Where to start?

The correct place conceptually and philosophically to begin your startup idea

Over the years I’ve worked with different types of startups in all different stages of their product development. As the tech landscape becomes more dynamic, and as the market continues to grow at extraordinary rates it has become obvious that a lot of entrepreneurs need to get comfortable with a few things before any lines of code are produced or photoshop is fired up. These things are conceptual and philosophical considerations, but are fundamental in preparing for the long road ahead.

I’m finding myself having a lot of these conversations recently with pre-product folks who have come up with an idea. Although a good idea is exciting, successful businesses have a good position on a few fundamentals which I outline below:

What is the problem in the market you’re trying to solve?
Customers are most likely willing to pay (yes, that’s what a business is) for a new product/service if it solves a problem that directly affects them. If your idea is not solving a problem, then it’s going to be much harder to find someone who’s willing to pay, and continue to pay for your product/service. The bigger the problem you’re solving, the more you can charge for the solution.

What are the success criteria for product-market fit?
Product-market fit is a term often used to describe a startups ability to develop a product or service that fits well within their target market. Startups with good product-market fit have a much easier/cheaper time scaling users and customers. Investors like to see proof of product-market fit before writing a check, and you as the entrepreneur should also evaluate this as it is a key factor in being successful. Prior to spending your limited resources, you should define the criteria needed to establish product-market fit.

MVP Features (minimally viable product)
MVP is a term that gets thrown around a lot, but is often not properly used. The first version is not the MVP if it’s anything beyond what’s minimally required to solve the problem you’ve identified, and provide you with evidence that you have (or have not) proven product-market fit. When creating your feature list, keep it short and high level. Start with two, maybe three features… much more than this and chances are it’s above what you’ll need, and breaks the bounds of a true MVP.

Time or budget constraints you’ll likely encounter
Most startups have limited resources. Whether it’s your time (because you still have a job) or it’s your cash, these things need be candidly considered while building your roadmap. Nothing will kill your dream faster than burning all of your resources to get 80% of the way there.

These high level considerations should be a great place to start when putting together a game plan to start a new business. With this said, I encourage you to stay focused on solving a real problem, defining what proves product-market fit, and building an MVP that only supports both of those efforts.

Written by

Dan Parsons

CEO at @OraInteractive. co-founder @dryv_chi. lover of chicago. @danbyday


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