A common question I get from entrepreneurs is what do you think of my idea? I usually ask more questions but make the point that it doesn’t matter what I think about their idea. What matters is what potential customers think and do about their idea. Here are three must-haves to vet your startup idea.
In our Studio, we co-found businesses from scratch with great entrepreneurs. One of the first things we discuss before starting is what areas they are passionate about. It could be a broad topic like climate change or healthcare, it could be more technical like AI or robotics, but there is usually something they genuinely get excited about. Given how hard startups can be, you want to pick a space where you have extra motivation to work through challenges. Furthermore, that passion also helps you more quickly get up the learning curve talking to customers and becoming an expert because you are so passionate and enjoy learning about the space.
After you identify a space you are passionate about, you can start doing some customer discovery. Hint - read The Mom Test to make sure you are listening to their problems versus pitching your solution. Pay careful attention to when potential customers mention the problem unprompted, it happens with frequency/impact, and they are already trying to solve it… even if with internal tools or spreadsheets. Feel if they are leaning into the conversation because they desperately want anything that can help solve this problem. Ultimately, look for authentic demand whereby they are willing to pay for something you have not built yet as a design/development partner. Our experience is that it takes many rounds of customer conversations and iterations to find something; do not expect that your first idea will be perfect!
Big enough to matter
There is no one startup path, and as a founder you have to decide which path you are looking for. But it takes a lot of time and effort to run a startup, regardless of how big it is. If you are going to spend the next 7-10 years of your life building something, make sure it passes the sniff test of being big enough for you to care. There are some practical ways to size the market here. You can focus on a specific niche to get going, but have a strong belief that there is a broader market where your solution can solve a massive problem.
Before launching your startup make sure you are passionate about the problem, have proven authentic demand, and ensure the potential market is big enough for you to achieve your goals.