Every startup has an assumption behind it. Founders have hunches on which they build entire companies. If everyone believed the idea would work, it probably would have been attempted at some point. While it’s good to believe in your hunch, at some point, you need to get some users to believe in you, also.
This post will talk about a few ways you can start to test your hunch. Let’s start off with the worst way and work our way to the best. Keep in mind, all of these tactics are focused on getting more information from the people who are having the problem that you want to solve. This gives you better insights when building your business.
Surveys — They’re super easy to do and thus a very popular way to see if people like your idea. The problem is, there is a huge discrepancy between what people say they’ll do and what they actually do. A survey is great if you’re doing a class project and don’t want to put in a lot of work, but if you’re serious about getting feedback on your idea, you’re only hurting yourself. (Note: you should be very serious about getting honest feedback on your idea. If you want to start a successful company, don’t hang around only people who tell you it’s a great idea, because that’s not how you grow.)
Focus Groups — These can help you gather more information faster than with interviews. One big downside is groupthink. People often do not want to be the only one in a group to disagree with everyone else. This leads to people following the lead of the first ones to talk, thus you’re not getting a very diverse set of perspectives. Another downside (when compared to interviews) is that you have less flexibility to expand upon other topics that come up. One big upside over surveys is that you can see more of people’s emotions by examining body language and tone of voice.
Interviews — These can certainly provide more information than surveys and sometimes focus groups. Interviews also allow you to expand upon topics that you never thought would be relevant. This may mean that you start out talking about one problem and learn there is a bigger, more attractive problem to solve. This may be a more comforting and truthful environment for people to share their thoughts, rather than in front of a group.
Physical Testing — This is the best way to test your idea. Build a rough prototype of what your end product will look like. It has to solve the original problem, but it can have most features stripped down. Facebook didn’t start with games, groups or even messaging! They added messaging four years after it launched. It was just a place to connect with friends and see their profiles. Start as simple as you can while still getting the point across.
Say you are building a delivery service. Ideally, you have an app and everything is automated and your drivers are registered and being tracked and you can see where everyone is at all time and payments are done through the app and etc.. Woah! That’s going to cost thousands and take months to build! I better go raise money and find a developer! OR strip this down. What’s the assumption? People are willing to pay $5 to have food delivered to them from restaurants that don’t traditionally deliver.
The all important question: What do you need to test this? A website with a google form.
(This is what DoorDash did. Hear more about their story in this lecture.)
How often can you test your idea with a website and google form? Sure, the interface might not be attractive and it may be hard to use, but if this is really a problem, users are willing to sacrifice looks for function. Think of Craigslist. It is just a bunch of links, yet millions of people use it. Start thinking like this and less like “I need $100,000 to build an app” (that doesn’t need to be an app and no one will use.)
The next lesson will focus on pitching your idea. People are going to ask what you’re doing and you will need make a formal pitch at some point in your journey.