Proof of Concept: What to do before you start building

Before you jump in, take some time to prove your concept.

Inspiration for a new company or product strikes, and you just want to get started. But there are a few things you need to do before you start building your startup.

Define your goals

What do you want your product or company to look like? Do you want it to be the next billion dollar unicorn? A small, lifestyle business? Something in between? It's good to dream, but setting your goal for the company will help you determine if your goals/expectations meet the actual addressable market. If there is a big chasm there–then you might want to reset your expectations, or reassess whether or not to move forward.

Determine if this fills a need

If your product is not something that is “needed,” getting it off the ground can be hard. It can definitely be done, but it will likely cost you more in marketing dollars. The stronger the need (or perceived need) is for the product, the greater the likelihood that it will go viral.

Do your research

There are numerous things to research:

  1. Competition. Does this already exist? Does something similar exist? An existing competitor might not be a bad thing. If your idea is a significant improvement on something that already exists, it could be viable. If the idea is very similar to an idea that's already being executed well, you might want to reconsider, or slightly change, the idea. Clones of existing products really are only “successful” if you can grow them when a new market has been created, and you can become the number 2-3 player–ripe for competition, or acquisition. Think Groupon vs. Living Social, Uber vs. Lyft.
  2. Addressable market: Here is where you need to dive into the internet. Look up market sizes, sales numbers for the previous few years, industry trends, and similar industry trends. Some industries are ripe for disruption–so you might not find sales data to support an idea, but might find surveys/research on dissatisfaction of the industry you're looking to disrupt.
  3. Create a survey, and get real potential feedback: Make sure to go outside your inner circle. If you think something is a “need,” your close friends are likely to also have this need. This doesn't prove a large market however.
  4. Talk to people in person. If you go to a coffee shop in the afternoon, you're bound to find people who are working, but willing to take a break from their work to answer a few questions. Asking random strangers, in exchange for coffee (or a $5 gift card) for a few minutes of their time is a great way to get face-to-face reaction. Keep it to three questions. If you try to explain what you're building, and they don't understand, you need to hone your elevator pitch. If they understand, but don't you don't see any excitement in their eyes when you're talking to them, then your idea is likely not for that person. This allows you to get real, live feedback that is more valuable than a survey.

We walk our clients through an entire research sprint–check it out.

Talk to a few people who have done it before

If you've worked in the startup world, you probably have a grasp of some of the common pitfalls of first-time entrepreneurs. But it is still great to ask questions. This gives you an early opportunity to introduce yourself to some local people who are startup experts–and they likely have advice for you on resources, people, and things you should know in general.

Build a simple landing page, or a basic beta.

Do you want to know if people will sign up for your idea? Build a landing page (or have one built) to collect emails and contact information. If you have the budget, you can even build out a beta version of your idea, depending on what it is, using a simple website builder.

If you've done all of these things, and you're just as determined as you were at the outset to start building, then it's likely that your product has a shot at making it. Good luck…and keep in mind, you can always contact us with questions about launching a startup.