3 examples that will get you off the couch to test your ideas – Part 2

This is the second post in a 3 part series. The intent of these posts is to give you enough examples where you feel comfortable to start executing your ideas with simple tools that are easily available. I sincerely hope this inspires all of you to execute your ideas and, at the least, start testing your assumptions regarding the problem and the solution.

Please read example #1 here and I will put example # 3 in a later post.

Example 2:

I was in Austin last year to participate in the Lean Startup Weekend. The concept of such workshops is to form a team, come up with an idea and quickly test problem, solution & customer assumptions over the weekend by talking to prospective customers. I decided to team up with a startup that wanted to help busy parents by providing an easy-to-use online calendar for their kids’ activities. This calendar would be an aggregation of their kids’ schedules from schools, after-school activities and weekend games/events.

The startup had already learned a little about lean startup methodology before this workshop and had put up a landing page for parents to sign up for their service. While this works some times, it is very difficult to attract users to your landing page. I recommend talking directly to your customers first and understanding their main pain point. A landing page can be a great tool once you have validated at least your assumptions about the problem and the solution.

We used an online tool named Validation Board, to systematically test our hypotheses regarding the problem, the solution and the target customer.

Quick Tip: You can also use excel to put together a tracking tool for your validated and invalidated assumptions.

We started with validating our customer and problem hypotheses. Without validating these two, we wouldn’t know what our solution would look like. So we decided not to focus too much on the solution. We used the five whys technique to get to the root cause of our customers’ problems. Then we decided to work on our problem hypothesis (our riskiest assumption).

Problem hypothesis # 1: “Parents are wasting time organizing kids event schedules, hence looking for a solution.”

As you can see, we had a strict minimum success criteria that at least 9 out of 10 parents will give us $1 to solve this problem. I have talked about minimum success criteria in my previous post.

validation board version 1

So, with this assumption, we set out to find parents that we could talk to. These were our findings –

  1. Parents did not have any problem with organizing schedules on paper and then put it up on the fridge.
  2. Some parents even said that they loved doing this activity with their kids, with colored pens.
  3. Some parents also loved showing off the schedule on a fridge since it was easily accessible and they could share with family members.

While we found that our initial hypothesis was invalidated immediately, we probed more to understand the pain points around kids’ activities. That’s when we hit the jackpot.

Every parent mentioned that they spent a lot of time driving kids from one place to another for activities and would rather have someone do it for them. While the main games/events were important for them to attend, they wanted someone to chauffer their kids for practice games.

Problem hypothesis # 1 invalidated.

That’s when we changed our problem hypothesis. This time we were confident about our problem, so we decided to test out our solution.

Problem hypothesis # 2: “Parents wasted time driving kids to the activities”.

Solution hypothesis # 1:  “Shared van with a driver that will pick up and drop off the kids for games/practice”.

When we went out to test this problem and solution hypothesis, our problem hypothesis was validated with 100% of parents expressing their pain regarding driving kids to activities.

However, our solution was dismissed as parents expressed their concern with trusting the drivers. Our solution of providing a van service to drive kids around would need a lot of work to prove trustworthy. So we killed that solution.

Problem hypothesis # 2 validated & solution hypothesis # 1 invalidated.

We actually stopped our experiments at this stage as the weekend was over, but we identified the next solution based on what we learned from parents during our second run.

Solution hypothesis # 2: Carpooling app as a solution for parents within the same neighborhood to coordinate car-pooling.

For this solution to be viable, we needed to have enough parents in the same vicinity whose kids went to similar events. So we identified the next riskiest assumption to be – “There should be enough kids in the same vicinity/neighborhood that go to same activity to build a car-pooling app for parents”.

validation board version 2

As you can see, within 2 days, we were able to validate and invalidate many assumptions. The ones invalidated were thrown out, but they told us what features we need not build in the product. The ones validated gave us a clear picture what we needed to build in the app to make it successful. For example, as you can see in the validated column, the product required kid meals as part of the solution, which meant we would need to create a feature to let parents share dietary requirements for their kids to the parents responsible for carpooling at any given day.

We were selected as winners out of 9 teams at the Lean Startup Weekend. I highly recommend going to a lean startup workshop at a location near you.

This example clearly shows how an initial idea was changed completely based on interactions with target customer and learning from that customer.

Quick tip: If you are in Austin, you have to try the southern style barbeque at Salt Lick.

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