Ideas are like armpits — everybody has them. There is, however, a substantial difference in what people do with those ideas that largely differentiates them from being an entrepreneur or a “wantrepreneur” — someone that simply can’t or won’t execute.
If you’re trying to take the leap into entrepreneurship but are not sure where to begin, you need to first test the viability and market demand of your new idea, prior to spending large amounts of money.
There is certainly no shortage of advice on how to best accomplish this, particularly as it relates to the minimum viable product (MVP) methodology, so I’ll attempt to define a few steps in a more concise and straightforward manner.
Start simple. Technology has advanced to a stage that allows you to create functional products that you can test before you go and seek substantial funding or invest your life savings.
To get started, you’ll need to create a bare minimum service or product that will allow you to attract users or customers, then test how they interact with your idea. The goal is to spend as little as humanly possible to begin getting user feedback so that you can iterate or change your product/process to make it better and determine whether it’s viable.
For example, when my cousin and I developed the BottleKeeper, it was important to prove the basic concept worked first. To accomplish this, an extremely inexpensive prototype was created by using a hacksaw to cut a stainless water bottle in half in the garage and then cut-up neoprene was used to line the inside of the newly fashioned bottles.
This created a simple prototype that could be easily tested to prove that the concept actually worked. From there, the rudimentary prototype was used throughout the following steps.
Define, test, repeat. As you decide upon the service or product that you intend to create for the problem you intend to solve, visualize all of the wonderful things you want this new product to do and then throw them out the window. Do not overbuild your product and create something that is impossible to test.
Instead, start with one basic principle or functionality that is the foundation of the solution. When you’ve devised your principle, you can easily and inexpensively purchase a domain, quickly put up a website or landing page through WordPress or Sqarespace, insert an analytic function in your site through Google Analytics and use Google AdWords to test keywords. If this seems complicated you’ll have to trust me, it’s not — just go to YouTube for detailed instructions on any of these steps.
This will allow you to very inexpensively see the rate at which people are viewing your ad, then clicking on it and ending up at your website. This is the first step to proving a basic concept — is this something people actually want?
Once you get past the initial steps, one of the best ways to truly test your model and message is through a crowdfunding platform. This will give you the opportunity to begin creating your brand while pre-selling product to early adopters, proving that people are actually willing to pay for your idea.
It’s hugely important that you quickly determine whether people are willing to pay for your product, so avoid testing in an environment where your test subjects are likely to offer immense support because they like you — yes, take the positive feedback from your parents with a grain of salt.
Now that you’ve successfully created and tested your product or prototype, as well as collected some early users and data, you can use the extremely valuable information to seek funding or do it the old-fashioned way and grow your revenues organically.