In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike make a list of 13 signs you should kill an idea you’re validating. These are different signals that can be negative to the idea actually working.
Items mentioned in this episode:
Mike [00:00:00]: In this episode of “Startups for the Rest of Us,” Rob and I are going to be talking about 13 signs you should kill an idea you’re validating. This is “Startups for the Rest of Us,” episode 262.
Mike [00:00:16]: Welcome to “Startups for the Rest of Us,” the podcast that helps developers, designers and entrepreneurs be awesome at launching software products, whether you’ve built you first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Mike.
Rob [00:00:24]: And I’m Rob.
Mike [00:00:25]: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s the word this week, Rob?
Rob [00:00:29]: Well, I was just looking back at my 2015 goals, because it’s early November now, and so it’s kind of time for things to start winding down. I’m starting a new [?] what I would like my 2016 to look like. I’ll do a retreat around the end of the year, but so far, so good on the goals. There was a revenue goal for Drip that we passed a couple months ago. I hadn’t even realized it. I probably should’ve celebrated, and I definitely think I’m actually not great at is celebrating my victories. I tend to be happy for five minutes and then say, “All right. What’s next?” I actually think that one should celebrate them more, actually. I think it brings you – it just adds longevity to what you’re doing, because we all have a lot of downs. It’s like take the opportunity to have an up once in a while.
Mike [00:01:09]: Well, if you’re not celebrating those opportunities for where things are going well, then it can also be a long time between certain types of goals that you have, just because the nature of some of them is an extended time period. If the reward pattern is off a little bit, then it can be difficult for you to stay motivated to go after those goals.
Rob [00:01:27]: Yeah, that’s right. So, it was quite – I looked at a list. There were, like, four or five goals; and I think I achieved four of them. The fifth one was to write another book, or rewrite my last year’s book and within probably 60 days of saying that, I called that off. There’s no chance it was going to happen, so it’s kind of an honorable mention, I guess; and I feel okay about not hitting that one. We’ll talk more in depth about this probably in December, when we review our 2015 goals and set goals for 2016.
How about you? What’s going on?
Mike [00:01:53]: Not much. Just doing more design work for the app that I’m working on so that I can go back to people that said that they were interested in it.
One thing I saw that was completely unrelated to that was that Google has started selling domains. I think that they announced that they were going to be acquiring some top-level domains, but I hadn’t really heard anything about it. Ironically enough, I saw that they were advertising for these Google domains on Facebook.
Rob [00:02:15]: That is so cool. So, Google is running Facebook ads is what you’re saying?
Mike [00:02:19]: Yes, because –
Rob [00:02:19]: That’s great.
Mike [00:02:20]: – it was – yeah, and I looked at it, and I was like, “Oh. I feel like I have to click on this just to make them spend money.” [Laughs]
Rob [00:02:25]: Are you sure it wasn’t more of, like, an affiliate or something that maybe was getting a –
Mike [00:02:31]: I don’t –
Rob [00:02:30]: – commission?
Mike [00:02:31]: – no, I don’t think so. I don’t know. Maybe it was. Maybe it was. It was in the main activity area of Facebook, and it looked like a Google ad. It went directly to domains.google.com.
Rob [00:02:42]: Yeah. The other thing regarding Google domains is – did you hear someone registered google.com through the google domain engine, and they owned it –
Mike [00:02:48]: Oh, yes.
Rob [00:02:48]: – for, like, two minutes, 12 seconds?
Mike [00:02:50]: A minute. A minute.
Rob [00:02:51]: I don’t know.
Mike [00:02:51]: Two minutes.
Rob [00:02:51]: Yeah, or something like that, and Google caught it. They didn’t even get access to the DNS or anything, but I thought that was funny that they sold their own domain.
Mike [00:03:40]: Yeah. I think I saw a blog post from either Steven or Allan a while back that discussed their own approach within Less Accounting, and that’s how they were getting information back from their users, so it was to intercept those people and ask them questions about why they were cancelling so it’s interesting to see them turn this into a product other people can use.
Rob [00:03:58]: So, what are we talking about today?
Mike [00:03:59]: Well, we got an email from Jeff Madsen, who asked when is it time to call it quits on validating an idea? He says, “Hi, guys. Listen to all the shows. Have a question I’d really love to hear your input on. When do you call it quits on validating an idea? I know this feels like a ‘that depends’ type question, but I think there has to be some science behind it – or, at least some good ground rules. Appreciate your input. Keep up the great work.”
[00:04:18] So, what we did was we put together 13 signs that you should kill an idea that you’re validating. Essentially, these are things that you might be doing as part of the customer development process, or even before you started building. Quite frankly, some of them might come after you’ve started building, so it’s important to take a look at these things and keep in mind that, depending on where you’re at with your application, you may need to rethink where you’re at. The other thing to keep in mind is that not all of these things mean that you need to walk away from it. Some of them just mean that you need to rethink it, maybe take a couple of steps back, or re-validate certain parts of it. So, it doesn’t mean that outright it’s time to kill it, but it’s time to reevaluate where you’re at.
Rob [00:04:58]: Yeah, I think these are more signals than true deal breakers, show stoppers, red flags. That’s not what they are. They’re really signs or signals that are negative towards the outcome of this actually working, so the more of them that stack up, you really need to take notice and think twice about continuing with the validation.
Mike [00:05:17]: I think one of the things that’s worth pointing out here is that when you’re talking about validation, there are different stages to the product development process. There’s the part where you’re very, very early on and you’re just validating whether or not people are interested in something. Then you move on to say, “Are people not just interested in this, but interested enough to the point that they’re willing to pay for it?” Are you trying to validate that your idea is actually solving somebody’s problem? I think that there’s different angles that this validation comes up on and, depending on the specifics of what part of it you’re validating, then that’s going to play a role in some of these different signs.
Rob [00:05:54]: Yeah, you can certainly be pre-problem-solution fit, where you’re just saying, “Boy, is there a problem?” Right? You’re just trying to validate if there’s a problem. Then next you’re saying, “I now have a solution. Is that the solution to this problem?” Then the next thing is, “Is this product going to be that solution to the problem?” Then, “Will people pay for the product if I build it?” Then, “Can I reach people who will pay for the product if I build it?” Right? I just outlined five steps right in a row that I would want to validate each individually.
[00:06:23] Then there’s also validation like – let’s say you have a product, and you have 500 customers, and you’re wondering, “Should we build this major, new feature?” or, “Should we go in this major, new direction?” Oftentimes, you need to validate that. You don’t just want to go out and spend two months building something. You actually want to validate that by talking to your existing customers, talking to prospective customers. Validation should not just be something you do once at the very early stages of building a product. I believe it’s something that you want to do all the time, because it just saves you so much time in terms of not building features that no one wants.
Mike [00:06:54]: I think with that said, we’ll just dive right into the first one. The first one is that you’re avoiding talking to prospective customers. I think there’s a natural inclination to just start building because you have a good idea of what it’s going to take to solve a particular problem, but sometimes you really need to start talking to those prospective customers to figure out whether or not they’re actually interested in solving that particular problem. It’s very easy to say, “Oh, this is going to be a really cool technology,” or even just finding a cool technology that you want to work with and starting to build something and then saying, “Oh, I’ll figure out who I’m going to sell it to later.” I think it’s a different story if you’re just trying it out to learn something versus you’re going to try and figure out how to make it into a product later.
Rob [00:07:34]: I think especially for technicians and whether you’re a developer or a designer, just someone who likes to build and create things. Most of us – especially if you’re introverted, you don’t like talking to people. You don’t like going out of your comfort zone. You feel like that’s probably more for salespeople. This does get easier over time but, to be honest, early on I had a really time with it as well. You might have a vision that you want to launch a website and never have to talk to a single person and that they’re going to come and sign up for your SaaS app and then hang around, and maybe you can email with them and support a few times, but that’ll be it. That’s not impossible; but it’s very, very rare. You’re not going to build a long-term business.
[00:08:10] Even if you don’t want to build something huge, if you just want something to stick around over time and pass the test of time, you really are going to have to talk to your customers and get to know them. It’s just in every business that I see that’s successful and that’s been around for many years at this point. In SaaS, “many years” is – what – four? Five? Six? You really are going to get to know your customers, and I think the more that you get to know them and the more that you talk to people, the easier this gets later on. So, this is an acquired skill just like delegating, just like marketing, just like development. Just being able to speak one-on-one with customers and talk to prospective customers and not feel anxiety about that anymore – I think that is a learned skill. And it’s one that, if you’re not good at it already, that you should really focus on improving over the next six to 12 months if you are, in fact, trying to validate an idea.
Mike [00:08:55]: The second sign you should kill an idea you’re validating is that you’re having a difficult time finding people in your target market to talk about the idea. I think that there’s two, different pieces that come into play there. One of them is that you don’t even really know what your target market looks like, so you don’t know the type of people that are going to use it, whether it’s realtors or real estate developers. Obviously, those two are different things, but they’re related. So, you might have an idea of who you should talk to, but if you’re having a hard time getting them on the phone or getting them to give you any sort of attention, then that right there is a signal that you might need to just take a step back and reevaluate where you’re at.
Rob [00:09:31]: It’s important to have at least an idea up front how you’re ultimately going to sell this product; because if the product requires you to do high-touch sales, then you’re going to need a very high price point, which means it’s going to be more of either enterprise pricing or at least several hundred dollars a month if you’re going to have to speak to everyone on the phone before you close them. And if you are selling to realtors, or lawyers, or more non-technical brick-and-mortar stuff, the odds are that you are going to need that several-hundred-dollar price point. It can scale really well, but you need to know that you’re going to be talking to folks. And like you said, if you’re having a difficult time, whether it’s through cold calling, or whether it’s doing some type of inbound lead gen and talking to them on the phone, and you’re not able to get them up front just to validate the idea, then imagine how hard it’s going to be once you’re actually trying to sell them something.
[00:10:18] The same thing goes if you’re going to sell online. If you want to set up a landing page, you do some SEO, or do some pay-per-click ads – whatever you’re going to do to drive traffic to that – you’re going to know pretty quickly whether that traffic’s converting, if you have a nice headline and you’re offering something in exchange for an email address, even if that thing is just a sneak peek at the product, or early access, or whatever it is. And, again, if you’re having trouble driving traffic to that or getting people to convert, then imagine how hard it’s going to be once you actually have a product. This kind of plays hand in hand with validation. It’s can you even get people interested.
[00:10:48] So, if you can’t get over the hurdle of just finding people who are willing to talk to you about the idea, then it’s probably not enough of a pain point either. There’s one of two things happening. It’s not enough of a pain point for them, or you’re just really bad at this, in which case you need to get better. And you need to identify which of those it is, but I agree that this one is definitely not a good sign.
Mike [00:11:08]: The third sign is that you find it difficult to describe the idea or the value proposition quickly and easily. I don’t think that this in and of itself is a deal breaker, because early on you’re not necessarily going to have the best handle on exactly what that is. Sometimes you fully understand what the value proposition is, but you make that pitch to people, and they don’t care. Unless you’re going back to number one, if you’re avoiding talking to people, even if you have a solid value proposition for it, if they’re not really that interested in it, it doesn’t really matter what you come up with because they’re not going to buy it anyway. So, you really have to be careful that you can describe that idea in a way that doesn’t confuse people; because if people find the idea confusing and you’re talking to them over the phone or in person, how confused are they going to be when they hit a landing page or a website? You really have to be able to target those things in, because you have much less time to explain it to people. When you’re talking to somebody one on one and you have them as a captive audience, it’s a lot easier to convince them to give you a little bit of extra time to explain it, but on a website you don’t really have that option. So, you have to be able to narrow it down exactly what it is that you’re offering and what problem you’re solving. And, again, this just takes time. It’s going to take some of those conversations to really narrow in exactly what it is that you’re talking about.
Rob [00:12:24]: Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, you will not get the value proposition right the first time. It’s just too ambiguous and amorphous until you’ve talked to dozens of prospective customers and really understood the language that you’re using and really understood where they’re at in terms of their understanding of this problem; because if you come in and you start talking right away about SEO, or email marketing and DNS, or marketing automation – I mean you throw these terms around – a lot of people have no idea what they mean. Suddenly, you’re going to realize, “Oh. Calling myself ‘Marketing Automation for Realtors’ has no meaning for them, because they don’t even understand what that term means.” Maybe you have to say, “Boy, I have to start asking realtors, ‘Do you know what email marketing is?’” Maybe they don’t know what that is, so then you say, “Boy, do you know what Constant Contact is? Or, MailChimp?” You just have to seek which terms they’re familiar with and then piggyback on those in order to describe your product; because most people, when they see or hear about a new product, they try to categorize it in their head, and they try to relate it to products that they already know exist. Right? They try to figure it out in relation to one of those, so that’s what you have to do here.
[00:13:25] You’re highly unlikely to get this right the first time; but you start with something, and then as you talk to these prospects, you’re going to hone that value proposition, and you’re going to arrive at something where you start saying it, and eight times out of ten, it really resonates with people. That’s when you know: a) you’ve made a bunch of progress, because you have a clearer idea of what people want. You’ve written the headline for your home page, probably, and that’s how I would look at it, and you’ve done a lot of learning. Even if you haven’t validated the idea fully, you at least know how to describe it now – which is a big step.
Mike [00:13:57]: The fourth sign you should kill an idea is that you’re having a difficult time identifying a specific group of people who will use it. By this, what I really mean is that if you can’t narrow down the type of person who would use this — you can’t put together a customer avatar for them, so you can’t say, “Oh, it’s somebody who works in a company from 10 to 50 employees, who works in the accounting department,” for example. That would be a good mechanism for identifying a specific type of person, or a specific group of people. As soon as you start out with, “Anyone who,” and you’re not able to really narrow down to being able to say, like, exactly what I just said about the person in the accounting department in a small company; if it’s just, “Anyone who works in an accounting department,” that is going to fall over on itself some point along the way.
[00:14:40] If you are having a hard time differentiating between multiple groups of people and you’ve got maybe three, or four, or five different categories of people who could use it, then you really need to start digging a little bit further and identify one of them, or the one that you think is the most likely to be a good candidate and then validate whether or not they are a good candidate or not. I don’t necessarily think I would worry too much about which one is the best candidate, over finding one that is a reasonably good candidate.
Rob [00:15:08]: And our fifth sign that you should kill an idea is really a list of general disqualifiers. So, this is not something that you’re doing during validation, but more of just some not-to-do’s, especially if you’re a bootstrapper trying to validate an idea. I’ve seen some of these. Jason Cohen talked about them in his MicroConf talk a couple years ago. We’ve mentioned several of these on the podcast. You had them in your book. I have them in my book. These are things that I think overall are just anti-patterns for trying to bootstrap a startup, so early on in validation, if you find yourself doing one of these, the sign is not good for you.
[00:15:41] The first one is that you’re not able to directly charge your customers, meaning that – now, again, this is for bootstrappers, right? If you’re going to raise 10 million bucks, then that’s fine. You can try to do an ad revenue model, or you’re going to take a tiny, 5 percent cut off of each transaction. You go do that. But if you’re trying to bootstrap off of revenue, you really need to think about directly charging your customers, because you just need so much more revenue. You need to provide so much more value to a smaller group of people rather than looking to make a dollar per month off of 10 million users.
[00:16:09] The second disqualifier, or negative signal, is to try to develop a two-sided market. It’s not impossible, but it’s really hard to do as a bootstrapper. There’s so much work involved, and you basically have two marketing efforts. You’re trying to bring in the supply side and the demand side. So, trying to bootstrap Uber, as an example, or bootstrap eBay – which I know they did for a very, very short amount of time – it would be nigh impossible at this point. That’s why these guys do raise buckets of capital, tens and hundreds of millions of dollars to develop both sides of a marketplace. So, for bootstrappers, something we definitely do not recommend. The other problem with two-sided markets is you’re typically just taking a little cut – let’s say 10 percent, 20 percent – of that revenue. Unless you’re at scale – meaning tens of millions of users – you can’t make enough money to keep the doors open.
[00:16:43] The third negative sign of these general disqualifiers is you’re dealing with difficult customers, really enterprise customers, government customers. Education tends to have very long sales cycles. Consumers often have a lot of support. Consumers it’s not a “never do that,” but it’s not a great sign. You typically want to be dealing with small and medium size businesses. It’s kind of the rule; and, hopefully, if they’re online, even better, if you have those skills.
[00:17:17] The fourth one is don’t try to build a social network. What’s funny is – you know, I’m on Cora pretty frequently kind of looking around, and there’re so many people that are posting like, “I have the idea for the next Facebook. What should I do?” And it’s crazy. I think in our circles, it’s just understood you should not do this, namely because it tends to be difficult consumers. See one above, that I just talked about. And you’re not able to directly charge customers, so it’s kind of a tiny, tiny ad percentage revenue model. Most importantly, you just need tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars to even have a shot at this; and the odds of it succeeding are infinitesimal. Just because something’s popular or hot today, and we see everybody – you know, the Instagrams and let’s say a Whatsapp – I know it’s a messaging app, but there’s a social aspect to it – and Facebook and Twitter and all that stuff – you don’t go there. Just don’t go there if you’re going to bootstrap. You’re going to need to raise funding.
[00:18:03] The last one is, frankly, if it doesn’t have a revenue model; or, more commonly, if you have multiple revenue models – and that’s the worst thing. I’ve talked to folks. See, I’m starting to do a little more angel investing these days, and I’ve talked to a few folks who have three or four different revenue models. It’s like, “Well, we’re going to do ads, and we’re going to have a premium marketplace, and we’re going to have a this and that.” For me, I like to keep it simple. Especially if you’re going to bootstrap, or just raise a really small amount of funding and do the fundstrapping route where you’re going to get to profitability, if you pick multiple revenue models, it’s not a good sign, in general – unless you really know what you’re doing; because just like having a two-sided marketplace, where you’re trying to market to two groups of people, having multiple revenue models means you have to manage and maintain all of these things. You have upsells all over the place. It becomes very, very complex to manage and to actually close some of those sales. The simpler you keep it, especially early on, when you’re low revenue numbers, the better off you’re going to be.
Mike [00:18:56] I think the important point to keep in mind about all those general disqualifiers is that you may try to avoid them up front, but you also may find out through your discovery process that the path of, quote-unquote, “least resistance” is actually through one of those disqualifiers. At that point, you really need to take a step back and say, “Okay, now what do I do?” And if you want to go the funded route, then that’s perfectly fine; but if you’re going to try to go the bootstrapped route, it’s probably not a good idea to keep going in that direction.
[00:19:24] The sixth sign you should kill an idea is that you’re having a difficult time identifying a common problem among the people that you’ve spoken to. So, for example, there’s a lot of heavily fragmented markets out there, including help desk software, bug tracking software – those types of things. If you start asking those people, “What do you really need from the software? What is it lacking?” chances are really good that you’re not going to find a lot of commonality between those people. There’s just a lot of different products on the market that do those types of things, and it can be very difficult to identify a small slice of the market that you’re going to be able to peel off and be successful in just because of the sheer number of competitors that are out there and the size of the people who run in your circles and the number of the people who you’re going to be able to talk to. So, if you can’t find a common problem among them, it’s going to be very difficult to get a product off the ground just because you can’t find enough of those types of people.
Rob [00:20:17]: The seventh sign is that people say it’s interesting, but nobody’s actually willing to pay for it. There’s different levels of “willing to pay for it.” Some people will just verbally commit, and you can trust that they’ll pay for it. Some will. Some won’t. You can take their credit card number, but not charge it. You can get a check from them, but not cash it. You can take their credit card number and charge for three months of service. Obviously, you let them know up front. So, there’s varying degrees, and I think we could probably do a whole episode on the merits of that. I think maybe we have done a whole episode on the merits of charging up front during validation versus not, but the idea here is that you really want to get someone to commit either by giving you money, or verbally committing to give you money. If no one is willing to do that, then it is definitely a bad sign for your product.
Mike [00:21:03]: The eighth sign is that you can’t see yourself working on this or being interested in this in the next four or five years because you’re doing it for the money. I think this one’s really hard to address directly just because of the fact that there are certain ideas out there that you look at, and you’re like, “Wow. I’m not particularly interested in this, but I think that there’s a lot of money here.” It can be very difficult to maintain the level of motivation that you need in order to be able to follow through with that and maintain it as long as you’re going to need to, because if it’s successful – and you want it to be successful – then you’re going to be working on it for probably a long time.
[00:21:37] Now, you could certainly get partially down the road and, assuming that it’s at least moderately successful, you could end up selling it off; but at the same time, you don’t necessarily want to sell something that is on a hockey-stick growth curve, for example. So, you do have to be a little bit careful about whether or not this is something that you’re interested in or not.
Rob [00:21:53]: The ninth sign is that you’ve spent more than a month doing customer development, and you still haven’t been able to answer basic, objective questions about the idea: who it’s for, the price range – the fundamental things you need to know to move to the next step. I think a month is a good, round timeframe. This is an arbitrary amount of time we’re choosing here, but a month is nice because even if you’re doing it on the side, it’s enough time to get something done and get some hard questions asked; but it’s not so much time that you’re going to do this perpetually.
Mike [00:22:24]: The tenth sign is that you can’t quantify how much the idea is worth to somebody. You can say that it either saves time, or it saves money, or it makes money; but unless you have a benchmark to measure that against, it can be very difficult to really understand what you should be charging for it. I think that there’s another side of it, too, which is what you believe it’s worth to people and what they believe it’s worth. Those two things, hopefully, will intersect; but there are occasions where those things are just wildly different from one another. If your expectations for it are much higher than that of your intended market, then you have to think about whether or not that’s a direction that you want to keep going, because that’s a bad signal. If you’re expecting to be able to charge $500 a month and people are only willing to pay $50 a month, you have to think about, “Well, is there additional value that I can add that will make it a $500-a-month product?” Or, is there just really nothing that you’re going to be able to do? You can either accept that it’s a $50-a-month product and go down in that direction, or you can walk away from it and go find something else that is going to be in that level.
Rob [00:23:24]: The exception to this is if you’re doing business-to-consumer stuff, because there can be a lot of entertainment, or other aspects that it doesn’t necessarily save time, make money or save money; but you’ll notice that, in sign five, we talked about “don’t do business-to-consumer stuff.” That’s why we’re focusing here on actually quantifying what the idea is worth.
Rob [00:23:42]: The eleventh sign is that you’re finding it hard to be objective. In other words, getting emotionally wrapped up in an idea, kind of like an “I’ll show you I can do it” attitude; or, instead of trying to disprove the hypothesis, pushing really hard to try to prove the hypothesis and really forcing it and looking for any way that you can find an affirmative answer to the theory that you’ve posed.
Mike [00:24:03]: I think that’s very difficult to do is to be able to look at that objectively enough to try and not prove yourself right, but to prove your theories wrong. I think it’s a different way of looking at it. I think it was – Heaton and Steli talked about this on the Startup chat about validating and kind of a popular misconception around Lean Startup, which is simply trying to prove different hypotheses wrong and not be emotionally attached to them. I think that in certain cases, especially if you are invested in an idea because you have this particular problem and you say, “Oh, I know exactly how to solve this, and this is how I’m going to do it,” it can be very difficult to separate yourself and your own ideas about how to solve that problem from those of the people who you are supposedly trying to serve; because it’s the people who you’re trying to serve that are going to be paying you – not you.
Mike [00:24:49]: The twelfth sign is what people want is something that you can’t deliver. There’s certainly going to be times where you’re doing customer development and you’re talking to people, and they say, “Hey, it’d be really great if you could do this.” For example, if you’re dealing with stacks and stacks of paperwork from the government, for example, and somebody needs to go get something notarized and there’s no electronic equivalent of a notary, for example, it could be very difficult – virtually impossible – to get that done if there’s no electronic equivalent. So, either you have to find a way to manually handle that particular process, or you have to just say, “Look, I can’t do this. Maybe there’s somebody else who could.” Or, if they had millions of dollars, maybe you’d go out and get some laws changed, for example; but it may be bordering on impossible to get certain things done.
[00:25:34] There are certain a lot of other examples as well. For example, if you’re building software that will integrate in with a platform and you don’t have direct access to that platform, that’s another place where it may be technically possible to do it; but for you it’s going to be almost impossible just because you can’t deliver something like that. Another one that I’ve heard a lot of people in different circles complain about is the fact that when they start building on certain platforms, those platforms can change underneath them. I think Twitter was kind of notorious several years ago for constantly changing the rules about how they operated and how people would integrate into their systems, and it just made it very difficult to build additional products that would hook into Twitter just because they would change the rules all the time.
[00:26:13] So, if those types of things are going to cause you an extensive number of problems and you’re not ultimately going to be able to deliver the experience that people are looking for, then that’s also a negative sign.
Rob [00:26:23]: Another good example of this recently in the bootstrapping community is Justin Vincent from Texting was validating an idea, and it had something to do with transcribing meetings for development teams. People seemed to really want it, and he described it, and they liked it; but the technology wasn’t there. He wasn’t going to himself write the transcription engine. He wanted to use an off-the-shelf one, because obviously you’d have to be an expert in voice transcription. He went and used several different APIs, and none of them could do it. So, frankly, what people wanted was something he could not deliver at this point.
[00:26:52] Maybe in the future, transcription software will catch up, and he’ll be able to launch the product, but for now he said he just had to shut it down, because he couldn’t get the results that he wanted in order to actually have people pay for it.
Mike [00:27:02]: The thirteenth sign you should kill an idea you’re validating is that you’re not learning anything new. If you have come to the conclusion that the people that you’ve talked to have essentially told you all the things that you could possibly learn, then it’s time to either move on to the next step of validation or walk away from it. I think that applies more to moving on to the next step than it does to walking away from the idea; because if you’re having, let’s say, 20, 30, 40 conversations with people and you start hearing the same things over and over again and you’re simply not learning anything new, then at that point you’ve got the information that you need in order to make a decision one way or the other.
Rob [00:27:38]: To recap our 13 signs you should kill an idea you’re validating. Number one was you’re avoiding talking to prospective customers. Number two, you’re having a difficult time finding people in your target market to talk to. Number three, it’s difficult to describe the idea or the value proposition. Number four, you’re having a difficult time identifying a specific group of people who will use it. Number five, we gave general disqualifiers about several factors that make an idea very hard to bootstrap. Number 6, you’re having a difficult time identifying a common problem among people you’ve spoken to.
Mike [00:28:06]: Number seven is that people say that it’s interesting, but nobody’s actually willing to pay for it. Number eight, you’re interested in it just for the money, and you can’t see yourself working on it for an extended period of time. Number nine, you’ve spent more than a month doing customer development and still haven’t been able to answer some basic, objective questions about it. Number ten, you can’t quantify how much the idea is worth. Number 11, you’re finding it hard to be objective. Number 12, what people want is something that you can’t deliver; and 13, you’re not learning anything new.
Rob [00:28:30]: If you have a question for us, call our voicemail number at (888) 801-9690; or, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re Outta Control” by MoOt, used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to us on iTunes by searching for “startups” and visit startupsfortherestofus.com for a full transcript of each episode.
Thanks for listening, we’ll see you next time.