How to Validate Your Idea (And Make Sure It’s Something You Actually Want)

Stop ignoring your big ideas. Test them out instead.

The act of validation is a fantastic way to test the waters on a new idea, without taking on the commitment of a ‘huge new project’.

You can do this with any product, marketing or general business idea. Try this out cheaply, quickly, and with little risk. Your goal should be to test your ideas with the least amount of effort as possible.

With this process, my team generated a $2 million dollar seed round for FlipRide. At Ultra Labs, our business incubator in Boise, we begin due diligence with this process on every startup–and have used it with 6 new businesses this year alone. I personally use this process anytime I want to try out a new idea, without getting too emotionally invested.

It’s proven to weed out the bad ideas (saving time and money) and place a spotlight on the big things we should really go after.

You’ll understand if you love it or hate it right away. Either result is progress.

1. Write Your Idea, In The Form Of A Question

“Do I want {insert questionable idea here}?”

Write down your idea, in the form of a question. It’s important to write your idea, and not just think about it.

By putting ink to paper, you’re turning thought into action, and literally starting a physiological reaction in your body to process information more clearly. It separates the idea from all the junk you have in your head and puts it into reality.

Examples of this include:

  1. “Do I want to build a software business for the car industry?” (This was mine for FlipRide)
  2. “Do I want to be a community leader for mountain biking?”
  3. “Do I want to start a food truck?”
  4. “Do I want to invest in real estate?"

Write down your idea on a piece of paper, and leave it in a place you regularly see, like your nightstand, bathroom, kitchen, desk, or car. Doing this will help bring the idea top of mind each day.

2. Research Your Idea

It may feel like you need to boil the ocean to get some answers. No lies, it can be intimidating. But I want you to have fun with this time. Explore the information you have available to you.

Your goals while researching should be 1) to understand the facts surrounding your idea, and 2) form a gut feeling associated with what you find.

Here are some ways I research my ideas:

Google it. Read about it.

  • What are all the things you find?
  • Who is talking about it? Is this a crowd you want to be apart of? Are these people you want to serve?
  • Is there a lot of competition, or not that much? Is your idea being solved another way already? (It’s actually good to see competition — that means there is a validated market with paying customers)

Freewrite about it.

Have a conversation with yourself on paper. Write about anything that comes to mind about the idea.

  • What are the aspects you love about the idea? Aspects that aren’t great?
  • What would your life be like in 5 years if you committed?
  • How would you market this?
  • What are some of the things you’d need to do to get started?

The idea is to discover your true feelings about what you’re learning. Don’t hold back.

3. Create One Thing

Learn through execution. Some of the best insights come, not from research, but from the time spent in creating. Do the movements to understand the activity.

By exercising your creative muscles, you access intelligence beyond your logical mind. Your analytical thinking steps out of the way. The real you is revealed.

Purpose is felt, not necessarily understood. By feeling out your idea, you get a deeper sense if this is true for you.

And when you create something, you understand the logistics behind the idea. The abstract picture in your mind becomes more clearly defined of what the reality actually is. How the pieces connect. The things you might have not thought of yet.

Lastly, creating something to support your idea gives it immense value. You can show it as you talk with others about your idea. Present it to potential customers or investors for their feedback or buy-in. The prototype I created for FlipRide took about 10 hours, and played a key part in raising our $2 million dollar seed round. That is the power of creating something fast.

Here are some ideas of what you can create:

  1. Sketch of what your business or product looks like
  2. Logo
  3. Prototype (storyboard sketches or simple click-through prototypes)
  4. A sample advertisement or marketing slogan
  5. Organize a Meetup
  6. A blog article or YouTube video
  7. A mood board collage
  8. Sample business plan in the form of a Lean Canvas (a simple, quick way to visualize a business)

Earlier, I mentioned some sample ideas. Here are some great ways to validate them:

  1. “Do I want to build a software business for the car industry?” Build a simple prototype of an app. You don’t need design abilities — this can be as simple as a few sketches. Do as good as you can do right now.
  2. “Do I want to be a community leader for mountain biking?” Organize a Meetup for the people you’d be serving. See if you love or hate organizing the event or the people.
  3. “Do I want to start a food truck?” Prepare your best menu item to share with others. Sketch out a logo. Create a mood board collage that shows examples of businesses that inspire you.
  4. “Do I want to invest in real estate?” Build a Lean Canvas business plan. Create a photo album of the properties you’d invest in.

4. Talk About Your Idea

With friends, family, co-workers, and peers. Talk with other people doing similar things, and try to understand their experiences. Get comfortable with the pitch, show your research and creation, and put your stuff out there for feedback.

This is scary. You are revealing a vulnerable part of yourself to others.

What if they’re not as excited about the idea as you are? What if they knock it down? Worse yet, what if they point out something that you hadn’t thought of?

It sounds strange, but this is actually what you want.

By battle testing your idea, you’re identifying the things that could ultimately lead to your success or failure. You’re setting your baseline to Mode: Reality. By finding a sober view, void of enchantment and magic, it will help you to truly understand if you want to proceed.

Two quick notes.

First, don’t worry about people stealing your idea. This happens very rarely. People have their own things to pursue, and they are most likely not as sold on your idea as you are. Ideas in isolation will remain in isolation, and the feedback you get will be invaluable.

Second, share your idea with people who will give you realistic, strait-forward feedback. Avoid those you know to be negative or overly critical. The worst feedback is fear-based from people who might not have the same goals as you.

The most valuable feedback will be from those who have done what you want to do.

Go Do It. Get Started Now.

If you have that feeling pulling at you, if you have an idea you’ve been thinking about for days, months, or years, take the next step to understand how your vision would play out.

Try out your idea cheaply, quickly, and with little risk.

So… what is your next big idea?

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