Gary Vaynerchuk likes to say that “ideas are worthless, and execution is everything.” I agree with him in principle, but he is overlooking one step in the process of execution that is vital for the success of any startup. You can have the most brilliant execution, but if you are executing on the wrong idea, you are wasting your time.
Before you can even start the execution, you need to have an idea. The hardest part of this early process is knowing when you have that right idea.
Validation is huge and so often overlooked.
Its all about figuring out how good your idea is. Check out “How to Know if Your Idea is Brilliant or Garbage.”
You need to figure out if the problem you are trying to solve is actually a problem people care about, whether your solution actually makes people’s lives easier, and most importantly whether there are actually customers out their willing to take advantage of your product. The easiest way to walk through this process is to ask these 5 questions:
Does my product solve the problem I have in mind?
This question seems like common sense, but so many founders forget to ask it. Does your product or service solve a well-defined problem? If it doesn’t solve a problem, make life easier, more social or more comfortable then what’s the point?
This question essentially boils down to whether or not you can establish a concrete why. Why is this product important? Why would anybody use it?
Does my solution make the problem easier to solve?
Once you have established the problem that your product is going to solve, the next question is whether the solution is easier than the problem. There are an infinite number of problems out there, but if your solution takes longer or makes life harder than the original problem does, why would someone buy your product?
If the problem gets solved but it is more of a hassle than just stomaching the problem, then it is time to go back to the drawing board.
Would I use my product if it wasn’t mine?
By now you have found that your product solves the right problem, and does it in a way that is convenient and effective. Now you have to ask yourself if this is a product you would actually use.
If it is an app, are you willing to spare the precious megabytes it takes up? If it is a service, can you see yourself actually paying for it if you hadn’t created it?
This is the point at which you need to separate yourself from the product and be honest about whether you would use the product or not.
Can I find users in my network?
If your product is something you would actually use, then it is time to find real customers. The best place to start is among your friends and within your network. Talk to your friends, is this a problem they have? Is this a product they would use? Depending on your network, not everyone will be in your target market, but ask those that are.
For this, you have to remember that these people are in your corner, they want to support you. It is important to be as objective as possible and remember that you are not trying to sell to them, you are asking for their advice.
Can I find 100 people I don’t already know who would buy my product?
Now you have a few customers, early adopters, who are on board with your idea. Now comes the hardest part of validation. You need to find 100 people not connected with you who are willing to give it a try.
These can be people you approach on the street, friends of friends who are in your target market or people on Social Media. If you can find 100 people who like your idea and would be willing to give it a try, then chances are there are more out there.
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Ben Weimer is a student at Penn and a social media and digital marketing consultant with a passion for entrepreneurial education. After working in technical roles at NASA and SAIC, coding for 8 hours a day, he decided to make the transition to more active roles as a founder and marketer. He is an avid chef and a traveler, committed to empowering the students of today with the education they need to be the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.