Ideas and Validation February 18, 2021

Strawberry farm on the moon 🍓

Matt McDonnell @Matt_M

What a great idea I just had - a strawberry farm on the moon!

SO cool. But how to evaluate whether it's worth doing?

Lets start with a quick reality check:

  • We don’t know which of our ideas are correct (and should assume most are wrong).
  • We have limited resources (so we can’t build every idea).

To figure out which ideas to take forward, we rate the potential of each idea, focused on whether there is enough demand; whether you can build a useful prototype easily, quickly and cheaply and whether you are the right person to build it.

It’s a filter, to catch any major issues and check if the opportunity is worth pursuing, before we jump in and start spending resource on building (validating).

Prioritisation matrix

A simple prioritisation matrix using (say) a 1-5 scale can be used to evaluate these three areas in a simple spreadsheet.

You can also use a threshold level to provide a minimum standard needed for an idea to go through to validation (say, an average of 4/5 for each criteria. So 8/10 or 12/15, etc).

This provides a prioritised list of ideas to validate.

The main categories to rate are as follows:

Feasibility

Can you build it yourself, easily, quickly and cheaply? Can you update it easily? Is there a simplified version that you could make instead, or a manual or physical version?

Speed of validation is the priority, so make a rough timescale based on complexity and your technical expertise, and flag anything that may take over a few days to build a prototype.

Demand

Is it actually a problem, or is the existing solution good enough? Do people have the problem urgently, to the point they’ll use your prototype?

Is the audience size large enough to make it worth pursuing? And are people paying for this problem to be solved at the moment?

Founder fit

Do you have the understanding and technical ability to build it yourself? And most importantly, do you actually care about the people who have the problem, the problem itself, and the solution(s) that you might build?

Strawberry farm on the moon

Let's evaluate our example.

Feasibility - building on the actual moon is a bit tight budget-wise and getting strawberries back from the moon in edible condition is a major (!) logistical challenge, but we could quickly build a concept landing page or a few basic images (see above). These might allow us to test whether there is any interest in the concept, so it’s a (generous) 1/5.

Demand - is this solving a real problem? Moon Farm™ uses its unique low gravity environment to bring you galactic size strawberries. Does anyone want bigger strawberries? Potentially. Does it matter that they are made in space? Not really. And would people pay potentially hundreds of thousands for space strawberries? Extremely unlikely, making Elon Musk our only potential customer. 0/5.

Founder fit - do I know anything about space or food logistics? Nope. Do I want to spend years learning and pitching this idea to see if I can make it a reality? Also nope! 0/5.

Moon Farm™ has totalled 1/15, which safely fails to pass our threshold of 12/15, so we won’t take it forward for validation. The dream was good while it lasted (and if anyone does pursue this, let me know 🌝)!

Most importantly, we’ve saved ourselves a huge amount of time, energy and resource in not pursuing this further. That’s a win!

  1. 2

    A classic example of: The idea is great, but the world is not ready yet.

    1. 3

      Too true. When the Alpha Centaurians monopolise the market in 50 years time we'll all be kicking ourselves

  2. 1

    Hey @Matt_M! Interesting concept. Love how you outlined it here. If you're looking for more feedback/validation, have you considered sharing it on kern.al?

    1. 1

      Hi @joelh, thanks! I'm looking for validation on other product ideas (i'll leave Moon Farm to another budding IH), so potentially interested in kern.al - I can't tell what it does in practice though from the website though. Can you clarify what you're intending it to involve?

    1. 1

      Well exactly!

      How would you improve the evaluation method used on Moon Farm?

      1. 1

        If the project involves moving production to another world, you may change your evaluation criteria to consider moving also the potential market to another world. For example, instead of selling the lunar produce back to Earth, you may sell it on the Moon to the future explorers. This would simplify the logistics and cut the costs.

        1. 1

          Great point. There aren't too many humans on or near the moon at the moment (to my knowledge) for those initial sales, but we shouldn't discount extra terrestrial buyers who might trade with us - an untapped market.

          Failing that, the astronauts on the international space station must be desperate for some fresh fruit, and the moon is basically their corner store.

          1. 1

            The Artemis and Lunar Gateway programs will bring humans to the surface of the Moon and in cislunar space (pretty convenient to reach from the Moon, energy-wise) in half a dozen years. Plenty of time for your lunar business to get ready for your first customers.

            If you want to bring strawberry to the ISS from the Moon, you'll face competition at much lower price points. ISS crews already get fresh fruit and vegetables at least half a dozen times per year from cargo spacecrafts coming from the Earth.

            1. 1

              It's almost too easy at this point. What better way to celebrate spending $35bn+ on those glorious new lunar footprints than fresh strawberries. I might even use the profits to commission a Falcon Heavy to courier the first batch back to earth.

              I think moon-grown strawberries' key selling point is uniqueness, competing on exclusivity, not price (or indeed quality). These aren't just your common or garden ISS cargo fruits, after all.

              1. 1

                Right, luxury items have an edge.

                1. 1

                  It looks like a new market has just opened up on Mars thanks to Perseverance rover. I gather their main aim is finding signs of water that can be used for fruit growing

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