Ideation: When to decide if an idea is worth your investment?

So every now and then an idea for an app for a business or initiative comes to mind, how do you decide if it’s worth spending your time, effort and cash on?

Normally, in the past, I used to get so excited, drop everything I was doing and start thinking of a name, buy the domain, come up with a logo, business case, business model, wireframe, design…etc then a beta comes along few months later and an expense of some thousands of dollars, this resulted in cute products yet their lifespan wasn’t that long! Same result also came with some of the products some of our clients did.

In this post I will share the new process I’ve been using for a while now to help me log, assess which ones I should find a way to pursue or take to the dead pool!

First, lets define what’s an idea in the context of this post is. Ideas come from different places, an observation you or others made while trying to accomplish something somewhere, could be an annoyance to avoid, an opportunity to grasp, or problem that needs to be fixed.

So my new process is as follows,

  1. I jot down the idea in few sentences the minute I think of it and then move on to doing whatever I was doing in the first place. Why? because I want to force myself to sleep on it, even if that turned out to be months.
  2. Every month or two, I look down into my ideas list and choose one to think a bit more about.
  3. Sometimes I get excited again but in most times, I find myself immediately trying to find ways I can accomplish the core of the idea today. In other words contesting the need of the idea by trying to find current alternatives to get it’s core promise done. In many cases, I do find it, in few others I don’t.
  4. I move along with the next steps only, if the following was true: a) if available tools or services were not present in my part of the world, b) if I thought I could make a much much much better user experience, c) if there is a viable way to make money d) if there is a good possibility of coming up with a business model away from advertising , e) if I can find a way to create it’s first version or MVP south of $50,000 and last but definitely not least is f) if I am passionate enough about it to run with it and find others that would.

If you use the previous steps very well, you will be able to strike down several ideas from that list, but sometimes come with a better statement for the idea and what pain it needs to solve. So here you can start narrowing down and focusing the core jobs your potential customers might do or branch into other opportunities in that space.

The following are the next steps in the process that are very important to do before spending more time or money!

  1. Next is to grab time with some of the minds you love to think through ideas with, your spouse, your best friend, your business partner or a colleague...etc. Run the idea and the business case by them and see what they tell you. Important note: Choose people very very wisely. Don’t choose the ones that always cheer you on, but the ones that are pessimistic, sarcastic or always critical. Here you want passionate critics not cheerleaders! I had to learn that the hard way :)
  2. Now after getting some initial positive feedback and having had time to working though it to tweak the offering; it is now crucial to start talking to the potential customers of your idea. You can set meet-ups those potential customers (friends, family, business associates) and do an interview. It helps a lot if you can create a simple sketch using a tool like Balsamiq and walk them through it. Important thing is to meet your potential customers and see what they have to say.
  3. It might be fruitful to create a simple and short email or online survey that you can share with potential customers of your idea, friends and family, business network..etc. You need to get a sense of the importance of the need for the service from one hand, and also start attracting attention to your project from a pool of potentially early adopters.
  4. Create an investor deck or a business plan and try to pitch your idea in a more organized manner, and test it on potential friends/business associates who might be interested in joining you along the journey.

The most important point of this whole post is to try to be your own enemy by finding ways your idea might suck, might fail, might not be that great before someone else along the journey comes to you with that feedback or you finding that outcome after spending a lot of time and money on it.

Happy ideation everyone!