How To Validate a Startup Idea With Minimal Risks

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  • Date Published
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Three steps for a business idea validation: define UVP, reveal market interest, build an MVP to attract investments and get users’ feedback.

Only 10% of startups succeed each year. Not the best line to start with, is it?

But when a brilliant idea comes to mind, you rarely think about failure. You probably feel like bringing this idea to life ASAP and starting winning the market.

However, by following the impulse, many entrepreneurs often fail to do the groundwork that helps validate or disprove the idea at the early stages, investing minimum resources.

As a result, they lose time, money, motivation, and contribute to the statistics of unsuccessful startups.

How do we know this?

The team has been in the market of web and mobile development since 2016, and we’ve seen a lot of cases of success and failure (we’ve even made the one with our product, but that’s another story).

Now, we can say for sure that market research and customer development made at the very beginning together with the properly defined product/service positioning could save you from wasting your resources. And the cool thing is you can do it yourself!

So, enough talk, let’s get down to the groundwork.

1. Doing the groundwork

The lack of product-market fit (the level of match between your product offerings and your target audience needs) is the #1 reason why startups fail.

That’s why your first step is making sure your audience has a problem that you can solve with your product. And this problem is really huge.

Detecting the pain points

This is a starting point of a startup idea validation that requires you to be as specific and impartial as you can be. At this stage, you should do some research and write down the answers to the following questions:

1. What pain point(s) are you trying to solve?

2. Who are the people whose problem you’re solving?

3. What are the roots of their pain point(s)?

4. Are there any other solutions on the market? How could yours be different from them? (Will it really be different?)

5. What resources will you need to solve the problem?

As a result, write down a list of hypotheses that need to be either confirmed or disproved during the next steps.


Defining your value proposition

At this stage, you need to differentiate your product from the competitors and craft a unique value proposition for your audience.

The first thing to do is to clearly define which place your idea will take in the market (technically, it’s called product positioning). Let’s check the basic stages of crafting a product positioning strategy, which result in creating a unique value proposition (UVP = Problem + Solution/Product).

  • Competitors analysis. Analyze the products your competitors offer, the strengths and weaknesses of their sales pitches/value propositions.
  • Target audience analysis. Learn as much as you can about your target customers: segment them (if required), keeping in mind their pain points, explore their routine, motivations, goals, and frustrations using Q&A forums, social media, niche articles;
  • Define the value you could bring to your prospects. Craft a value proposition for each customer segment, highlighting the unique features of your product that help your customers solve their problems better than any other solution.
  • Think of the ways to get your UVP noticed by your target audience. Here, I’m talking about a kind of a high-level marketing strategy that helps you reach out to your prospects. (I.e. where?: in blog posts, how?: by creating a series of copies, explaining how exactly customers could solve their problem using a specific product feature(s).)

Besides, think of your pricing model & revenue streams, which could also be pretty high-level to be adjusted during the next stages.

To sum up your findings at this stage, I offer you to fill in the business model canvas, a one-page document that captures and visualizes the main points of your business model.

2. Revealing market interest

Through landing page

A landing page is a good way to reach out to your audience with your proposition and check if they appeal to it. The good news is you can create it without any assistance using various landing page builders and stay on budget.

Using a landing page, you can build up a list of early adopters, collecting the customer subscriptions for product testing or early access. For the provided contact details, your audience may receive bonuses or rewards (a checklist/guide helping them deal with their problem or a product discount), which increase their engagement and build brand attachment.

You can also try paid advertising leading the clickers to your landing page to find out how relevant your offer is. However, in this case, I’d recommend hiring a PPC expert, especially if you have no experience with launching Google/Bing ads.

Using pre-ordered process

Pre-order is a purchase of a product that hasn’t yet been released. There are many reasons why pre-orders are used, but in the case of validating the audience’s interest, product demand prediction comes first.

Together with revealing the expected demand for your offer, you could also discover your audience’s preferences, understand which questions they will ask, edit the list of must-have and nice-to-have features, and get the initial feedback.

Through user research

User research helps discover & collect information about the needs and pain points of the target audience.

In this way, you can reduce or avoid inaccuracies and directly connect with your customers to learn what they think about your idea.

The good news is you’ve already done the part of the user research process while defining your value proposition. So, the main task here is to streamline all your data and prepare for customer development interviews, during which you ask your questions face-to-face, checking how accurate your assumptions are.

Regardless of the form of the interview, you’d focus on the following points.

  1. Clearly define your goals. What results should you get after the interview?
  2. Find the people for the interview. Being where your customers are is an essential part of success. Attend the industry events, join the shared interests groups, read the media your customers read, network. And don’t be afraid to reach out to your prospects with your idea, asking for their opinion.
  3. List the specific questions, which will help you reach your goal. For example, “What tasks take up the most time in your day?”, “How motivated are you to solve/improve [problem/process]?”, “Have you tried the tools/applications that solve the problem? What do you like or dislike about them?”, “If you had a solution to this problem, what would it mean to you/how would it affect you?”.
  4. Don’t just ask questions, observe! Lucky you are if there is a chance to observe your prospects working. Watching their routine could give you a deeper understanding of the problems they face and the most efficient ways to solve them with your tech.

However, you should always remember that even the smoothest interview doesn’t give you a 100% guarantee your prospects will become the paying customers. It’s still a good option to get in contact with your audience and learn some valuable insights to adjust your product vision, but without MVP your picture would be incomplete.

Building a prototype

At the prototyping stage, you create a product demo/design simulation allowing you to:

  • Show the prototype to prospects, conducting usability testing.
  • Gather the feedback required to validate/disprove your idea.
  • Communicate your product concept to a tech team accurately to build an MVP.

Although a prototype is only an interactive visualization of your product based on the data you got during the previous stages of research, it helps you get tangible results when checking if the product concept works.

You can either ask your designer to make a prototype for you or do it yourself using a bunch of tools:

  • Miro (a friendly tool for click-through prototypes generation)
  • InVision (easy and reliable, allows you to turn images, text, shapes into a prototype, add comments, and upload it to the cloud).
  • Webflow (great UI builder for creating a prototype with no coding skills).
  • Proto (an intuitive web & mobile prototyping tool with a drag and drop interface).

You can also pitch your prototype to investors and stakeholders, which significantly increases your chances to get funded.

3. MVP to validate your product idea

After going through one or several above-mentioned steps and getting positive feedback from your prospects, you could start to build the first version of the product (MVP). It’s good if you have a reliable tech partner who really gets your idea and helps you implement it in the most efficient way.

The only advice is to gather and streamline all your findings to clearly communicate your requirements and document everything to get the MVP built exactly in the way you want it. Stay open to discussion and listen to your tech team, as they may offer a bit different technologies/ways of implementation that could really save your budget and enhance the product.

Why not release the full-featured product instead of the MVP?

Once upon a time, a customer came to us with an idea. He wanted to create a content collaboration platform with an article database (similar to Scopus) for a scientific community. The initial product development estimate was $70k. Too much to lose in case the idea doesn’t work out. Our team offered to slow down and have the discovery phase first to understand if his audience really needs all this functionality. As a result, we proved it’s better to focus on one killer feature — content collaboration and release an MVP that cost $30k. We also turned an idea into a concept, made a feature list, the roadmap, and prepared all the documentation for the development stage. If the idea was validated by real users, we would add the features, including the article database.

So, I strongly recommend you to start small: focus on one-two killer feature(s) that address customers’ pain points and see where it goes before investing significant budgets into development.

The advantages of building an MVP first:

  • You won’t invest an arm and a leg. The MVP contains only core features that allow you to approve/disprove the idea, investing the minimum resources.
  • You’ll validate the idea quicker. Using MVP as the main tool to validate a business idea, you can get tangible feedback from your target audience in 6-10 weeks together with the first paying customers.
  • You’ll get feedback before scaling. Even with all the research you’ve done, there’s still a chance of not catering to all the needs of your customers. So, there should always be room for adjusting product-market fit/pivoting/adding features/enhancing the UX before investing in product scaling.

Keep in mind that the main purpose of an MVP is to find out how good the idea is in practice. So instead of focusing on releasing a perfect product, make sure it has the core functionality included.

After releasing a minimum viable product, your main task as a founder is to gather a target group and make them use your product to get feedback. Based on this, you’ll define the further steps (i.e. reaching out to investors, adding or enhancing a feature, A/B testing, pivoting, etc.).

Customer success story

Generating an amazing idea is only the beginning of a fascinating, hard, frustrating, and rewarding startup journey. It’s inspiring how founders are following their dreams, but sometimes they forget about the reality: every idea needs validation.

I hope the long to-do list doesn’t scare you off. The truth is every founder goes through this process, customizing the steps to their concept and niche. To be completely honest with you, it’s quite an impressive amount of work that often can’t be done by anyone except for the founder. However, there’s definitely the light at the end of the tunnel!

I asked our dear customer who made and scaled an MVP with to share his startup journey with you and say: “You’re not alone!”.

“Years ago I had a colleague who was a senior auditor in the company I worked for. We kept in touch after I left for another job. Being interested in his work I asked him to describe how he audited. Surprisingly to me most of the work was done with paper, spreadsheets, and email. I blurted out, “why don’t we make an app?” and he immediately replied “yes”. I couldn’t turn back now.

We teamed up and looked for developers to help us. We vetted 35 developers, both individuals and companies. came out on top, because of their apparent expertise and their genuine care for their clients.

We really did not have anybody to talk to about our MVP. It felt more like we just jumped off the edge of a cliff and learned how to fly on the way down. It was through Jellyfish we learned more about the process.

We had funds to develop an MVP that we could demonstrate to our potential clients. It consisted of an auditing web app, a cloud database server, and an administration dashboard. The development process went over the next few months. Our dedicated project manager was empathetic, direct, and showed great interest and care for our project. The result was great UX/UI, both functionally and aesthetically.

We presented our MVP at an industry exhibition receiving much praise. Shortly thereafter the pandemic shut down most of the world and put us in limbo for a long time, like so many others. As society opened up we started prospecting potential clients who showed interest in our services.

We have now signed auditing contracts with multiple clients and we look forward to taking our MVP to the next step by adding more functionality and automation. The future looks bright!”

–Finn, CTO

What can I add? Stay strong, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, seek support, and delegate part of your responsibilities. The team wishes you a bright startup future 🙂