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Lean Validation: 10 Ways to Quickly Test Your Startup Idea


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Last month I gave a talk at the opening night of Startup Weekend at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In attendance were 200 eager students and entrepreneurs who wanted to learn how to build a startup in 54 hours. For many first-timers with great ideas, the process is exciting but also a bit intimidating.

The goal for my talk was simple: To lay out a few practical tips for entrepreneurs to quickly validate their ideas. I also wanted to help them understand that even first-time entrepreneurs can launch successful products by taking a few easy (and often free) steps.

After validating several software products, I’ve discovered that it doesn’t take much experience or money to bring amazing products to market with excited buyers on the first day.

Here are my tips for confirming whether you have product/market fit with real customers. By simply engaging with real people and asking the right questions, you can confirm if your idea solves a problem, who your potential buyers are, and ultimately whether there’s a market for your product.

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Lean Validation: 10 Ways to Quickly Test Your Startup Idea

  1. 1. 10 Secrets of Lean Market Validation How to Rapidly Validate Your Idea with Real Customers Jim Semick, Founder @jimsemick University of California Santa Barbara
  2. 2. Lean Market Validation Does your idea solve a problem? Can you find potential buyers? Is there a market? Does anyone care?
  3. 3. This is Carol. Real name, true story, fake picture.
  4. 4. She searched for a solution.
  5. 5. She found it and signed up.
  6. 6. What Carol Didn’t Know The website launched one day prior It took one hour to build and cost $0. …Oh, there is no product and the company doesn’t exist (yet).
  7. 7. We Asked Carol “Why were you looking?” “Why would you use this product?” “How would it make your job easier?” “What are the minimum features?” Carol bought the REAL product when we launched.
  8. 8. 10 Secrets for Quickly Validating Your Idea
  9. 9. 1. Write Down Your Product Concept … Who is your customer? What are their problems? How do you solve those problems? Key Features?
  10. 10. Don't waste time agonizing over details. 2. Decide.
  11. 11. Think like a scientist: Most of what you write down is an ASSUMPTION (and may be wrong) 3.
  12. 12. 4. Find the truth by getting out to test your assumptions Find people who have a problem.
  13. 13. 5. Start with your network & your mentors’ networks *or stalk people at Starbucks
  14. 14. 6. Interview them.
  15. 15. 7. Ask “Why?” Ask LOTS of open-ended questions
  16. 16. 8. Find the “Value Proposition” Time saved Money saved Money made Pain relieved
  17. 17. 9. Liking your idea is not the same as buying your product. Challenge them (politely).
  18. 18. #10 Jump off the cliff and have fun!
  19. 19. Validation sounds hard – but building a real product is harder. Validate before you build.
  20. 20. @JimSemick Thank you! You Can Do It!