Why a startup’s purpose is critical

Earlier this month I made the decision to build and launch more projects. Inspired by Pieter Levels blog post, 12 Startup in 12 Months I wanted to actually finish and launch stuff. That hasn’t happened (yet).

As I was coming up to launching my first proper startup (Retronaut Games), I began to think about the purpose behind my product. What problem was it really trying to solve? Then I came across an article by Tony Jing titled How writing and coding made me a better product designer. From the title, you wouldn’t think it wouldn’t be particularly relevant to my current startup launch binge, but it really got me thinking.

I should be coding to solve problems

One of the primary reason for building Retronaut Games was to learn the vuejs framework and expand my front-end coding ability. As I’m a firm believer that to truly learn something you should build with it, coding Retronaut Games was an extremely useful way for me to learn quickly. However I never felt like I was coding to solve a problem.

Tony’s Code to Solve Problem’s Venn Diagram

If we reference Tony’s venn diagram we can clearly see what sort of things designers and developers alike should be focusing on.

As I read this article, it hit me that despite Retronaut Games being a fantastic way for me to practically learn vuejs (and work with Bulma CSS) , it wasn’t something I was particularly interested in. It also wasn’t something that reflects the long-term trajectory of the industry, so therefore I shouldn’t be building this. Therefore I made the executive decision to bring the launch of the project to a halt.

What this has taught me

Looking ahead, the process of building and promoting a startup ready for launch has been a valuable experience both as a designer, developer and entrepreneur. But I think the overlying lesson I have learned is the importance of validating an idea against a framework before diving straight in.

I mean, in my defence, I had done some things right such as testing the water with a landing page before launch, working on an MVP rather than falling into the trap of a perfectionist. However, a pretty landing page is nothing without a solid foundation that can only come from two main sections of validation:

Sections of Validation

This is a slight variation/expansion of Tony’s excellent Venn diagram, but taking it a step outside of product design and more into the realms of a simple startup ethos.

Looking to the future & the importance of process

By utilising validation frameworks such as Tony’s and the simple on I created above, allows us to filter startup and/product ideas in a logical process to ensure that what is created is aligned with both a purpose and an audience. Arguably if your idea is solving a problem (i.e. has purpose), there is already an audience, but what do you think? Is the audience as valuable as the ability to solve a problem?

However, while I feel that a filtering process is important, there’s a fine line between allowing process to prevent creativity and hindering you ability to launching new ideas. I believe that ultimately, it’s only by building, launching and failing that we can learn to be successful. Like the great Bill Gates says:

It’s fine to celebrate success but it’s more important to heed the lessons of failure.