Turning a startup idea into a successful reality requires more than just a brilliant concept. It demands a rigorous validation process to ensure that your idea aligns with market needs and has the potential to thrive. In this article, we will guide you through the effective steps for startup idea validation before diving into development. By following these steps, you can increase your chances of building a successful and sustainable startup.
How to validate before developing your startup idea into reality?
Step 1: Start Offline
At times founders are too eager to jump to the development phase and make their startup idea a reality. Although, it may not be the best practice.
Development involves time, effort, commitment, and money. 4 of the most crucial things for any startup’s initial days. More so because in 80% of such cases, founders are unaware of the dynamics of the real-time challenges and hence are back within 6 months of being operational with new requirements or change inflow. Which costs them another handsome amount and a loss of time to develop.
The advantage of starting offline is that you form a much stronger base. Theory and practicality differ like “Yanny and Laurel”, there will be surprises at each step.
To build a system capable of handling real-world dynamics you as a founder should have a very strong understanding of your IT partner and have significant experience in that specific domain. Hence for the startups that can, the work should first start offline and then transit to digital alternatives.
Step 2: Complete your research
Diving into the actions, the first step is to conduct thorough research on what to expect for the next 1 year in terms of turnover, revenue, company growth, challenges, customer acquisition, and all the other factors that matter.
Once the research is completed break your plan every month just to keep a measure of how different can the reality be from the expectation. It will be huge learning and it will grow you as an Entrepreneur. The early days are the most important as the right practices prove to be productive in the future stages of your startup idea.
Step 3: Find the customers
This is the single most important step as it is a direct measure of 3 things:
- How desirable are your services?
- How well are you able to communicate with your customers?
- Will you be able to sustain the first 12 months where 90% of start-ups are failing today?
Your goal here is to understand your customers well. To know:
- what they respond to,
- what they like,
- also what they dislike,
- and what motivates them to place an order with you.
You will be able to use this information as your sales feature on your online portal. A perfect product is self-explanatory in its services and can guide its customers through the user journey seamlessly.
Step 4: Don’t worry about the money
Early days are super exciting, and we are eager to decide if our decision to start the startup idea is correct or not. Rightfully so, but money is not the thing that defines success.
If you can form a loyal base of customers then you are doing it right. Generating revenue is just a matter of hitting the right model and it will come eventually if you have regular customers.
Hence, focus more on delivery and customer satisfaction than the big numbers on the balance sheet.
However, it doesn’t mean that you dig a deep hole in your pockets to keep your customers entertained. Your customers should purchase from you for the quality of the product and great service, not because of some petit offers.
Step 5: Start providing services
Make your startup operational. The best way to understand and make loyal customers, to date, is by personal interactions.
Take an example, Uber, Grab, Amazon, Alibaba, Apple, and Google, everyone had a special focus on connecting personally with clients; Whether it was in terms of customer support, or client acquisition it has been a customer-first approach.
Also, no matter how good the research may be, the real-world scenario differs significantly. Each location is unique, each target audience is different and each domain of service has variations that could be best understood only by experience. So, go ahead don’t be shy to reach out to your customers and set up a process of your service.
Here are the top 5 Startups that got their first 10000 customers
Step 6: Do it for 6 months aggressively
6 months will give you a fair understanding of how serious are you about the startup idea. This period will teach you about the different verticals of the startup that you will have to deal with in real-time. It takes much more than a good understanding of the domain to run a company.
There is delivery, finances, resource management, team building, operations, marketing, revenue, sales, customer relations, time management, and a zillion other stuff. And trust me I have just scratched the surface with the above names. All these will be required from day 1.
So do it for 6 months to realize and understand what you are getting into. Take my word, you are in for a surprise for sure.
Step 7: Mark the challenges and strategies used
6 months later you are ready to go for the real deal. Document everything that you have learned over the past few months and make sure you write it in detail. Make sure to include all the different verticals, customers, delivery, operation, etc.
List the challenges you your customers or your team faced in this while. Highlight the strategies you used, irrespective of whether they were successful or a complete disaster. It is still your learning and it matters.
Based on this you can bullet the features you would like in your application. 80% of the founders who have not used this approach, realize what are the crucial features of the application later.
This causes them more time and costs to make a market-fit product. More than money, it is the time and the psychological fallback, that matters. Once you have your requirements well documented you are in for a much smoother ride.
Once you are sure to go ahead then is the right time to find the right company for your development requirement. If you are a non-technical person then you might face a lot of trouble deciding who the right tech partner is. Well, not anymore:
What are the signs of a potentially successful startup idea?
Starting a new business venture is an exciting journey filled with challenges and opportunities. Identifying a potentially successful startup idea is crucial for laying the foundation of a prosperous business. Let’s discuss key indicators that can help you recognize whether your startup idea holds promise for success.
Market Demand and Problem-Solving
A successful startup idea often addresses a pressing issue or fulfills an unmet need in the market. Conduct thorough market research to identify pain points that potential customers are facing. Analyze trends, surveys, and industry reports to validate the demand for your product or service.
Innovative Value Proposition
Innovation sets apart successful startups from the rest. Your idea should offer a unique value proposition that distinguishes it from existing solutions. Focus on how your product or service provides better efficiency, cost-effectiveness, or convenience compared to what’s currently available.
Competitive Landscape Analysis
Understanding your competition is vital. Research existing players in the market and assess their strengths and weaknesses. This analysis will help you identify gaps that your startup can fill and provide insights into positioning your product effectively.
Strong and Committed Team
Behind every successful startup is a dedicated team. Investors not only look at the idea but also at the team executing it. A skilled and passionate team with diverse expertise can navigate challenges and adapt to changing circumstances more effectively.
Scalability and Growth Potential
Investors seek startups that can scale and grow rapidly. Your startup idea should have the potential to tap into a larger market over time. Outline strategies for expansion, such as entering new markets, adding features, or extending your product line.
Financial Viability and Planning
A potentially successful startup idea needs a solid financial plan. Calculate your startup costs, projected revenue, and expenses. Present a clear path to profitability and outline how you intend to secure funding, whether through investors, loans, or crowdfunding.
User Engagement and Feedback
Engaging with your target audience early on is crucial. Create a minimum viable product (MVP) and gather user feedback. This iterative approach allows you to refine your product based on real user experiences, increasing the likelihood of a successful launch.
Simple Things That Save 4 Hours Daily and Increased Productivity
Most of the day goes by handling unnecessary things and doing unproductive activities, like creating invoices, teaching new joiners from scratch, explaining the process, taking follow-ups, and so on. By no means do I intend to understate the importance of these tasks but if you notice closely all these tasks can be automated and would still be equally effective.
I automated the maximum routine and built a process for every activity, and at the same time made sure that each process was being constantly optimized and evaluated every 30 days. Sounds complicated right? It is fairly simple, let me explain you with the example below.
Tools, Document, and Delegate!!
Every day I spent 4 hours in activities that I did the best but they could very well be done without me being involved. Since I had already cracked the code others could simply replicate it. Surely they need to be taught once personally but then they can easily work without any supervision. Hence below are the 3 steps I used to make an easy transition of work from me to other more efficient teammates. The order of the below steps is also very necessary to ensure proper handover without any doubts.
I used specific tools for specific tasks the online tools came in handy when managing tasks and checking the timelines. I never imagined that work allocation, instant communication, and target evaluation could be done so easily. Previously, I used to manage all these things over multiple spreadsheets. Some great free tools can give you a whole lot of freedom and save a lot of time. 3 of my favorite tools are Zoho, Freedcamp, and Bitrix24.
- Can be hosted on the Cloud as well as company’s server
- Group Chat
- Can store up to 5GB of documents in a free version
- Up to 12 users in the free version
- Unlimited Users
- Unlimited storage
- Group and personal discussions
- Has mobile Apps
- Time Tracking
- Zoho is on the list only because it has a complete suite like Google but much more
- Charts, Milestone, tasks, timesheet tracker
- The free- plan has very limited features.
For the daily tasks, I created a documented process which was shared with everyone with detailed notes, FAQs, and pictorial representation of each activity. Pictorial Representation is very important don’t forget that.
Sounds like a lot ain’t it? Well, not actually, I was doing it daily anyway, and wasted 2 hours explaining to people, 1 hour in meetings, and 1-hour clearing doubts, and all this daily. So I decided to spend 5 mins extra documenting and taking pictures of my every action and 30 minutes daily researching the tool that could do my labor work.
Let me explain to you what exactly I mean by this, with a few examples:
Unnecessary things like Being on call just for the namesake:
This one is for the project managers and team leaders. A lot of time we have to sit on the client call just for the namesake and no matter how hard you try you cannot keep your ears on the call. As a result, you end up wasting at 30 minutes per call of your time.
Why exactly do you need to be there?
Because your team is not confident enough; because you are not confident in your team; because you were the first person the client interacted with. Well, none of these are valid reasons, as a leader your role is to build new leaders and a process that can run independently of you.
Unproductive things like keeping a watch on who is doing what and who is taking how long of a break:
I define productivity as an exercise by which you can grow your growth/sales directly. And everything else becomes unproductive. So, does it matter to keep an eye on everyone, you do all that to make sure that there is an optimum level of productivity. Why not set up a process where the productivity is tracked and not the physical presence of the fellow teammates? Decide a deadline/milestone for each peer and let them achieve it on their own. Our best support guy never sits in his seat yet has the maximum happy clients.
Yes, money is one of the driving forces of the organization, and to get the money you need to shoot invoices. The general process is either you have to be behind your accounts team to generate and give you the invoice(generally takes 30-60 mins) if there is an error in that then got help you, or you create it yourself which again takes 15 mins but distracts your concentration from the real task.
There are tools available at a small cost for doing all your invoicing just by a simple 5-minute task at the start of your project. You fill all the milestones as soon as the milestone is marked as completed an auto mail is shooted to the client with the payment gateway link with an invoice.
Teaching the trainees:
One of the major aspects of any organization, this generally happens with every organization. Pretty often we have interns or new joiners in the organization and to get them up to speed we keep them with us and teach them everything while directing them to which right practices and the proper processes.
Simple documentation of each process and all the FAQs with detailed responses would save you frequent interruptions and help the rookies come to par faster.
This often improves the team’s process and generates new ideas to improvise and optimize.
The biggest problem was to first remember the person and the date for the follow-up, the second was how you take the follow-up so that your client responds and the third was to take it repeatedly until you get what you needed.
Tools like HubSpot are a huge asset in such scenarios. As per the statics, all major business deals need at least 5-6 times of follow-up before the deal is closed.
Imagine a tool that is smart enough when to take the follow-up and with whom to take the follow-up. All you need to do is insert generalized progressive follow-up emails, and it works while you sleep or acquire new clients.
We don’t realize the power of technology and underestimate the importance of time. To gather new ideas and grow your business it is necessary to have a free mind and focus on being productive. By investing a small amount of your time in such activity you could increase your business to 10 times the cost and time you invested in building the process and automating the tasks.
For a small example, at EngineerBabu I created a process for all the new joiners. I drafted a document with screenshots and links to everything that they would need to understand their role.
I created 3 major documents:
- Which tools do we use and why do we use them:
On average, we use 8 different tools for various purposes. It used to take me 4 hours each day for 7 days to teach them all the tools and their real power. Add to that the amount of time I waste in regaining the concentration after each interruption. Not everyone was good at gathering knowledge from Google and understanding it for themselves.
To solve this we document each document and list What/Why/When/Where/How for each tool.
- How to Use Each tool:
Tools these days are very typical and have a learning curve of 3-4 days, and no we weren’t ready to invest that much time in just getting to know the tool. We took screenshots of each step and explained its importance in the flow of their work.
The pictorial explanation helped them get used to the tool faster.
After all the efforts there are always some doubts and there are always some standard questions from clients. We marked down each question, from the client and the rookie, with a pitch-perfect answer.
The documentation also helped us in finding out the loopholes and optimizing the process. In a larger team, it becomes tough to explain and bring everyone on the same page, but with documentation, things become simpler, organized, and standardized, while being highly scalable.
The toughest part of all is the delegation of work. Delegation means trusting your work to someone else. Which means you are entrusting your credibility to someone else’s work. In other words, you are giving the authority to someone to be the representative of your work and quality. Hence it is the toughest and most crucial task of all. Having said that, if you can find even 1 right person, the time it saves is immense; your productivity will take a hockey stick growth.
The pre-requisite to take this step is high-tolerance to failure, and leadership quality. The reason you need these 2 features as pre-requisite is that if things go wrong you have to take responsibility and not fire the delegate.
How to allocate work?
The art of allocation cannot work if you force it on someone, neither will they do quality work nor will you be satisfied. The best people to allocate such tasks are the people who are looking, for new challenges. It should be recreational stuff for them. You might contradict by preferring the profession of the field in which your task belongs. However, they would already have their plate full of similar tasks hence they would hardly be interested in making any additional efforts. Moreover, the professional might take it as a burden, whereas a cross-domain person would take it as an opportunity and enjoy the task.
How to find the right candidate?
For finding the most suitable person for your task you need to be aware of your surroundings. If the team is small, you can be more social and know your colleagues better. They will tell you about their new interests and things they are looking forward to experimenting with. That is the right person for you. You can match the domain of your task to the interest of colleagues.
If the team is big, you need to maintain a sheet of interests. A simple and easily accessible spreadsheet that can maintain a record of the developing interest of colleagues with time. The co-workers will update the sheet as and when they see fit. Whenever you are looking to find a surrogate you can access the list to find the most suitable person who would be interested in harnessing the opportunity.
How to motivate people to share their interest
After some time they would automatically start seeing the value in accepting the new opportunities. Having said that, you may need to motivate people initially. The way I do it is by rewarding people and acknowledging their achievements in front of the complete team. You can also encourage people to share their experiences and learning by doing this additional task. It won’t be long before people start approaching you for specific additional tasks. It is a great way to increase bonding and team skills.
I can save at least 4 hours of my day and use them to find new growth hacks, optimize the process, and help build new leaders while serving my clients to the optimal.
FAQs about Startup Idea Validation
1. Why is idea validation important for startups?
Idea validation ensures that there’s a demand for your product or service in the market, reducing the risk of failure and increasing your chances of success.
2. How can I identify my target market?
Conduct thorough market research to understand your potential customers’ demographics, preferences, and pain points.
3. What is a Unique Value Proposition (UVP)?
A UVP is a statement that communicates the unique benefits your startup offers and why it’s better than the competition.
4. What is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?
An MVP is the simplest version of your product that includes core features, allowing you to test your idea quickly.
5. How often should I gather feedback from customers?
Regularly engage with your target audience to collect feedback during different stages of your startup’s development.