Series V
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Series V

The Mom Test and How to Validate Your Business Idea

Article by Al-Kassim Kassim

“Face-to-face customer feedback refines or validates every component of the startup’s business model, not just the product itself.” Steve Blank

“They say you shouldn’t ask your mom whether your business is a good idea, because she loves you and will lie to you.” Rob Fitzpatrick, the author of ‘The Mom Test’, maps this idea of not asking your mother whether she thinks you have a good idea, to everyone — you shouldn’t ask anyone if your business is a good idea.

So, how do you validate if you have a good idea if you can’t ask anybody?

Firstly, let’s put this in context with an analogy of a car salesman. Think of the generic car salesman pitch, you know the one. The car salesman recites an enticing list of features that you’d sure like to have, and that’s where the key error lies in a generic salesman pitch, ‘like to have’. You’d like to have it, but you don’t need to have it. These features sound enticing whilst they’re being uttered, but when it comes to purchasing there isn’t a sense of necessity or urgency.

You’ll know you have a killer product if users feel the necessity or better yet urgency to have to use it. So how do you build necessity/urgency in users?

As far as the car salesman pitch goes, the salesman has a product and is attempting to build a user around the product by enticing them with various features. The salesman anchors the conversation with leading questions, that are sure-fire ways to reinforce validation for the product. Now, this is not to say the salesman doesn’t have a good product, but he can’t know if he doesn’t, and what you don’t know is more likely to hurt you in the long term.

Your job as a start-up is to do the opposite, to build a product around users and allow the features to naturally align. The initial thing to do is to contextualize with your industry and identify what problems users are having and the things that are important to them.

It’s often an effective strategy to pick a niche of users and build a tailored solution for them first, and then move into adjacent markets later, rather than attempting to build an all-encompassing solution at once. The best way to do this is by asking the right questions.

So, what are the right questions?

The right questions are the questions that allow you to manifest your users’ problems into actionable items/features, for example:

  • What’s currently wrong?
  • What’re the pains?
  • Do they have workaround solutions for these problems?
  • Is the problem even a big deal to the users?
  • How does the problem affect them financially?

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but you get a general idea.

We can see all these questions revolve around the customer and the problem, not the product, which allows you to easily find the pain points of your users. Once you pinpoint the pain points, it becomes much easier to build a viable product that they’ll be able to enjoy.

Using this method you get real information about your user even before building a product, rather than vice versa. If you’re building products on the basis of this information, your features are going to directly align with user needs, and as a result, you’re able to validate your product and instill a sense of urgency for users to use your product.

Inside VP

  • We are launching the 2nd cohort of Labs by ARM (2.0) this month in partnership with ARM. This time, we are looking for companies that are post-MVP and operating in the FinTech space in Nigeria. These startups should have a well-rounded, complementary team for product vision (what to build), technology (how to build it), and business (how to make money from it) and should be solving an important problem for a highly-engaged set of customers.
    If this post is in line with how you think of your business, visit www.armlabs.com.ng to learn more.
  • This month, in partnership with the Embassy of Ireland, we will be launching AgriLab — ideation and incubation for young AgriTech Entrepreneurs in Nigeria, to enable them to turn their start-up ideas into full-fledged business models ready for investment. Please, follow @vp_impact on Twitter to know when we launch.

Portfolio Chatter

  • The team at Thrive Agric authored this great piece on how they make agriculture profitable for farmers and put decent returns in their pockets. Read about it here.
  • PiggyVest has launched a new feature on its app — The Flex Dollar. This allows users to save in Dollars and they can beat currency devaluation and inflation rates. What this means is that users are able to preserve the value of their savings from within the Piggyvest app. #FlexDollar. You can read the exciting news here.
  • The good guys at Printivo are already spreading Holiday’ Cheers! They will be printing and delivering 200 full-color flyers for FREE for 50 business owners through a collaborative approach. Click here to learn how you can take advantage of this.
  • Paystack has launched Decode Fintech Podcast — a monthly deep-dive discussion with the most innovative teams solving the biggest challenges in African FinTech! Listen here.

What are we reading?

  • The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else by Hernando De Soto. Find here.
  • What does the CEO of a startup in Africa earn? Find here.

See you next month,

V.

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