Are you ready for the jungle?

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Are you ready for the jungle?

 

(Source: dhakainsider.com

The startup world is a cruel, cruel place; nine out of ten startups fail within their first year of operation. Interestingly, many of these are startups that stem from good, well-formed ideas that, to the average startup guru, have pretty good odds of succeeding. Most startup entrepreneurs, encouraged by the success of the Facebooks and Apples around the world, think their ideas are fail-proof. However, as a startup, all you have are your assumptions that may, and most likely will, be proven wrong. So when a startup finally releases their product—after months or even years of developing it in the vacuum of their enclosed office space, within the echo chambers of the entrepreneur’s circle—they often end up realising that no one wants their product.

All startups face this challenge, which is why it makes sense to try and mitigate every little risk faced by businesses starting out. And in order to do so, the basic tools of the business world—observing, brainstorming, prototyping—are going to be your best friends until you get your startup up and running.

When a startup finally releases their product—after months or even years of developing it in the vacuum of their enclosed office space, within the echo chambers of the entrepreneur’s circle—they often end up realising that no one wants their product.

Walk in your customers’ shoes 

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Our observation powers are our biggest strength: they help us detect patterns and understand the relationship between various concepts, and learn about our customers. In his book The Art of Innovation, the general manager of IDEO, Tom Kelley, writes: “Every business idea has a pain or need it addresses; to understand whether the assumed pain actually exists, we need to observe the customer in their natural setting while they deal with the problem.” According to Ruchin Singh, founder of Edushala, observing gives you insights into customer behaviour, which cannot be extrapolated from plain surveys or from inside an office. “I think one major tool to validate the idea is getting out of the building and knowing your potential users,” he says. “The feedback you get from them is extremely valuable.” Knowing and studying your customers will help you discover the need for your idea. And if your customers are already solving the problem (that you have identified in your idea) without much difficulty, then perhaps you have to accept the possibility that your idea is not of much value to them.

 

Create: for yourself and for your customer

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You know you have a good idea when you want to use your own ideas to solve a problem. If your product or service does not generate this feeling inside you, know that your customers will also have a hard time identifying this value in your idea. A successful idea is designed as much for yourself as it is for the customer. Your idea may be plain and simple, but if it solves your customers’ problems and addresses their needs, then it has fulfilled its purpose. “We started with the vision to make learning a lifelong process by making it fun, by finding educators who are passionate about sharing their skills with knowledge-hungry students,” says Singh, referring to Edushala. When you have the desire to use your own product or service, you begin to understand how your customers perceive it, and what can be done to make it more customer-centric. “We are still testing our idea and finding out things that will help us achieve our vision,” says Singh.

 

Prototype, prototype, prototype

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One of the biggest aims for many startups is to create something perfect to show to the world. And the attendant fear here is that if you do not present a perfect product, you will ruin your image in front of your potential customers. This is, however, an unsubstantiated fear. Deb Gilbertson, director of Global Enterprise Experience, says, “Sure, you need strategic thinking, a business concept proposal, and some planning. But planning is best when it iterates with doing.” Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, started with a simple website that only helped people buy books. This is what is known as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), which addresses most of the needs of the customers.But his version of the first Amazon was a prototype, which, by definition, is meant to be improved with each iteration and market test. “Prototypes are an excellent source of validating your idea because it helps your customers visualise the idea and interact with it,” says Singh. Just as a picture is worth a thousand words, a prototype, for the entrepreneur, is worth a thousand pictures.

Prototypes are an excellent source of validating your idea because it helps your customers visualise the idea and interact with it,” says Singh.

 

Let them play around

(Source: www.coolbusinessideas.com

You’ve found a product you want to use. You’ve seen the old ways, found a better way to do things and created a prototype. And now, it’s time to face the music. The information you get from observing your customers as they toy with your prototype is critical in assessing the validity of your idea. Tom Kelley writes, “Let them fiddle with the product and ask them questions about their experience. With the information, you may either need to improve on the idea, or you may need to start again if they see no use [for your product].” The essential aim is to take small risks that connect you to your customers: the more you reach out to them, the more you will learn about the problem they need solving, its nuances, and how your customers intend to use your product to solve it. This process might reveal that your biggest selling point might actually be something that the customers hardly even notice in your prototype. But that is the entire point of coming up with a prototype, is it not? Don’t be afraid to interact with your customers, because it is a learning experience that will bring you a step closer to the success of your startup. Deb Gilbertson, an innovation specialist, says, “…Focus interviews are good, observation is good, desk research is good. But the idea is less than one percent of what it takes to make an idea happen. Do what it takes to get started at the smallest level.” Operating in a vacuum and assuming how customers will react is a recipe for failure. If you want to succeed, you need to get out of the building and face your real customers. A good idea can only get you so far. Most of the successes in the real world depend on the proper execution of the idea. And in the cruel startup world, only those who take small risks in order to validate their idea early on in their careers succeed. Others just become statistics.

Let them fiddle with the product and ask them questions about their experience. With the information, you may either need to improve on the idea, or you may need to start again if they see no use [for your product]

 *First published in M&S VMAG 

 

 

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