Popular startup methodologies (ie. Lean, Ultralight, Bootstrapping, etc) all tout a fairly scientific process to building a startup. The most valuable aspect of this approach is the reductionist view of the steps to success:
- Find a problem to solve
- Hypothesize how to solve it
- Build the simplest version of the product that tests the hypothesis
- Give it to people and see what they say
- Move forward based on the feedback
- Repeat steps 1 – 6 until your exit
(Obviously a tremendous amount of sweat, blood and tears exist between each step and each iteration, but this simplistic view is incredibly useful).
At Happily Ever Answered, we recently launched the first version of the site (our “alpha” or minimum-viable-product) privately to close friends and family for testing (this puts us at step 4). This is extremely exciting as it’s the first test of our hypothesis, that people need a place to ask, answer and discuss weddings in a social Q&A community.
It’s not exciting simply because it’s testing our hypothesis, but because the result of this test determines the entire direction we go as a team for the coming months and years. Feedback from these testers may tell us one of three things:
“This is great – I want it now!”
Great, we can launch publicly tomorrow!
“This is cool, but I would only use it if [fill in the missing feature or service here]”
Now we know where to go next!
Even this disheartening feedback is actually positive feedback. The testers aren’t necessarily saying the market isn’t big enough and the problem we’re attempting to solve doesn’t exist – they’re saying our hypothesis isn’t the solution.
If you know your market and problem are solid – there is always a solution. Talk to your users, find it and march forward!