Is your idea worth pursuing?

How the Lean Startup approach can help you succeed

Do you have an idea for a business or a startup but don’t know where to start? Or perhaps you've already started but have hit a plateau and need to ramp things up again? With so much uncertainty and so many questions, taking the leap to pursue your idea can be overwhelming.

Don’t wait for the right moment to launch. By starting small and validating early, the Lean Startup process of Build, Measure, Learn can help you create products people want. Lean Startup favours experimentation, constant iteration and regular customer feedback over intuition. Lean does not equal success, but helps prevent many failures and is a good start.

What should I build?

Highlight your riskiest assumptions using the risk matrix. Create an experiment to test your riskiest assumption as quickly and cheaply as possible (we want to omit the riskiest idea/feature first so that we get radical focus). **I swap out idea with feature if you’re improving an existing product.

Depending on what is most important to the success of your idea, choose a metric for the Effort axis. I‘ve added revenue and users as examples. Do the same with risk. Ideas/features which would take the longest time to build or have the highest cost AND have the lowest impact should be tested first.

You don’t need to code to test something

There are a number of ways you can test your idea without needing any development through MVP (Minimum Viable Product). It’s risky (and costly) to start building an app. The cheapest and quickest way to test an assumption is to utilise an existing platform. Airbnb tested their idea on Craigslist (the American version of Gumtree). Other startups test their idea using ebay, Meetup or Etsy. By using an existing platform, people can find you organically (no marketing needed).

Creating a landing page MVP is another option. You can create a beautiful landing page using SquareSpace, Wix or GoDaddy by selecting a templated design (no coding required). They even have a variety of stock images and logos that you can choose for free, and e-commerce capabilities.

Ultimately, MVPs are throw away. It’s easy to get carried away thinking about a business name, logo design and website. Or develop the MVP creating microservices and APIs. The more time and effort we invest into the product or feature, the more we convince ourselves we’re going down the right path. It’s important to remain neutral and critical. Timebox your efforts to a couple days.

What do I measure?

If you don’t set benchmarks, metrics and measure experiments, then you won’t know if you’re on the right track. Management thinker Peter Drucker said “you can't manage what you can't measure”. In Lean Startup this means we won’t know what to iterate or improve.

There is no magic metric that you can apply for your experiment as each idea and the type of business is unique. My advice is to do your research, look at competitors and similar businesses to set benchmarks and really consider what is the most important metric for your startup. I suggest you apply a SMART criteria which will keep you accountable and on track. If you have set up a Facebook or GoogleAd Words campaign, use the AARRR metrics to measure success, but keep in mind that measuring ‘Acquisition’ in AARRR can be a vanity metric. If you don’t reach your desired metric, it doesn’t mean the idea isn’t worth pursuing. It may imply that the offering wasn’t desirable enough, or the wording and images need tweaking. This is an iterative process.

Learn: What am I going to do next?

In Lean, there is no such thing as done. Continuous iterations are the lifeblood of this process. The best products evolve and morph. If you were to compare your favourite apps and websites year-on-year or month-on-month you would see change.

It’s essential to make tough decisions in this step. Here’s a list of questions to help you with the next phase:

  • Do you pivot or persevere?
  • Do you need further analysis and repeat the experiment?
  • What are you going to tweak and test again?
  • Do you need to rethink the product?
  • Have you identified the right personas? Or uncovered new ones?
  • Is the problem worth solving? Is the problem big enough or can be solved by an existing channel?
  • Do you have product market fit?
  • Do you need to do more customer interviews (note: you should always be speaking with your customers at every stage of the product lifecycle).

There are many variables to determine the success of your idea such as seasonality and media hype. The premise of a hypothesis is to run continuous experiments to disprove a hunch. Keep this top of mind and iterate, and continue to iterate until you’ve gained enough evidence to give you confidence that your idea is worth pursuing.

I’ve created a Validation Canvas to help you track your experiments ensuring you keep the customer top of mind and you measure success.

All the best on your start-up journey.

Download the Validation Canvas here.

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