Have you ever had a genius business idea struck you only to fizzle out in the end because you have no idea of how to bring your startup idea to the next level? Well, to help you get started, here is a concrete step by step guide to
develop your startup idea.
1. Consider and analyze the relevant markets- Firstly, consider the market niche(s) that your startup idea is applicable to. What are the needs of the industry and its consumers? Are there any unresolved problems faced by the industry? Is your startup idea going to bring resolutions and improvements to the situation? You can refer to industry-specific authority sites to keep you constantly updated with the latest trends. For example, Techcrunch is an excellent technology blog that talks about the latest products, and shares the latest news in the tech world. It also profiles new startups and provides an overview of up and coming fledglings in the market.
An excellent source of inspiration is TED, which is famous for its widely known slogan “Ideas Worth Spreading”. It is a treasure chest of information about everything imaginable under the sky. It is incepted as a conference where experts in various niches convene to share their insights on issues that can bring about revelations and raise awareness. Presenters usually have around 18 minutes to talk about their topic and the focus of their presentation can span from the latest advancements in a field of discipline to societal issues that they wish to heighten the awareness of. After attending the talks or watching its videos, you will leave feeling more inspired than ever.
2. Note down your ideas and expand them- At this stage, you might have identified needs or areas that can be improved upon. Note them down with a tool such as Evernote. Evernote allows you to save clippings of web pages, images and even attached documents and PowerPoint slides. You can create several notes and sort them out according to topics and genre. Evernote can be accessed via various platforms such as windows, ios and android. A simple click of the sync button will ensure that your notes are synchronized across all platforms.
3. Carry out competitive analysis- Competitive analysis is a great way of comparing and predicting how your business will stand up against your competitors in the industry. Is your business able to fill in a void that’s left untouched by others? Here’s how to go about executing your competitive analysis:
4. Model your business- If the idea of creating a business plan seems too tedious and clunky, you will delight in using Leancanvas and Canvanizer. They are templates that emulate a one page business model. It is easy to add and update the model. You also get to enjoy a clear overview of the following nine building blocks of your business model: customer segments, value propositions, channels(to reach out to clients), customer relationship, revenue streams, key resources, activities that create value, key partners, and cost structure.
5. Create/design/sketch your mockup and then test it- The time has long past the stage where you have draw sketches on a whiteboard and scribble all over the place. Online tools such as Balsamiq and Framebox allows you to create wireframes and export it in different formats such as jpg or pdf. There are several buttons or components of a web application for you to choose so you can put together your sketch easily. Want to get feedback on your mockup sans unnecessary distractions and confusion? InfluenceApp is the way to go. You can upload your design in various formats and assimilate the rest of the documents to form a complete presentation. You can then share the final mockup with your teammates simply by sharing a URL, and they can provide feedback simply by pinning comments on the specific elements of the design. It’s that easy!
6. Execute a market survey- No business ought to be launched without the execution of a market survey. Websites such as Survey Monkey allows you to create an online questionnaire and send the URL to your targeted audience. This transcends geographic boundaries which is one major advantage compared to on-field survey as you can gain a broader, global perspective.Another alternative is to conduct a focus group session before or after the completion of your Minimum Viable Product. This is where you invite people from your targeted demographics to participate in a group discussion on the products or services. A focus group can help you achieve the following: finding out consumer’s first impression of the product or services based on packaging and marketing campaign, gathering customer’s real time feedback on the virtues and vices of the products/services, tweaking your marketing strategies and improving your product before the final deliverable
7. Develop your final product- The next step would be to implement the tweaks and necessary adjustments to create the final product. During this stage, there are several project management softwares to help you keep tab of the progress. Trello and Agile Zen are some good recommendations. The template is divided into different stages (or boards) where individuals can be assigned to be in charge of different sections. Tasks can be moved from one stage to another, e.g. from backlog to working to approved. This gives a very clear picture of the progress of each project segment and what needs to be done.
8. Gathering customer feedback and measuring your business results- There are lots of uncertainties about a business but what if you can get answers to the burning questions you have if things aren’t going as expected? Kissinsights help you to reach out to your audience. You can install it on your website and visitors will be prompted with two questions when directed to your home page. You have the flexibility to control who is exposed to the survey. Another tool that you should not miss out is Kissmetrics. It tracks the surfing and purchasing behaviour of your visitors and provides you with valuable information such as where they came from. This handy information helps you to further refine your marketing strategies and improve your site navigation.The last two steps will be revisited again and again as your business continuously develops and adapts to the market.
There is a solution for every problem and this is where Ideas come to play. Can an investment banker propose a nephrectomy procedure? or can a medical doctor discuss a trading strategy for an overvaluation in the dollar, an undervaluation
in the euro while the Fed is planning an increase in interest rates? the point is, knowledge is the prerequisite of all great ideas. Without good understanding of the concepts, existing methods, models, technologies, customer pain,
and alternative solutions, one cannot propose superior ones. More specifically, as entrepreneurs looking for the best ideas, you have two homework assignments:
1) Know the industry inside out: existing technologies, existing business models, market size, customer needs, where the experts see it heading, etc. One of the benefits of solving your own problems is that you can relate and answer most of the questions or at least come up with a blueprint for what the answers might be.
2) Learn solution types: every idea is a form of connected dots between existing tools and resources and the problem in hand. The Uber for X, the Airbnb for Y, the Amazon for W, the Google for Z, or any other formula. Notice that all ideas are existing solutions we borrow or customize to fit new problems. This lead us to one conclusion: if we are not familiar with existing solutions, our sphere of knowledge is limited and therefore our ideas will be less. Learning about existing tools, solutions, competitors and available resources is every entrepreneur’s second homework. Most of these models created some type of innovation (3Ds) in the market but are now available for recycling since startup strategy is not always about innovation (details below).
Some of the models you may want to consider and learn more about include: sharing economy (Airbnb), software as a service (Salesforce), marketplace (Ticketmaster), e-commerce (Amazon), on demand (for food and other services), advertising based (Forbes), virtual goods (Candy Crush), APIs (Paypal), social (Facebook), dating (Tinder), freemium (MailChimp), group buying (Groupon), and many others.
In other words, an entrepreneur can build a successful startup without introducing and building innovative solutions but rather, replicating, repurposing, or upgrading existing ones. With replication, founders take an existing model and adopt it to new conditions. The startup cloning icons, Samwers brothers, built a billion-dollar empire from replicating existing successful startups such as Zalando (Zappos clone), Lazada (Amazon clone), and Wimdu (Airbnb clone) to name a few. In replicating an existing successful model to new geographies, the focus goes to understanding user needs in the new market. For example, if my idea is to build an Airbnb like platform for a certain country, I would need to know whether Airbnb’s sharing economy model is a viable solution to the hospitality problem if faced by the residents or visitors of the targeted country. Most often, the culture, habits, and rules of a market make product adoption slow and sometimes impossible.
Repurposing is about taking an existing model and adopting it to new solutions. It’s where the fun begins; the Uber for XYZ, the Airbnb for ABC, the Zappos for X, the Facebook for Y, and the list goes on with essentially every proven model in the market. Some of the startups that successfully repurposed existing ones include: DogVacay, an Airbnb for dogs, Fon lets you share WiFi network, Vayable lets you take a guest on a tour, and you share goods with your neighbors through NeighborGoods. In repurposing an existing model, the focus goes to testing the viability (qualification) of the existing model to solve a different problem. For example, to serve those who use computers occasionally and do not see a need in buying one, can the sharing model be a potential solution to this problem? in other words, are people willing to share their computers to strangers?
Upgrading or enhancing existing solutions through quality, speed and performance is a form of competitive advantage and one of the four startup strategies. Within upgrading, entrepreneurs can enter an existing market or resegment one. In an existing market, potential buyers are known and can identify themselves since they already recognize a problem and use existing solutions to solve them. In such market, the difference that newly established startups can make is in building better solutions based on speed, performance, or feature. For instance, Quickbooks is an accounting software with many features and a large user base. An entrepreneur interested in upgrading Quickbooks or one of its features is interested in knowing what users are struggling with and how a better solution can improve their experience. Online customer reviews and interaction with existing Quickbooks users can reveal a lot of insights that entrepreneurs can use to build a plugin, integration (API) or a competing Quickbooks platform that satisfy the unmet needs of customers. In a resegmented market, startups target a niche with a slightly better value proposition. An example would be Southwest’s low cost service or Airfordable, a Y Combinator startup, that enables users to book flights and pay over time.