How to Validate Your Startup Idea

In this course, we'll walk you through an idea validation process. You will learn why it's so important to validate your idea before you start building your solution. Get a step-by-step guide to one of our favorite validation processes and a bunch of useful tools that will help you get smarter on your idea.

By Julie Navntoft

So You Had A Great Idea, Did you?

That's awesome! Right now you’re probably ready to dive head first into building the thing you’ve just thought of. We get it! Great ideas come with that itchy feeling of motivation and excitement. But before you go bet all your life savings, your house and your firstborn into building it, we suggest you go test out the real-world brilliance of it.

In this course, we’ll walk you through an idea validation process, and give you some of the best tools to use.

When You’re Done Reading, You’ll Know

  1. Why validating your idea is so essential
  2. Exactly how to do an idea validation process, step by step
  3. Which free tools to use for each step

Why You Should Validate Your Startup Idea?

Because great ideas solve real problems for real people, who actually need them solved. So it would be a rookie mistake to skip asking people if they really need your idea.

You don’t have to take our word for it. Take Paul Graham’s (you know, the founder of Y Combinator)

The most common mistake startups make is to solve problems no one has

Paul Graham

Validating your idea is one of the first steps to take when starting your startup. You don’t have to overcomplicate it. Even a little bit of research will make you smarter than you were before. And we bet you like being smart.

Luckily being smart doesn't mean having to do everything yourself. So of course we've already made a step-by-step guide for validating your idea. All you have to do is use it.

Step 1: Ask People About The Problem

If you want to test your hypothesis, all you have to do is ask.

The most important thing is to ask the right people.To kick things off, ask people you know. Asking your family and friends can help you get a sense of people’s reaction to your idea and figure out if you’re way off base, or if your idea actually presses some buttons.

But while your best friend and your mom are a great starting point, their opinions won’t cut it. Mainly because they are probably (hopefully) your most dedicated cheer squad. And that’s great. But it also kind of messes up the value of their feedback.

So once you’ve tested things out in your inner circle, it’s time to bring your idea out into the real world.

The most important feedback you can get is from the people, who actually experience the problem. Go ask them! 

Some Handy Online Survey Tools

Online surveys are usually created as web forms with a database to store the answers. They are great for gathering a lot of quantitative data, but won’t provide you a lot of details. Here are a few great, free tools to do your surveys:

Step 2: Build Something For People To Test

Once you’ve gotten smarter on the problem and the people who have it, build something for them to see.

Don’t by any means build your full solution yet. You still want to check if what you’ve thought of is actually what they want.

Depending on your solution, you can sketch it up, create a wireframe, do a mockup or build a prototype. Remember, you don’t have to build an actual product. A visual presentation is often more than enough.

Creating something for people to see is an insanely efficient way to make sure the feedback you get is valuable.

Showing people something will help them imagine what their lives would be like, if they had your product. You can do sketches, mockups, wireframes or prototypes, depending on what you want to offer and how far along you are.

Use These Tools to Visualise Your Solution

Step 3: Interview People About Your Startup Solution

Now that you’ve visualized the solution you think people want, it’s time to ask them again. This time about the solution.

You can do that in a lot of different ways:

Show people your product, then interview them about it

If you want a more in-depth understanding, go have actual conversations with people. Interviews are more time consuming, but can give you a lot of valuable insights.

Doing individual interviews lets you go into detail with individual opinions about your solution. Prepare open-ended questions to steer the conversation, but be careful not to control the interview so much that your interviewee doesn’t get a chance to give you all the details.

You might be surprised to hear their perspectives, so make sure they get the chance to give them to you.

On the upside, interviews get you all the juicy details, while on the downside they are probably the most time consuming feedback channel you can turn to.

Never done an interview before? Here are some things to remember

In an interview, you speak to users individually and ask them questions designed to give you useful feedback.

While it is a time consuming way to get smarter, if you have the time it will definitely be worth it.

Here are a couple of things to remember, when you want to do an interview: 

  • Prepare the questions you want answered
  • Your questions should be open-ended
  • Your questions should center around your solution and help you steer the conversation back on track when you need to.
  • Make sure to give your interviewee a chance to speak freely and allow for follow-up questions.

Do focus groups

If you don’t have the time to do individual interviews, focus groups are a great substitute. They usually consist of 4-6 people.

In a focus group your role is to facilitate an open discussion about your solution.

You should prepare a few questions to get the conversation going, but other than that you should let the discussion flow and try not to interfere too much.

Pro tip: Pizzas or snacks work great as bait for a focus group.

How to do focus groups

Focus groups are different from interviews, because they give you a chance to speak to more people at the same time and to listen in on a conversation about your solution, without being too involved in it.

  • If you decide to gather a focus group, make sure to: 
  • Invite people within your target group
  • Prepare to set the scene, without controlling the space too much. Your job is to facilitate.
  • Take notes! Or better yet, have someone else from your team take notes, so you can concentrate on facilitating and observing.
  • You can also record the discussion. Just make sure you get everyone’s permission beforehand.

Present your mockup on a landing page and let people subscribe

A cool way to find people to ask, is to do a landing page that shows a mockup of your solution and then have people subscribe if they like what they see.

Once you've made your landing page, advertise it to your target group.

This will help you get an idea of how big the interest in your solution is and if people like what they see.

On the downside, it won’t give you feedback on much else, so you might need to back it up with some more detailed discussions.

Nevertheless, this is a great way to collect some early adopters for your future product.

Need help building a landing page?

A landing page is a website that you can direct people to (e.g. through social media ads). On your landing page, show a mockup of your product and ask people to sign up, if they like what they see.

This is awesome if you want to get a sense of people’s interest. On the downside it won’t give any other feedback, so you might need to back it up with something else.

An important note

Don’t be afraid to share your idea with others. A lot of new entrepreneurs are afraid that if they share their idea, someone else will steal it.

But we’ve got news for you. Your idea probably isn’t that original. Chances are, someone else already thought of it before you.

But the power of a great idea doesn’t lie in the idea itself but in your ability to make it a reality. That ability depends on your work ethics, if you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur and all the help you can get your greasy hands on.

If you want to succeed, you’re going to have to share your idea with others. And then work your butt off to build the best solution out there - before someone else beats you to it.

If you want to know more about how to introduce your business idea, how to build landing pages and more, you may want to read: Building a kick-ass pre-launch strategy.

Tools for Building Landing Pages

Online surveys are usually created as web forms with a database to store the answers. They are great for gathering a lot of quantitative data, but won’t provide you a lot of details. Here are a few great, free tools to do your surveys

Step 4: Use The Results And Go Build That Product

You’ve tested your idea on real people with a real problem. Now it’s time to dig deep into the results.

What do they tell you about the solution? We’re willing to bet that they probably tell you to make something different than what you initially thought of.

The worst thing you can do is spend hours getting feedback, only to keep moving in the direction you thought of before. When people tell you what they want, use it. As an entrepreneur you should always be ready to pivot.

Now go build it! We’re sure it will be fantastic 🚀