5 steps to maximizing your odds of startup success

1. Start with an audience

You need users, right? So why are you building your idea before you have a single user signup or anyone that said they would even use it. Neither of these are enough to continue past this step, but it’s important to note: always start with an audience, they are your north star.

  1. It helps you build an audience via engagement, subscribers, followers, etc.
  2. It is the very bare minimal investment you can commit your resources to in order to determine what really jives with your user base.

2. Define the problem

Ok, so I’m assuming you have at least one (ideally a group) of people that identify with some overarching pain. Maybe it’s that Salesforce doesn’t integrate well with Stripe or Shopify doesn’t have a google maps plugin. These are high level, and we’ll discuss how to dive into them.

  • What recent projects seem to be consuming the most mental energy for you?
  • Can you walk me through the first couple hours of your work day?
  • What are the things that you love to do? When are you in flow?
  • What would you wave a magic wand at to make disappear?

3. Validate some solutions

Alright so let’s assume you had these conversations with the users and you’re ready to come up with a solution. Put your brainstorming to the test. Heck, you can even ask your user base how they’d like these problems solved.

4. Build some prototypes

We want to minimize the amount of time it takes for us to yield as much learning as possible from our “experiments”. This requires us to start with as low fidelity prototypes and mockups as possible. This could mean construction paper, or a couple pictures like below:

A beautiful way that TempTraq has prototyped some new features with minimal investment and no development time

5. Refine and scale

So you have a list of features in order of priority and you have a user base that is super eager to get it in their hands. You have several options regarding development:

  1. Crowdfund. Assuming some of your users are businesses, this solution directly correlates to an increase in their ROI. Figuring out a price point is easy once you quantify the value they get from your solution. Ask them this simple question: “if you pay $X, we’ll let you use it free for life”. Ask a bunch of people this and you have a funding source.
  2. Venture Capital. If it’s super clear that you’re on to something here and you can share the work you did to both validate the concept and identify product market fit then build a pitch deck and send it to some VCs.
  3. Self-Fund. Get a pricing estimate from a developer or firm and fund it yourself. This approach expanded in the very bottom.
  4. Build the software on your own. Always an option…
  1. You don’t need to be a technology wizard or even understand how software works to be successful in this process
  2. You do however need to put yourself out there and become an expert in understanding the problem while being solution agnostic. Who cares how the solution works as long as it solves that deep problem your users have.

So get started, build an audience, find some problems and test your solutions. I want to hear about some of your successes, failures and lessons learned by commenting below.

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Shameless self promotion:

We started VirtueTheory.com to guide founders, companies, and teams in their product development journey. We apply the above tactics and industry best practices to build a prototype and scale it, maximizing your odds of success.



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