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April 27, 2014

One of our biggest lessons learned helping people get from an early idea to a successful business

A big mistake is not validating your product is solving a "hair on fire" problem for your target market

The mistake that leads to wasted time and money

When Entrepreneurs have an idea they think is viable they have a few options of how to proceed. Some set on the path of creating the infrastructure needed to build and sell their product or service, using a “Waterfall” approach which entails creating a business plan to attract investors.  The problem with this approach is the business plan is full of untested and unproven guesses. And spending 1-3 years of your life on your idea without knowing if your idea is sellable is a larger risk than first finding out if your idea is something people want. Then testing your solution and hopefully ultimately finding a proven business model with which to write that business plan with proven facts.

Common Sense

Yes, it does sound simple. What amazes me in my recent past is how many entrepreneurs I come into contact with that don’t buckle down and figure out if they have something that solves a big pain, or gives its users a very satisfying gain. Let alone testing their solution with a “Minimum Viable Product”, or MVP. It seems so much easier for them to spend their time and money building a the vision in their head in a bubble so to speak.

Typical scenario

What has happened recently is this: Entrepreneur Jane comes to Little Red Truck Idea Co. with an idea for a website to sell their new product or service. On paper it sounds great. We tend to hear talk of market size, features, and potential. All wonderful.

When we ask what are the top three pains this idea is solving we might get them...we might not. When we ask how many potential users have they sat down with and discussed the problem and their solution with we tend to find out they haven’t. They’ve talked to someone here and there, but not with a methodological approach.

When we suggest the idea of Lean methods their ears tend to perk up. Lean Business Models are terrific for this day and age of web-based startups like Zappos, Vimeo, Nextdoor and many more. Google “Eric Reis”, or “Steve Blank”, or “Dave McClure” and you’ll find a wealth of new ideas to get you started on how you can take an idea to a successful business.

Case Study

We have a client that wanted to help parents of children with autism by giving them ways to improve their child’s social inclusion. Great cause, great idea.

We built what our client thought they wanted. A year after no customers were acquired,  we helped them figure out what their target market wanted. What we learned through this process is entrepreneurs have to get out and talk to the people they are building their product for. Listen to what they struggle with and what they use to solve their problems. Present your solution and ask them what they think about it, would they buy it, and how valuable is it to them. Next, build the simplest tool to test that you have a solution your target market will use or buy. Give it to them to try out, then get in touch with them for valuable feedback on what worked for them and what didn’t. Iterate. Find your early adopters by understanding what a typical day in the life is for them. Where is it that you can put your product in front of them? Get feedback from these early adopters, then continue to iterate, or pivot.

Changing your product based on feedback

Pivoting means you find out what you thought your customers wanted isn’t what they really want. If you sell oranges and after talking with the customers who bought your oranges you found out they really want a frozen orange smoothie, that would be a pivot.

Next steps

Here are some great resources to get started learning about Lean:

Have more resources you’d like to share? Please leave a comment below.


  1. Great article Jackson Powell, and i completely agree, its essential to continual ask for feedback, and survey your clients. See what they like and how much they like it. Your product/service needs to be solving problem.

    What many growth hackers refer to it as is product market fit. And the technique on how to determine if your product is within the market is through a survey you'll send out your clients seeing how disappointed they would be if they couldn't use your services anymore.

    Here is and excellent article on it by Sean Ellis who is touching on the same subject. He explains exactly how to determine and obtain product market fit. ( Thought you might enjoy.

  2. Thank you Mr. Parker for sharing your thoughts on validation and expanding into Product Market fit, the goal for Lean Startups (business model) as they transition into profitable companies. Thank you as well for sharing Mr. Ellis' article on how to get there.