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How to Start a Startup With Just an Idea in 3 Steps [Q&A]

On Market Validation with a European Entrepreneur


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Amir Emadi

3 years ago | 4 min read

“Typing…”

Despite the long paragraphs in multiple WhatsApp messages, my friend had so much more to ask about launching a startup. More specifically, she wanted to know how to develop a startup idea and then materialize it.

She’s from Luxembourg.

There, the political and economic environment is different for startups than in the States. There, the coffee shops don’t reverberate with talks of venture capital like in Silicon Valley. Yet, when she asked me questions about entrepreneurial challenges, I realized something.

There, the concerns for first-time entrepreneurs are actually the same as anywhere else.

“Where do I start?”
“Do I need a team?”
“Should I build a brand first?”

These are common questions that other entrepreneurs have asked me. Below, I distill the knowledge I’ve gained from mentors on my journey, in hopes to help you take the initial steps in building your business.

Where do you start?

Many entrepreneurs start with an empty idea or an actual product.

If an idea, it’s normally based on some kind of inspiration and sounds like this: “wouldn’t it be cool to have an app that does ___?”

If a product, it’s normally based on an engineer’s frustration and sounds like this: “these other technologies suck. I can make a better one.”

Whether an idea or a product, at least in these common scenarios, they started with the solution. They did not start with a clear definition of the problem that they were trying to address with that solution.

What they overlook, and what I believe should be in the first step is market validation.

Maket validation means you take your idea or product to users and get feedback or payment. A paying customer is the best form of market validation. But it isn’t easy to get.

  • First, you need to determine the right person for your product. Who’s your customer?
  • Second, you need to fully understand why they’d buy. What problem are you solving for them?
  • Finally, you need to figure out how your solution addresses that problem. What’s the impact on their lives?

You should really be starting with a problem in the market, and testing solutions with potential customers before “launching.”

Do you need a team?

I personally believe co-founding is overrated. But I have that luxury given how much the entrepreneurial world has taught me. For instance, I’ve learned it’s difficult to run a company while trying to convince others on your point of view.

Dave Schools has great insight on this from a millionaire he recently interviewed.

However, it can be overwhelming for an unseasoned entrepreneur to run all the functional areas of a company. So here’s what I suggest.

You need at least two people. It’s not that one person can’t do it but there are too many responsibilities in a startup for just one person to take on. You need experts in different domains like product and tech, sales and marketing, finance and accounting, or legal and administrative.

There’s something about three people that makes a team. Something about the psychology of working together, having checks and balances, and the compound effect on increased productivity. I’ll give that to you with a grain of salt because the most important factor is ensuring the new team members align with your objectives and culture.

And if you’re trying to raise capital, you should be able to show a team that’s capable of executing on your vision. Investors will look for that.

Investors can also be your customers/partners. So ensure they, too, align with your objectives and vision. This means if you’re going to get an investor on the team, make sure that person knows your product/market, and has connections.

Do you need a brand?

📷📷

…not until you’ve validated your idea by getting buy-in from potential customers.

Too many entrepreneurs waste time building a fancy website, speaking at events, and talking to the press before they have anything of value. They create multiple social media accounts they don’t have time to manage when they really just need sales.

Find a niche.

Find the niche of customers who want to hear what you have to say at those events because what you have to say will save them money.

Find the niche of customers who will read your articles and download your e-books because you provide how-to guides that will save them time.

When you know who your customers are, you can dive deep into the problem you’re trying to solve for them. The more you engage with them around their challenges and the more consistently you can deliver solutions for those challenges, the more valuable your brand will become.

You’ll gain insights on their problems and co-create unique solutions for them. You’ll speak their language. And that’s helpful because 1) you’ll know where they speak (e.g. what social sites they’re on), and 2) you’ll know what they’re saying (e.g. what keywords they use).

These are the types of insights — the types you can only get through market validation — that you need before building brand identity.

Conclusion

Once you’re ready to build a brand, you’ll know what its value is. You’ll learn what objectives you need to achieve, and subsequently who to hire or partner with to achieve those objectives. And you’ll know your value to your customers.

As a result, getting your startup off the ground will feel a lot less daunting.

But if you have concerns that I didn’t address here, please leave comments so we can talk about them.

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