Several days ago, I met with a founder of a new startup. We met because the founder needed help on online marketing*. The startup is still ramping up users count through a contest.
* I apologize for the shameless self-promoting :)
The idea is pretty chill and it definitely has potential to be big. It promises a value to users to get the stuffs that they want for cheaper (not a daily deal). And it also has latent potential to spot the latest trend.
Yes, I am about to raise a concern
So like usual, I dug around: I asked a few probing questions. The founder was very enthused with the startup so the beans just spilt left and right. Heh.
But it was a very positive session. I could feel a rush of emotions flowing and an exuberant excitement from the founder. I could tell the founder is putting everything into this baby. Just look at the following commitments the founder stated:
I am going to build this cool feature that can do this and that
I am going to provide this curation tool for the user
I am going to have all features done by next year
Now, I can relate to that. I used to feel all the excitement of building this cool feature and that awesome tool for the users. How the heck can I possibly fail when I give this much value to the users? No way, Jose. There’s just no way.
And fail I did.
The problem is I had a perception bias. I created this thing and I can see the value in it. I have problems that this thing can solve, so why not others too right?
Nope. I learned the hard way that my problem is my problem and their problem is their problem. They and I may have a common problem, but I should not have assumed. Imposing my problem unto others’ was not a wise move. David Hume would have laughed at me and said “I told you so”.
Value, like problem, is relative
The founder was about to go on an emotionally exhaustive journey without knowing for certain whether the ship that is being built is going to last. That is crazy! The founder’s intellectual capital was research of consumer behavior, research of similar startup in another country and research on potential market.
Those are good researches. Definitely, not the slightest doubt. The only problem is if you do not back it up by validating your idea in the real world. Research is largely about what has been, what the history suggests. But that does not entail that the sun is going to rise tomorrow for the founder.
If you have a startup, please start by formulating your value hypothesis: what is the problem that you are going to solve & how are you going to solve that problem. And then build a minimum viable product specifically to validate that hypothesis. No additional features. And test it on the market. Measure the feedback. Learn and iterate.
No features shall be built without knowing exactly the value it delivers and it has gone through validation period. Stop wasting your time accumulating wastes.
P.S. I can’t disclose the startup.