discovery.co here, we help founders with idea validation and user testing with potential early adopters. Your. idea sounds very complimentary to. what we are working on.

      Our prototype has just been completed and we would love your feedback on it! I'd be happy to help you with idea validation in return for feedback

      1. 1

        Hello,
        Thanks so much for the response.
        Please how do I use your prototype?

        1. 1

          How can I message you so we can schedule a zoom call to go through it? I can also be reached at [email protected]

          1. 1

            I'll send you an email now

            1. 1

              Haven't gotten it yet, what's yours so I can send you an email?

  26. 1

    Hey Vivek,

    In case this is still relevant - I've been helping people through validation for a couple of years now and collected most my thoughts here!

    1. 1

      Hello Lisamakarova! Thanks for helping everyone with idea validation! Would you be interested in trying. out our newly completed prototype and giving feedback on it? We Hello Vivek! We help founders with idea validation and user testing with potential early adopters.

  27. 1

    To gather and keep track of people's impression... maybe use this tool: http://surveywave.xyz/

  28. 1

    Contact the decision maker of a SMB and ask questions to confirm your hypotheses, e.g. ask are you facing difficulties in x which your product would solve. Even better if you can make a deal, so pre-sell your solution and deliver when MVP is ready.

    I'm also looking for some validation for an idea of my own. It's a B2C idea and if you have ever moved to a new city/area in your lifetime, I would highly appreciate if you would take 30 seconds of your time to fill out this anonymous Google Form survey: https://forms.gle/F1src37p9EavR6fL7

  29. 1

    Read Mom Test & Sprint How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in 5 Days

  30. 1
    1. The Mom Test. Learn how to do proper user interviews. I'm sure a lot of people tell you about this already.
    2. I also learned that you can research and challenge yourself about your idea before you run user interviews. I learned it the hard way and documented my story here: https://kevoncheung.com/validating-startup-ideas You can see if it inspires you.
    3. To find your target audience, think hard where they are, and do everything to reach them. If it is physical store owners, go knock on their doors if you must. There is no easy way, really.
  31. 1

    Hi all,

    I have launched my landing page to get some feedback.

    Visit us here and join the club to empower your business - https://www.bubblebiz.in

    I would love to hear your feedback and am looking forward.

    1. 1

      Yess!! Well done! Please let me know if you'd like to try our prototype (I messaged you earlier)

  32. 1

    Literally looking for ideas to help people validate an idea. Many great tips here and thanks for setting the thread @vivek0079

    1. 1

      Hello feliz12777! Founder of customerdiscovery.co here, we help founders with idea validation and user testing with potential early adopters. Our prototype has just been completed and we would love your feedback on it! I'd be happy to help you with idea validation in return for feedback

    2. 1

      Welcome @felix12777. The pleasure is mine.

      BTW may I know what you are building or validating. I will be more interested in knowing about it.

      1. 2

        I’m running 3 side projects at the moment. My 4th project will be something to help people validate their idea, but I need to validate mine first haha loooooop

  33. 1

    From an IndieHackers podcast, I heard that a mattress company (Tufts and Needles?) created a landing page then ran ads for one day to validate that people were interested. Could be something to look into alongside the other great suggestions here.

    1. 1

      Will surely look into it @ryanmargono. I have a landing page ready and will spread the word to my community. But I am confused how to target it to my customer persona?

  34. 1

    For me the game changing book I have read is from Ash Maurya, Running Lean. It present step by step guide on how to validate ur idea.

    Check it out https://www.amazon.com/Running-Lean-Iterate-Plan-Works/dp/1449305172

    1. 1

      Will check it for sure.

      1. 1

        It's an amazing book. The author is really giving precious advices and methods to get out of the building and build the right thing.

  35. 1

    I know you said that you'd like to validate your idea before building a product, but sometimes I find building a barebones MVP that has the basic functionalities is a good way to show your potential customers your value proposition.

    Just take a look at Pieter Levels, who is building out a restaurant menu app - he built out an MVP and is now going door-to-door to get real users to try it out and get feedback from them.

    I did the same thing with One Word Domains - I built an MVP in a week and launched it on PH and got some really good initial feedback, which then helped me shape my original hypothesis and come up with new features for the site.

    1. 1

      Hello steventey! Founder of customerdiscovery.co here, we help founders with idea validation and user testing with potential early adopters.

      Our prototype has just been completed and we would love your feedback on it! I'd be happy to help you with idea validation in return for feedback

    2. 1

      I think it would be nice to build a MVP after validating the idea so that I will have a bunch of audience to whom I can showcase the MVP and get feedback rather than publicly making it available.

      What are your thoughts on that?

      1. 1

        I think it goes hand in hand, and the trick here is finding the sweet spot between spending enough time to validate the need but also not spending too much time building the MVP.

        Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter if you would like to discuss this further - my inbox is always open! :)

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