In my previous post, I listed the steps that you can take to start executing your ideas. In this post, I will give you examples on how to easily test ideas without investing too much time, energy and money in making a prototype.
I will talk about my own examples when I tested and validated/invalidated my ideas. While my earlier post talked about validating all parts of a business model, this post will focus mainly on validating problem and solution hypotheses.
I will post example 2 and example 3 as separate posts later.
We always faced a challenge when we were trying to find quality leads for Talentology. We had heard about content marketing and how blogs and content creation in the public domain such as Quora can get you quality leads. We weren’t investing in writing a blog yet, but we decided to answer relevant questions on Quora to showcase our expertise. But during the process, we realized that trying to find relevant questions on Quora wasn’t easy. This was primarily because of two reasons:
- There is no easy way on Quora to track what questions were dismissed or answered earlier. Mostly, I would revisit the same question multiple times to realize that I had already answered or dismissed that question, thus wasting time.
- There is also no easy way on Quora to know what questions, out of a long list of questions, you should answer first since you don’t have an immediate knowledge of how many people have viewed the question and how many people are following the question. I wanted to answer popular questions that were viewed and followed by a lot of people. You get this information only when you click on each question one by one. You can see how this can get tiring when you are going through 300+ questions for just one keyword. I had 10 more such keywords that I wanted to search questions for on Quora. That puts it at 3000+ questions.
I soon realized that there should be other startups out there that might be facing the same problem. I decided to work on a side project that would help Talentology as well. I wanted to build a quick solution that would list questions along with the number of views and followers that each question has. I got in touch with a few startups to validate my assumptions. These startups were already answering questions on Quora to get traffic to their website.
I manually copied list of questions from Quora in to excel for keywords that aligned with the businesses that these startups were in. I also clicked on each question and copied the number of views and followers for these questions manually into this excel. Then, I shot an email to these startups sharing a preview of this excel to see how many of them would be interested to pay to get the entire listing. I also offered to provide new questions for these keywords on a weekly basis.
Soon enough, I got 3 startups paying me a monthly subscription to get relevant questions from Quora in an easily digestible format. The payment was a huge validation for the idea.
However, it started proving difficult to manually copy questions from Quora for 20 keywords (~3000 questions) across these 3 startups. I decided to create a web scrapper that would scrape the information for me. I decided to automate this part only when my manual solution started breaking down. I was still providing the questions in an excel at this point.
After I did this for a couple of weekends, it was difficult to manually keep a tab of all versions of my excel files that I created. My customers were also asking for ability to track these questions and mark them as answered or dismissed on a website rather than in excel. That’s when I decided to put it on a website which you can check at qsnag.com.
Please note that I could have put this excel on a google doc with a password, and that would have sufficed at this point. However, I wanted to learn Ruby on Rails for a long time, so I used this opportunity to learn a new programming language. I will write about my experience with Ruby on Rails in a later post.
I was able to validate my problem and solution hypotheses by using a low fidelity MVP i.e. excel. The startups were open-minded to accept this solution, as I was solving a painful problem that they had. I don’t know if this is a multi-million dollar idea in itself, as I would have to validate other parts of business model (as detailed here in my previous post). As of now, it looks more of a product feature, rather than a business by itself. I would love to see this feature on Quora, as it will help businesses to participate easily on Quora.
Hope this example inspires you to build a quick manual solution that you can use to validate your idea. Now you wouldn’t have an excuse to not execute your idea.
Quick tip: Try to do everything manually initially. Don’t invest any time or money in building a product, until you cannot do it manually anymore, which is a good problem to have. This will happen when you have too many customers or it takes too long to do a certain thing manually.