Some of the most successful founders have done many experiments when it comes to building their Startup. Some prefer to use the Lean Startup method, and the rest has just done what they think was right and get started without any fundamentals.
When building your first Startup, it is very easy to get confused and lost in the process without really knowing where to start.
Based on our Startup experience, you can take some first steps that'll help you move the needle forward when getting started, and no, they aren't generic like those you can find in other places; these are based on our knowledge in entrepreneurship and startups.
What are some of the first mistakes entrepreneurs make when building their Startup idea?
- Not knowing enough about the problem they want to solve.
- Building before marketing. Assuming the product needs to be perfect before launching.
- Not getting feedback from potential customers about their product.
- Not having the right target audience in mind.
So, why do we make these mistakes when getting started? Don't get me wrong; a Startup is all about making mistakes and learning. The problem is when you're not learning enough from them and implementing the feedback right into your product.
Mistakes like the ones we just described can happen because of lack of preparation or knowledge about the startup world or because some ideas are so intrinsic in our minds that we don't bother to test them and see if someone else might have the same problem that is worth solving.
Often, founders lose their focus and end up not working on their idea at all.
These are the six steps we recommend to help you get started with your Startup idea:
- Find a problem worth solving.
- Understand your customer.
- Define your purpose.
- Have focus, define some metrics.
- Build your prototype.
- Test, Test & Test.
1. Find a problem worth solving
"Building something nobody wants is the ultimate form of waste." - Eric Ries
Everyone has different kinds of problems. When you get the first idea, you want to start building right away because you are sure it solves a problem or purpose. But then, sooner or later, you start to realize that people don't understand what you're doing, and if that's going even to survive.
Try answering these questions:
- What is the problem you're trying to solve? Is this something worth solving?
- Are there more people that think this is something painful enough?
- How are they solving this problem now?
You could do some initial interviews with your target audience or build a quick prototype that you can share with people and receive feedback.
If you find that you're getting some traction or finding valuable feedback from the people you're asking, then keep going; you're on the right path. If no one can understand what you do or don't think it's painful enough to use it or buy from, then re-think your idea.
In our Startup Toolkit, you can find all tools related to validating your initial idea.
2. Understand your customer
The more you know about your customers, the more you can provide to them information that is increasingly useful, relevant, and persuasive. - Jay Baer
If you don't know your customers well enough, you won't persuade them to buy from you. We've seen many entrepreneurs and even successful Startups that are unsure of who their customers are.
They just started selling something but never stopped to find out who and why their customers truly buy from them. Most founders focus too much on what the competition is doing and forget about what's truly important, their customers, and building a sustainable product.
One of the most useful techniques in the Startup world is to create a customer persona, there are many templates for that, but we suggest you use this one, as it gives you all the insights you need to start.
When getting to know your customers, go beyond the demographics and truly understand their behavior, motivations, needs, and pain points.
Ask your customers these questions:
- How often do you experience this problem?
- What is the biggest pain attached to this problem?
- How do you currently solve this problem?
The key to a sustainable business is knowing and connecting with customers. Successful founders understand their customer problems, pain points, needs, and wants and try to solve them in the best way possible with their product.
3. Define your purpose
"People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it."
As founders, we tend to underestimate the purpose of our Startup ideas. We all want to change the world (right?), but we don't understand the value (call it the benefit or the why) we deliver to customers.
Too often, we focus on what we are building rather than understanding the why or purpose in the first place. When communicating what you do, focus on the why and connect deeper with your potential customers or audience.
4. Have focus, define some metrics
Knowing where you'll be moving and the metrics that matter will take you on the right path.
Many founders start with an idea but don't know where to focus or work first. Part of it is because they haven't set up some metrics or a "north star" metric that defines if they are doing it right or not.
You can use the Pirate Funnel for this.
Pirate Funnel by Ward van Gasteren
These are some of the metrics you can define when building your Startup idea:
– What are some of the first customers you need in the first months?
– What are the channels that might work so you can keep putting effort in?
– When do you need to have your first product ready?
– Do you have a roadmap with features/things you need to work on before launching?
– Where are you going to launch, and how are you going to do it?
Having a better understanding of these will help you keep on track on where to put your efforts and if what you're doing is working or not.
If you're still unsure of where to start with your metrics, you can check in our Startup toolkit that has some tools that can help you define your business model, metrics and validate your business idea.
5. Build your prototype
If you haven't done it yet, this is the perfect time to start building your prototype. Just get started with something easy to make, and then you can play around and improve the whole concept.
There are some no-code tools you could use for building low fidelity prototypes:
What's the main purpose of building a prototype for your Startup idea?
A prototype is a way to communicate value to your potential customers and get potential feedback on your product/idea.
There are three types of prototypes you can build:
- Low-fidelity prototypes are often paper-based and don't provide user interactions. They're just a quick way to start explaining your product to potential users.
- A medium-fidelity prototype has some functionality, focusing on the layout or the most important features.
- High-fidelity is more about functionality and design. It allows more realistic user interactions.
Once you have your value proposition and your target audience well defined, you can start putting together your masterpiece. A landing page where potential customers can get more information about your product and leave their emails if possible.
6. Test, Test & Test
Validate your assumptions and test them with real customers.
As founders, we think our idea is revolutionary and that no one will build something like it. Based on our experience, this rarely happens not because of the idea but because of the founders' mentality.
We have many assumptions that, if we don't validate them properly, will always stay as assumptions. It is not until we test and validate or invalidate our assumptions that we can truly learn and apply.
Download our Startup Validation guide to find out more on how to test your Startup assumptions.
How to validate your Startup idea?
Pick the right channels for testing. This comes back to knowing your customers and understanding where to find them.
According to Traction, there are 19 growth channels; picking the correct one will make the difference between collecting real feedback and moving forward or getting stuck into the same feedback and not having enough growth.
More often, what happens is that the channels you'll like to pick are too congested, and too many people also picked that channel.
For example, Instagram Ads; they work well, especially for products that are direct to the consumer. If you know how to target your customer, it'll be easier to target the right people and spend just the right amount.
If not, you'll be spending too much and not see any results. Try different channels and see on which one you get more traction to get you started.
If you spend too much time or money without testing, you won't know if what you're building is something people want. Don't wait until you have everything ready to get some feedback on the process to validate your assumptions and testing channels.
Our Validation Sprint can help you to start early in the process of approaching potential customers and getting feedback from them.
How many times have you asked yourself or your friends/family: What do you think about my product? Do you think it is good enough, or do I need to change something?
As 'entrepreneurs,' we love to doubt everything about our product development. We think that if we don't have a product that looks amazing or has everything we dreamed of, then we can't launch or test it (this happens a lot with digital products).
Get your feedback and implement it on the product as soon as you can. As Seth Godin says: Waiting for perfect is never as smart as making progress.
When building your Startup idea, remember to solve a problem worth solving, understand your customers and define your purpose first. Then, define your Startup metrics, build your prototype, start testing as soon as possible, and incorporate that feedback early in the process.
We hope these six steps can help you out when building your next great Startup!. Don't forget to subscribe to our Builders Newsletter for more Startup content.
Join our next Validation Sprint cohort and get from idea to prototype in just two weeks.