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47 Comments

Is Idea Validation important to you?

I've been going down a rabbit hole recently around idea validation. In the past, when starting a business of project, I have done everything from blindly pursuing the idea until something worked (often hard) right through to doing a more formal testing of the idea (worth it but harder to be objective). I'm curious.…How do the folks at IH do idea validation? If you have a great idea, what are your next steps?

  1. 7

    The way I see it - Idea validation is essentially a test against being delusional. Being efficient by not wasting your time on something that might not even sell. The idea doesn't care how much I believe in it. The market decides whether it has a market, hence it's survival. So, it makes sense to put the idea against what the market thinks or reacts to it, rather than how I as a maker feel towards it.

    That being said, I am going against with what I just said with what I am currently building. Its a huge risk, but its my vision that I see having its merit in the long term. This isn't my side hustle either. I am working full time on it and gonna keep going by launching open source projects first and then coming up with my paid offering. Building an eco-system really and that's ought to take a good bit of time. My gut feeling has been insanely accurate through out my life, so I am banking on it to be able to execute the long term vision I have for the "woodpckr" brand I am building. In the end, I hope the sheer dedication towards my vision will reflect the merits of what I am all about & reward my efforts.

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      I had a look at your idea and it sounds like something you could validate or even presell, so what are the reasons for going straight to build?

      1. 1

        Hey! Saw your tweet. I am not trying to sell the most secure hardware wallet for crypto currency. That would be selling my vision short. I want to enable individuals to defend their sovereignty, give them the entry to the ecosystem with free tools, which immediately becomes my USP. My intention and my actions are aligned. This echoes and establish my brand's authority in the domain.

        My paid offerings would come in the form of enabling individuals to earn money using cryptocurrency, so different sorts of integrations for collecting payments and hosted services for the same. And solve more problems in the domain, like how cryptocurrency is passed on to your loved ones in case of individual's demise.

        So, I choose to go against my own understanding of idea validation willingly, not that I don't have any option. I will definitely publish these projects to the community as I move forward but I am not even looking at adoption at that point to measure success because I have bigger plans :) And its the creation of this ecosystem that I am after.

        I stand for:

        1. Individuals sovereignty
        2. Privacy (more projects about this in pipeline)
        3. No vendor lock-ins (Your data is yours)
        1. 1

          Thanks that is a great reply. I think this is the other less talked about approach, where you build what you want to exist and see in the world.

          It’s maybe riskier but at least you do it to your vision and the fallback is open source. Still asking users what their situation is with crypto, the biggest pain points etc. might be useful for a strategy.

          I’m a fan of crypto and knew about it in the early days. I never imagined it becoming a “store of value” so i never held it but I loved the idea of say doing your shopping using it at the supermarket etc. that never quite happened although stablecoins might make it possible.

          I think it would make a great cash replacement. Everyone has lost $10 or similar cash and can’t be too angry it’s one of those things. So replacing this with crypto is probably more palatable to most than putting your life savings into it.

          But we do need the right tools, maybe the stuff you are working on, to make this successful. We need the credit card equivalent.

          1. 1

            Yeah! I started full time researching on money & everything around it in Dec 2019. And did that for 6 months full time, if you can believe it :)

            I have carefully followed all fundamentals and built up my understanding of everything. The history of banks, characteristics of money, how money meant diff things with time & problems with the central banks. Its only when I knew the problem so well, I realized Bitcoin is presented as a solution. So I dived into it, if I was to trust it. I read a lot about it, looked into how it works, projects around it, and what it means for the world. Speculation, opinions & discussions for weeks.

            Earlier, I always discarded Bitcoin as means of making more since I was well off by working for 2 hrs a day & owning my time completely. But after my research, I was awakened. Its not just money, its a silent protest against the fiat currencies of banks & actually a solution to the lots of the problems in the world. Its the most potent candidate of money that the world has ever seen.

            Honestly, I can write a god damn book on the subject. And I should, hah :)

            Because of the lockdown I couldn't order myself a hardware wallet. And then I went down the rabbit hole of discovering how Bitcoin works on a code level & my brain exploded with possibilities. So, I realized my calling & set out with a long term commitment.

            If I die next month, I would have given the world the means of sovereignty that most people can setup themselves & project being open source means anyone can pick this up and take it forward.

            Once I actually start working for my paid offerings, I would go lean & mean ;) And there are already tons of projects exploring the possibilities right now as we speak with great success. We are going to witness huge changes in the next 2-3 years.

        2. 1

          I don't really find these value propositions on your landing page.

          1. 1

            Yeah, Landing page is far from ready. That's something I just put together to atleast have a URL to point someone to, on live streams.

            I built the software side of this project all on live stream, so I have a lot of explanation in the streams, that I need to present properly. Being able to unpack this level of complexity on a landing page is very challenging.

            To highlight the value propositions in the right context:

            1. Individuals sovereignty - There is no trustless system out there to hold your crypto currency in self custody. Every solution requires you to place some trust in the system. In open source "Trust, but verify" & "Compile from source" is essentially acts on minimizing that trust laid in any software. So, that's why all the code associated with the project is open-source + system is air-gapped hence even with malicious software sensitive private keys can't be leaked out + you put it together so there is no scope of attacks like supply chain attacks.

            The device doesn't even store any of your sensitive information on it. It has the ability to boot from SD Card and then you can eject it before you use the application & every boot is an ephemeral instance with no knowledge of whether its the first boot or the hundredth. No way of storing any sensitive info on the device to later steal out either.

            So its easy to verify & eliminate the trust you have to place in the system. The only communication happens via QR code which can be easily verified using any QR code app to look at before supplying that to the wallet which is connected to the internet.

            Hence the first trustless system that's built with every single attack vector out there in mind, even with consideration of Proof-Of-Concept airgapped attacks.

            1. Privacy - The hosted wallet service will not even require an email address or log anything that can identify any user.

            2. No vendor lock-ins - The entire wallet is compliant with BIP44 proposal, so you can move around or use in multiple wallets of other providers at the same time.

            1. 1

              Ok, So my understanding is that you're targeting a very specific niche in the market: Those people who want full control over whatever they have. That makes me think that you'll probably have people compiling their own linux kernel as a target audience; right?

              Or are you trying to democratize this and reach the bigger audience? Because then you'll have to work a lot around usability and hide much of the complexity :)

              Anyway, it seems you've got a lot of work ahead, so I wish you all the best!

              1. 1

                Definitely for everyone but first enthusiasts who can validate & appreciate making this as a recommended option for everyone because its not too technical to setup and operate.

                Unpacking this level of complexity is definitely challenging & exciting. But making the entire ecosystem really simple to use is what I am going for.

                Thanks for the conversation around it :)

    2. 1

      This... "The market decides whether it has a market."

      1. 2

        Love that @Fasani - so concise and true

    3. 1

      Thanks for this insight, it’s so true... and good luck with your venture!

  2. 3

    Is all that matters 🤯

  3. 2

    I have a basic spreadsheet with 4 criteria : competition, complexity, reach, ARPU
    This gives me a score. Here's the answer I did more in depth.

    https://www.indiehackers.com/post/how-do-you-come-up-with-ideas-and-validate-them-627d388681?commentId=-LpS-x8LUt8YhdhTYNBB

    This helps you prioritize your ideas.
    Then you build a landing page with email capture and promote it.
    If there is some interest, you build a first mvp and test if people give you money :)

    Money is the best validation in my opinion, you should try to sell something as early as possible. And if your product sucks, just say sorry and refund. Then build a better version.

    1. 1

      Love this @romainsimon! Such a great idea, and well thought out. Can I ask - after creating your landing page, and assuming that you get that right, how do you promote it? Social? Paid ads? Other?

      1. 1

        I guess it depends on your target audience, but what I would do:

        If you have some cash, the best way would be some Facebook Ads. It's the fastest and easier way to target a very specific audience. Actually, you don't even need a landing page and can create a page inside Fb with a pre-filled form which will give better results.

        Social is great, but more difficult to have volume unless you already have an audience. I would rather get a list of 100 people on LinkedIn (or elsewhere depending on the target audience), and contact them directly via e-mail or inMail to ask for feedback.

        I would also try https://www.producthunt.com/ship

  4. 2

    It's been asked a million times and answered even more. The sheer amount of literature can't be read in a life time :-)

    So why is there so much content out there? Because validating an idea is hard. Because not building a solution is hard. Because we become delusional (thanks @ashfame) that our idea is incredibly valuable; that because I like to have it, many others want it; that there's no competition out there; that there won't be any usability or legal risks.

    I was very entertained by @ashfame 's reply: He first describes beautifully what goes wrong with 70% of startups, and then puts all of that wisdom next to him and proceeds without validation anyway. It feels like he's having a good time building technology (and building technology for fun is a valid reason!). But if your intent is to build a (sustainable) business, it is ALWAYS the wrong approach. Even if his gut feeling is right; even then he's wasting precious time not reaching out to early customers and potentially discovering that his idea could already have a great customer base with only a super small feature.

    I'm currently building validator.phalox.be. I have 3 alpha testers and literally no product. These 3 people will help me define what really is the essential core product and what are nice to haves. By the time I do have a product, I'll already have early adopters and happy customers willing to give references. Building a product isn't the hard part, it's marketing and selling it!

    Fun tax: Here's a blog post I wrote yesterday that might interest you. Bootstrap a startup that won’t fail – lessons learned

    1. 2

      Wow @phalox this is brilliant! Thanks for sharing, looks like you are well on the road. How did you pick your alpha testers?

      1. 1

        I've manually been going through IH posts and reached out to indiehackers who shared their early ideas. I've then looked through their online presence (landing page, twitter feed, blog, linkedin...) and picked out ideas that at least seem to have some kind of competitive edge (it's really not so hard to have one, but too often people just copy). I then reached out to them, asking whether they wanted to give my services a try.

    2. 1

      Absolutely! I don't recommend anyone what I am attempting to do. My specific project is also a lot different. Its not just a software, but essentially an open source project which combines Raspberry Pi + touchscreen + custom linux OS + vault app (main application) that interacts with another service that actually runs on server like any other web app.

      If you read my response to @mcapodici in the replies of my main comment, you will get a lot more of the context :)

      Also, I realize "trusting my gut" is easily misinterpreted. Perhaps "taking a leap of faith in executing my vision" is better but as long as risks are highlighted, I trust the reader to act responsibly.

      1. 1

        I must admit that validating ideas with hardware is quite a bit harder, but my gut feeling is telling me that there are ways to approach this iteratively and with greater customer involvement.

        Just going through your twitter account, there's multiple ideas I'd scratch from your head. Your first version doesn't need a case, heck it might not even need an LCD (although it might be the easiest option).

        Your website talks a little about features, but near to nothing about the benefit to the customer or how it's differentiating from other crypto products (well, I might also just be a novice in the matter and not understand what's going on... but then again, who's your target audience?).

        You could already experiment with pricing (do that before you have people sign up) and see which price & package they respond better to. You could also start a crowdfunding campaign to truly get people's interest (although those are the gadget-y people).

        There's a gazillion ways you can already start building your business, but your focus on technology tells me that building a business is of lesser importance :-).

        Good luck!

        1. 2

          I hear you, and I am myself a fan of building lean products. All my side hustles have been lean products. In this project however, I have certain reasons, allow me to explain:

          There is always a trade-off between security and convenience, right? I have stretched that boundary to be fully secure yet quite convenient at the same time.

          The build is really for publishing the project to the bitcoin community to start with & for personal use. Any enthusiast in the space will understand where I am coming from :)

          I don't see myself selling this device at all. The intention is to enable individuals to buy 3 parts, plug them together, write files to a SD card & put it in. That's it. DIY military-grade security wallet for ~$65 (I couldn't order a hardware wallet myself because of the lockdown, so went down the rabbit hole to build one, hah)

          Case is a personal choice & I am a maker at heart, so imagining crafting a wooden case for myself is just personal business :)

          Touch screen is essential for it be portable and avoid one POC air-gapped attack that works on the basis of display cable acting as the antenna :D

          I am about to finish my MVP build in a few days and then I am going to put few days into crafting the whitepaper, motivation, documentation and everything.

          And its all open source. Paid offering comes later. "Open source offerings" as marketing :)

          I would love to crowdfund my efforts, yesterday only someone else suggested the same here on IH, but as of now that's hard but with atleast the wallet build out and have it to show for it, will be better. Its really not the case people understand how I am safe-guarding them from 14 diff attacks XD

          Lastly, thanks for allowing me to write all of this out. The more I do it, the more I am able to get clear with the message I want to convey :)

  5. 2

    Yes, definitely and I had to start with validating the problem.

    In my early life as an entrepreneur, I've failed multiple times since I didn't understand this difference between Startup ideas vs Problems. Understanding the importance of solving the right problem i.e. the problem with enough need gap, that people are willing to pay for getting it solved and of course the problem which we want ourselves to be solved played a huge role in me building successful products later on.

    When I started coaching entrepreneurs, I found this again to be the common theme for failure among early stage startups i.e. building something just because they can and hoping everyone needs it. It became a professional necessity for me to come up with a way to validate problems/need gap.

    So, I started building needgap a problem validation platform where problems are the first class citizens. Posts are created by the consumers(incl. entrepreneurs) who have a problem, want to find a solution for their problem, check if others share the same problem, how ever small the problem might be. Builders can post their products in the comments if it solves that particular problem or else discuss with others to create a product to solve that problem(There are couple of products built/being built for problems from needgap).

    I'm not saying I've solved the issue of validating problems or startup ideas, far from it. I think I now have a direction towards understanding the 'language, grammar of problems and startup ideas' which might one day result in making validation easier.

    1. 2

      Oh wow, this is brilliant @Abishek_Muthian! Thamsk for sharing, Reminds me of https://www.pain.land/

    1. 1

      Wow Rosie, this is brilliant :)) I really like your writing and its a great take on validation (and validating the "right" thing). thanks for sharing.

  6. 1

    Hey Conor...Marc here, I was able to get good feedback by using this "Userthink" platform. https://usersthink.com/

    It's very reasonably priced...I just sent them a link and received very useful responses.

    You can ask a bunch of questions first...John the CEO is extremely responsive and helpful.
    https://usersthink.com/contact/

    1. 1

      Hey Marc, thanks for that, it’s great to hear from people who have used a service like this! Really appreciated.

  7. 1

    I would say it is important before spending a long time building something.
    So basically, do not build something for 1 year working 8 hours a day if you don't know if your product has potential customers.

    If what you build won't take you long, then validation is not that relevant. I usually think of it as a way to work intelligently and not waste time.

  8. 1

    I have one project that I have direct experience with selling services for, so I have confidence I can pay my bills and make something big from that. And then I have another much bigger project that I want to exist, and am pushing that forward more on anecdotal research. So I want both things to happen, but have significantly more validation in my original project. I'll make all the mistakes and just keep on going.

  9. 1

    It depends - some ideas I want to use myself (so I go ahead and build)
    others I validate to allow me to pursue the ideas with most potential (have too many ideas to make them all)

  10. 1

    Indie Hackers podcast #160 discusses the importance of validation. In most cases it’s wise to do fairly in depth validation before you start building to avoid getting burned when no one wants your product.

  11. 1

    Yeah I'm wondering about this at the moment too and appreciate all of the resources being posted here!

    Typically the projects I've worked on are things I could jump straight into and build. My latest is something that will require validation before I can make any progress on building a viable MVP or releasing anything to the public.

    Very interested in learning more about this process.

    1. 1

      I guess you're talking about blkbx? As a passive investor myself, I do see value in this :-) I had a look at your landing page:

      • why does it have sections about API and 4 different solutions?
      • who's your target audience? I don't feel particularly addressed by your messaging.
      • what's the value you're offering (talk about outcome). You'll only be able to define this when you define your target audience.
      1. 1

        Hey there, I am.

        I was confused at first but you're talking about the footer. That was just there as a placeholder for now - to be cleaned up this weekend 😅

        I would say the target audience are passive investors like yourself and those who need help getting away from the enticing world of day trading.

        One thing that comes to mind is I want this to act as gateway into investing. I think starting off with something like BlkBx is far better for new investors than jumping into an app like Robinhood where options and all of that nonsense are being pushed and causing people real harm.

        Writing this out I'm realizing a couple of great points that need to be added so thank you! haha

        1. 1

          Hi Faucet,

          You might be interested in the service I'm offering: validator.phalox.be

          It will help you formalize (writing down helps indeed) more of these assumptions and validate your idea faster. Furthermore, I've got a couple more ideas for your target audience (I'm talking now from my point of view as a user). Let me know if you want to give it a spin; I can sign up a couple more alpha testers.

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            Hey thanks for the link! Let me take a look this weekend when I have some time 🙂

            1. 1

              Hi Faucet! Let me know your thoughts :-) I think Validat.r can make a difference for your offer!

  12. 1

    It wasn't until I joined IH. In fact, That is why I posted the thread,

    Idea validation process kills the hype?

    While it is a good idea to do validation with all the models and ways. But I still believe that it shouldn't be of big importance.

  13. 1
    1. Talk to customers [at least 20+], understand what they feel about the problem you are trying to solve [Is it a pressing problem or nice to have?]
    2. Build an MVP [Don't spend more than 1-2 months on this]
    3. Launch & Try to sell it [actual validation]
  14. 1

    I did some interviews with people to validate that there is value in the core value proposition of what we are building. We are planning on releasing a pre-alpha of our product to validate further and to allow us to iterate quickly. However, even having done that, I am still feeling anxious about our project.

    1. 1

      Actually, I guess I did not really answer the main question: "Yes, idea validation is important to me".

      Another Idea validation that I am doing at the moment is this one: https://www.indiehackers.com/post/lectures-on-how-to-build-a-saas-using-django-and-reactjs-306d3d2e2e

      Here I am exploring whether the knowledge I've build up while building our main product has relevance to others. If it turns out to be, I am planning on making a series of movies explaining how to build a SaaS from scratch with continuous integration and deployment.

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