Why going slow in the beginning will have your customers demand you go faster

Christian Ries talks about the ideation process and how going slow early on will prepare for customer demands later.

Christian Ries
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January 19, 2021

How taking time can lead to finding the right idea

Ideas are a dime a dozen. People who implement them are priceless.”

What a great quote by Mary Kay Ash. 

To the naked eye, or any first time entrepreneur the process of building a great company might look like this: 💡, ask your mom or best friend for validation, launch, struggle, bust. This is almost the right of passage to building a successful company. Talk to any entrepreneur that has started something of any substantial market value and you will learn this is likely not their first rodeo and was preceded with several "failures". I like to call them learnings along a line. 

Atlanta Ventures recently welcomed me as an Entrepreneur in Residence, with the goal of starting another company. I've come up with ten 'great' business ideas in the past nine days. Seriously, all legit...my mom loved them all and would be a user! Unfortunately none of them have passed the "sniff test" and subsequently I will continue the search for that 'next great idea'. 

I recently read David’s post Startup Effort is Insane, So Think Big. It got me thinking and has caused me to evaluate the process of ideation and idea validation and the importance of going slow, for now. It is important to go slow during the ideation phase so that upon launching, you can accelerate because your customers will demand it. Every idea is run through three criteria points:

  1. Does the idea have authentic demand? (This needs to be tested)
  2. Does it reduce friction?
  3. Does it touch revenue within a company? (Selling a “nice to have” is difficult and it sucks)

Ideation is a process and requires one to create space in their calendar to think and read A LOT. But where does one look for innovation? Here’s a few of my suggestions: 

  1. Introspective thought about problems you are personally experiencing. For example, I’m a dual parent working from home and supporting a three-year-old and six-year-old in virtual school. It sucks. 
  2. Observing and understanding economic trends. 
  3. Your first idea might not be great, but are there opportunities on the left or right side of that idea that could lead to something bigger?
  4. Having an open mind and asking questions (even if you feel they may be stupid). For example, “Why do I need fourteen different chat apps on my phone?” “Why can't they all be consolidated?” (Go and count yours and remember Instagram’s internal chat is yet another.) 

Once you have the 💡, and it passes the sniff test, the time for deep market research begins. This process needs to be as fast as possible (i.e. two-four weeks). Remember, you are testing for 1) authentic demand and 2) if the market is big enough. This validation process was best summed up for me by Fabrice Grinda on Validating Your Startup Idea.

There is a time and place to go fast. Understand the difference and have a plan for each stage. Your family, your customers, and your shareholders will all be happy you took your time to move slowly in the beginning so that you can move faster because your customers demand it.

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