You have just got a bright idea for a business. Part of you is probably wondering why no one saw it before. What next? Here is what I would do. It is based on what I have learned so far as I develop SopherApps.
The Question: What to Do After Getting a Business Idea
In the Facebook group, ‘Startup Angel’, which I recently joined, someone asked this question.
“What should be the proceeding (steps) after getting an idea for a startup/business venture? Seniors, please guide.”
Now I can hardly claim to be a senior in this sort of thing but I have an answer for him. From my experience in developing SopherApps, a software startup company, I think I have some notable insights.
My seniors will most definitely have more to say. However, “be ye of good cheer, my friend. I give the first course of the meal, the rest will come.”
When I got the idea for SopherApps, it was basically a very rough one. At the time, of course, I thought I had 90% of the idea figured out. It seemed clear enough for me to start work.
I now think that idea was less than 2% figured out.
Always Start with a Real World Market Survey
Being aware of my limitations at the time helped me in the long run. The market I wanted to serve was new to me.
I knew there was something missing from the word “Go”. I knew I needed to find it out and yet I couldn’t afford a market survey. I was sort of broke.
My main market was to be startups. Actually, it was more of people seeking to create startups.
It turns out that this was a blessing in disguise for me. The mere fact that I was operating a startup myself meant that I could have an insider’s opinion about what my startup should be. In a way, I am my own client.
My starting point was supposed to be to weigh my proposed solution or business idea against the real world. By God’s grace, I took that step without knowing and I didn’t have to spend an extra dime.
Market research: this should always be the first step. Ask, ‘Does the real world target market really need this?” Do not answer this yourself unless you are part of that real world target market.
If Possible, Become Part of Your Target Market
Actually, experiencing, firsthand, the issues your target market faces is like winning the lottery. The truth is the best people to engineer a solution are those who have felt the pain of the problem.
If possible (and it is), take some time off to infiltrate your target market, you will be on the easy road to success.
You will be able to find out how significant the problem you want to solve is to the people affected.
More often than not, innovators like us are like the fans at a football match and the target market is the team on the football pitch. You know how such fans can have so many ideas.
“The coach should substitute this player”, “The skipper is misplaced. He should be moved forward.”
However, if you have ever played football (soccer in the US), you know that many times such fans have no idea what they are talking about.
They don’t really know the mental state of the players they want to shift around the pitch. They are not bothered by the upcoming match fixtures, something, the coach has to take into consideration.
These fans are basically external observers who don’t know much about what is really happening on the pitch.
Do not be one of those ‘fans’. If you fail to become a ‘player’, request for ‘exclusive after exclusive from the real players’.
Without Market Research, You Will Be Frustrated
Market research might seem costly at first but trust me, it is worth it. It could save you months of frustration when no one embraces your product.
I actually went through one of these failure phases, myself, when I first started up. I created a website for businesses to freely create their websites.
I approached many Startups and none of them ever really took it up! None! It really pissed me off. I was angry at those startups.
Who were they? I was giving them a free service and they turned it down?
The resulting confusion and frustration were so overwhelming that I pulled down the website and almost completely gave up on the idea.
After some exposure in the startup business world, I realized that even I would have refused to sign up for such an offer.
First off, the service was more like I, the provider, would have excessive access to their information with no guarantees. No business wants that! What was I thinking?
Secondly, such startups are looking for real exposure online. To them, creating websites is not really as significant as I had assumed. They want to rank high in search engines. Search engine optimization is what I should have focused on, not free web hosting!
“If you get a business idea from the above paragraph, you are welcome. Send me some money when you start profiting 🙂”
So, What Do You Do After Getting a Bright Business Idea?
To answer the question on the Facebook group, I say, survey your target market. Find out how important it is to them to solve the problem you want to solve.
This might take some time and money but it will be worth it. You might even get more business ideas out of it. I know I did.
Try to experience it yourself. If you are targeting vegetable vendors, take off a few weeks and lodge at the local vegetable market. Get a stall if you can and start selling vegetables as you consult your fellow vendors.
If you find the problem is big enough, find out what solutions are currently being employed by your potential clients. Try these solutions out yourself and find out where you could do better.
Do not focus on your proposed idea or solution at this point. Chances are it is very rough around the edges. It is very rough indeed.
At this stage, focus on solving the problem for the target market. Look at the prevailing solutions, find the gap they haven’t filled and then modify your original solution to fill that gap.
Make sure the gap is big enough. You don’t want to center your business on a small feature that can easily be added on the available solutions. Otherwise, you will be out of business real soon.
When you are sure you have a working solution, stop. Become unsure again (but not as much as before), and start implementing the first prototype of that solution.
Yes, be unsure because you will find out that this prototype is far from the perfect solution. This is why you need to keep receiving feedback and watching the market.
Actually, I am pretty sure you will be doing this even after your final product or service is launched. The world is continuously changing, so are people’s wants and cares.
Businesses that survive for a long time know this and they keep on learning from feedback from their market. If you don’t start off by getting feedback from your market, I can safely say, your business is doomed from the word “Go”.
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