How to test and validate the potential of an innovative project

This article was originally published at rocketbootstrapper.com, and republished here

Great, you now have a glimpse of what you could create. That’s a good start but keep in mind there is one more big step before starting your innovative project: to test and validate your project idea. I suppose you are passionate about your idea, right? What do you feel when you think about it? Excitement, Impatience, doubt?

I remember when I found a “valuable” idea to start my first high-tech company. I was completely over-excited and itching to go into the adventure. I didn’t sleep at all the day I found this idea. I couldn’t stop turning around in my bed and I was, in the dark, eyes wide open looking at the ceiling thinking and planning everything. I was wondering myself where I will be in two years? At this stage, I never doubted about my ability to execute this idea successfully… Now, when I look back to that specific day, I realize how immature my idea was, how utopian my project was. Later, I understood that I pursued an idea and an area that passionated me (which is great) but I didn’t enough checked the existence of a market fit.

By the way, if you don’t have your idea yet, I strongly advise you to read one of my previous post (How to find profitable product ideas), maybe it will guide you and help you get started in your research.

Well, this post will present you a few basic elements to know before to start your project whether it is an internal project in your company or a brand new business project.

Is your product a solution to a problem worth solving?

Focus on the problem first, not your solution.

The first thing to do is to be sure that the problem that you are trying to solve is WORTH solving.

Before to think about a product, you should focus on the underlying problem. And to measure if this problem is worth solving, it is critical to talk to your audience even before starting to write one line of code.

The main cause of startup death is building a solution to a problem that simply isn’t important to users.

I know that I insist but your first goal is to understand the daily “pain” of your target, not make a feature list.

Meet and talk with your audience, as soon as you can, to understand what is most painful in their daily activities. Don’t ask them what they want but try to measure and understand what they do and what is painful.

Henri Ford said “If I have asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”.
With this quote, he meant that no one told him : “I need a car” but he deduced the underlying problem: people wanted to move from A to B faster than with their horses.

Try to interview the most people that you can, 3 every day (20–30 minutes each) during a month. Iterate and update your pitch if necessary during this period. Don’t talk too much. Let people talk more than you and note everything that could help you identifying worth solving problems. Documents results immediately after each interview while your thoughts are fresh.

Define a clear solution to your problem

Once you prove that your idea/problem was worth solving, you should try to define whether or not you are able to find a viable solution for this problem.

To do so :

  1. Forget about existing solutions : If you look what competitors built and how existing solutions work, you will loose your creativity.
  2. Don’t hire experts : the more a person believes he is an expert at a topic the less creative and innovative he becomes.

What questions to ask yourself about your project idea ?

Ok, you now have a problem and you have a potential solution (a drafted product). it is time to define this product clearly.

How the product or service will be sold and who will eventually buy it. What are the benefits of the product and who are your competitors.

Those questions will help you to adjust and clarify your idea, step back on your opinions to give your concept all its chances.

  • What is my product?
  • What does my product do?
  • How is it different or better than other products?
  • Who will buy the product?
  • Why will they buy the product?
  • How will the product be promoted and sold?
  • Who are my competitors?

Pitch your project to your entourage

Before to expose your 7 answers to valuable people, such as entrepreneurs, mentors, incubators, etc.. Gather the most feedbacks that you can on your project concept. Don’t trust your answers at first.

When I started Eenox, I remember my wife telling me all the time how bad I was when I tried to explain my project to someone. Even if It was 100% clear in my mind, my pitch was unclear, unstructured and people were frowning systematically and I didn’t realized it by myself, my wife did though.

There is one sentence that summarize what to achieve in this case, it is : “Keep improving your pitch idea until your grandmother understand what you do.”. Just try with your husband or wife, parents or friends and you may realize, as I did, that it is not always simple to easily explain what your product actually do and what problem it will solve.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Don’t blame yourself if you need assistance to explain your project and answer those 7 questions. The best thing to do is to ask to someone who does not know the market you are trying to fit in and does not know your product and its underlying problems (like your grandmother).

Ask to someone with the ability to step back for you.

My tips to help defining and present your idea.

  • Write your pitch instead of simply speaking it while training.
  • Step back, Speak like a teacher.
  • Consider the listener does not know anything about technologies.

If you want to learn how to pitch, I advise you to read the following article “3 tips to clearly pitch a project to stakeholders”.

Conclusion :

Finding ideas is the first step, validating those ideas is even more important as they will minimize your project risk. Don’t quit your job or don’t propose your project internally to your manager before having validated and quantified with real facts that your project if viable.

Some of you, may have recognize that some of the 7 questions above are similar to categories required by Business Canvas. For those who don’t know what they are, I will write about them really soon.

I wish you all the best for your project.

Sorry for grammatical errors you may find in this post. As I already mentioned, one of the reasons I started blogging to improve my English writing skills.

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