Let me know if you’ve been in a conversation like this.
You: “Sheesh, going to the mall to repair this bag is a pain.”
Your Partner: “Yeah, I wish there was an app for that.”
In this age, it’s not uncommon to think like this.
We’ve been spoiled by uBer, Grab, Instacart and much, much more.
A lot of things are just a touch away now. You can only imagine how easier it will get from hereon out.
As an entrepreneur, it’s easy for you to spot these holes in the market. All you need is “One major problem, one easy solution.”
You’ve listed them all down and you are planning to create a startup based around one of these ideas… but which of your ideas is going to be a hit?
For many people, they get overwhelmed and just stop.
For some people, they try one idea and if they fail even just a little, they just quit.
This is little ol’ me, typing this article, with the main point of asking you not to give up.
I know how it feels to have obstacles stopping me in every corner. Sometimes, you just want to give up as it’s the easiest path.
So, NO, don’t give up.
Who knows, your simple idea can be the next billion dollar idea.
BUT how do you get started, test ideas AND determine which one is really worth it?
Do Things that Don’t Scale
Yup, you need to start and do things that don’t scale.
The simplest way is to talk to people one on one. Gather their inputs for your idea and build things they ask for. Sure, you’ll get a bunch of different things and sometimes, it’s overwhelming but you can just brain dump all of them in a list and properly filter the most important ones.
Many people, in most cases, the actual founders, hate this process and just skip it. Some just don’t like the idea of “talking to people” and that’s something that can bite them back in the ass in the future.
A lot of them came from a background where they were thought a singular way and that’s to just announce in the press. For most startups, that almost never works unless you have really, really good contacts that will really put in the time to help you.
I suggest that you also recruit users during this process. It’s easy to think about the companies that are so big right now but a lot of people overlook how they started.
Even a company like AirBNB started with the founders going around the city. What they did can’t scale but they were able to gather feedback and test their idea. Look at where they are at now!
The importance of getting out and conversing with your customers if critical.
You might want to argue that startups are “built” to scale. That’s true but you can’t get to the point of scaling up if your idea sucks.
Try it, do it 1-on-1. That way, you can truly engage and listen to your customers. As the founder and in many cases, you might be the lead developer as well, you’ll be able to gather insights and learn in depth about your potential customers’ problems. You’ll also find out what services or products they believe will solve them.
When you go out and start asking people, don’t just ask random questions. Be sure to do it in a structure, like this:
- You need to test customer perception of the problem and the customer’s need to solve it.
- Then, show the customer your product and show how it solves the problem.
- Do they enthusiastically confirm the importance of the problem and the solution?
- What would they do differently or what do they think will help solve the problem better?
Remember, no startup business plan survives the first contact with customers, so it’s perfectly well that you might discover kinks in your idea or product.
Listen to them and listen well.
After all those 1-on -1’s, you need to go back to your workspace and analyze your results. You have to remember that you need to make your product SO GOOD that the users will actually tell their friends about it!
Find your product market fit and THEN think about scaling.
A Short Story
Here’s a recent personal story.
Before we got started with SeriousMD, the current startup I’m working on, we went outside to ask doctors what they needed.
Most of them will just say the basic things but we noticed a pattern. A lot of them had no internet and they were always on the go.
We also talked about their pains on the current set of solutions and what they liked.
Fast forward to the MVP phase. We asked them, then showed them the product. They saw an offline functioning EMR that they can bring on the go as an app on their device or browser. They were ecstatic! That’s when we continued to build and move forward.
Fast forward to a few months after launch, we continued to manually asked each doctor what they needed. They were using it but we know there’s a lot more room for improvement. We continued and created a feedback cycle.
Not only did it build trust, but it paved the way for us to create long term plans. Plans that we can map out in advance so we can properly release new versions around the things they needed.
By no means are we scaling like crazy right now though we are starting to. We’re in a third world country afterall and it’ll take a lot of education to bridge technology and healthcare over here as this is a unique niche.
As you can see, for a fledgling startup like this, doing things that don’t scale have paved the way for us to move forward and build something that users will love, all the while rewarding us with the satisfaction that we are helping the community.
If you are running a startup or just about to start one, there’s no reason for you to not do this.
Doing things that don’t scale will help you, not slow you down. In most cases, it actually speeds up the process in the long run as you’ll encounter useful feedback much earlier in your product cycle.
Here’s what I suggest:
- Starting out? Go out more! Talk to people about your problem and your idea to solve it. Worried about them stealing your ideas? Don’t worry, it’s all about execution. You won’t be giving away your whole idea anyway.
- Have an MVP? Talk to people and ask about their problem then let them try the product. Gauge their reactions and gather data that will support your idea.
- Already running a startup? Talk to your power users and talk to your active (but not power user level) users one by one. Gather information and see why your product isn’t growing as you want it to be. If you see a need to change course or switch current priorities, then it’s the perfect time to pivot. Being a small startup, you are agile and can make decisions quicker. Remember, most of the successful startups now pivoted multiple times until they got to where they are.
Things will work out for the better if you know more about your product-market-fit.
Go out and get your butt off that chair. Get to know the people you are serving and bring them something that they actually want.
Be sure to Snap me on Snapchat and tell me about your startup and what you found out when you did things that didn’t scale.