Don’t fall into the trap of the small idea. Here are 6 tips on how to avoid doing so.
1) Pick a painkiller
I touched on this a bit in a recent post. A painkiller is something someone very urgently needs. He would be willing to pay for it NOW if you could make the pain go away.
On the other hand, a vitamin is a nice-to-have.
Ask potential customers if your idea is a painkiller or a vitamin.
CHOOSE to go after painkillers. (no matter how sexy an idea the vitamin is, you’re bound to have better success with the painkiller)
2) Don’t stop with founder credentials
“Hey I like travel! I really could use an app which could tell me where all the best restos and resorts are when I visit a province. And I know you can do killer Android apps. Why don’t we make a Android-based, travel-app?”
For all the talk on lean startup, there are still a lot of entrepreneurs who KNOW about the lean startup model, but still, for some reason, refuse to incorporate even some of its more rudimentary principles. (namely, doing the necessary work to validate before building)
Don’t make your founder credentials the core of your startup (“I love traveling and know about it, he’s an Android apps man, we can make this work, baby!”).
Rather, let SOLVING THE PROBLEM be your core.
What is the problem? Why is it a problem? Who are the people who have this problem? What are the nuances?
Startups are all about solutions. Solutions are all about problems. Dive deep into the problem set before deciding on anything.
3) Look to monopolies or things that just have never improved
Banking. Farming. Education(!). Medicine. Government.
Solve systemic problems in these areas and I guarantee startup success.
I think sometimes – a lot of times – people take these problems for granted, thinking, “this will never be solved” or “It always be like this.”
So not a lot of people even try.
Big problems? Not a lot of people trying to solve it?
For instance, in HR, compensation and benefits is often regarded as a “boring” category. When we were doing our customer research with STORM as we were starting, we saw why. Everyone had the same “core” benefits – leaves, life insurance, and health insurance. As in EVERYONE had the same thing. And because of a rule called “diminution of benefits” companies couldn’t really change things. People were stuck. Benefits weren’t being used as a competitive advantage for a lot of firms.
We saw this as an opportunity to solve a problem not a lot of people were looking at.
Look around. There are a lot of problems people are taking for granted. Choose one you are interested in and GO DEEP.
(note: this won’t be easy, and in the case of going after monopolies, they do fight back)
4) Accept that you have to get your hands dirty to identify big ideas
I think one of the reasons why some people just go ahead and ignore lean startup methodologies is that it’s just plain hard.
Customer validation, for example, is harder than it sounds. You have to zero in on a customer segment. Then you have to identify who they are exactly, get their contact details. You have to book interviews with a lot them. They can blow you off. They can completely ignore you. This takes a lot of time and a lot of effort.
From this standpoint, it’s so much easier to fall into the trap of just going with your original idea and building it immediately.
Do the work. It’s worth it.
5) Don’t be afraid to think BIGGER
Quick, what’s your startup idea?
IMMEDIATELY ask – how can it be bigger?
Sometimes we can let our original designs limit the potential of an idea.
How can our idea be BIGGER? How can this be sold to a larger market? How can this go global?
Don’t be afraid to dream.
Think of the Social Network. It took Sean Parker to show Zuckerberg his idea could be so much more than a college network.
On that note, don’t be afraid to LOOK for your Sean Parker as well. Ask around – how can this idea be bigger, better? Don’t rely on one person’s (yours) opinion.
6) Build for the Future
We live in a world of incredible change, where revolutions now happen on an annual basis.
All the devices you are holding now – your laptop, your tablet, your phone – will be obsolete in 2-3 years. By that time, you might be wearing an iWatch or a rocking Google Glasses.
How will your company hold up in this sort of climate in 2-3 years? Will it grow and evolve with how technology and society are growing and evolving? Will it be considered a dinosaur?
If you are building for the present market, your potential is already capped. Plus you are in danger of being disrupted.
Instead, build for the future. Learn to LOOK for trends, read them correctly (tricky), and build accordingly.
And I think you have to be two steps ahead already.
For example, if you’re building something based on “smartphone prices dropping” or “Filipinos buying increasingly online” then you might be a tad late – there are a number of firms already capitalizing on this. (Witness the number of local online stores sprouting the last few years – while some of them ALREADY are profitable now, that profitability will pale in comparison to what they will earn in a few years riding the trend.)
So look for NEWER trends you can capitalize on.
(Will this post especially resonate with someone you know? Please go and share!)