India has world’s third largest startup ecosystem (1 – Nasscom ), with many startups coming up everywhere, not just in the metros but also in tier 2 and tier 3 cities, yet in spite of having a great idea, an innovative product and a fantastic team, almost 90% of the startups die within the first 3 years of their operation. Although there are a number of reasons as to why a startup fails, one of the most common reason is customers don’t care enough about the problem the startup is trying to solve.
Headstart Network Foundation, Bangalore Chapter, started Startup essential series to address the challenges an aspiring and budding entrepreneur faces throughout his/her startup journey. The May edition of the Startup Saturday focused on the first and the most crucial aspect of starting up: “Validating the startup idea”, which was our first session of the startup essential series.
“First and foremost, understand the problem you are solving, conduct an extensive market research to assess your competition and analyze gaps in the current offerings, and perform SWOT (Strength, weakness, opportunity and threat) analysis of your offering to come up with your unique value proposition were some of the pointers given by Navratan K, Director – Innovation and Entrepreneurship – IOT, NASSCOM, our first Keynote speaker for the day.
He started off his talk with an interactive exercise, focusing on the fundamentals of idea validation process. Through this exercise he emphasized on the importance of talking and sharing the idea openly and looking for qualitative feedback on the idea from people outside the first circle of friends and family. He also pointed out to focus on nonverbal cues while conducting interviews to gather feedback from potential customers.
He urged startup founders to be open to criticism and appreciate constructive feedback but concentrate only on relevant feedback especially from the people who are willing to pay for the product/service offered.
Hari Pudipeddi, Founder, aCubeNow, shared his experience of starting up and building an advanced and intuitive SaaS ERP Platform for Co-working and Shared Workspaces. He said that being reluctant to share the startup idea is common but it is not the idea which ensures success but early validation and impeccable execution make or break the startup. He suggested that startup founders should understand the length and breadth of their idea and pick the core offering of the business and gauge the acceptance of the same.
Hari’s talk was followed by an interactive session conducted by Amit Singh, Founder Wow Labz and Co-founder of Headstart, who invited a budding entrepreneur on stage to talk about her idea and her approach towards validating the same. Basis his conversation with our participant, he shared a pragmatic approach on how to go about the validation process.
To start with, it is very important for the startup founder to answer the below questions
- Does the problem/need really exist?
- Does my product/service address the problem?
- Will people pay for the product/service I am offering?
- What are the riskiest assumptions?
Once the founder gets the clarity on all the above questions, Amit suggested that Founders start talking to potential customers. He stressed on being empathetic to the customers and urged Founders to have a conversation with them and listen to their stories. Rather than asking leading and direct questions he suggested that Founders should looks for cues and categorize their idea on:
- Active : For e.g when you mention the problem and your solution and the consumer says “I wish the product was available”
- Passive: Whether the product exist or not, the consumer doesn’t care much
- Latent: If the consumer does not consider it a problem
- Urgent: Key words such as I fear or I hate indicate strong need of the product.
He also said, the Founders should focus on MVP (minimum viable product) or concierge service, where the online model is replicated offline and humans replace the apps/product, to validate the idea early on.
For our final session we invited speakers with diverse backgrounds to present their perspectives on real time challenges Founders face during the validation phase.
- Akarsh Naidu : He heads Ecosystem and Strategic Initiatives for NSRCEL, one of India’s top startup incubator, IIM Bangalore. He helps Startups to build their product, identity first set of consumers and pitch on various platforms through Launchpad, one of NSRCEL initiative.
- Saketh BSV ,Co-Founder, Perpule, India’s first Self-Checkout application for express checkouts and easy payments in retail outlets. A product and technology guy who has many feathers on his cap including getting featured on Forbes India’s 30 under 30 list and Wharton top 10 startups
- Prashant Pansare , Co-Founder, Eagle10 Ventures, focused on providing angel fund to early stage startups and helping them grow multifold. Prashant is an entrepreneur himself and has bootstrapped multiple profitable startups
Panel Moderated by:
Ojasvi Bhatia : Strategic Partner Manager (Product), South Asia at Facebook, also a senior
Key takeaways from the session were:
- Understand the problem and assess the need before launching the product.
- During your initial ideation and product building stage, talk to as many users and customers as possible. Take relevant feedback and be open to change and evolve.
- Empathize with users and apply design thinking to understand the problem from user’s and customer’s perspective (Users: people who use your product and Customers: People who pay for the product)
- Come up with quick ways to validate your proposition. ( Landing page, interviews, surveys etc)
- Decide on the metrics you would want to calculate to evaluate the success of your idea
And last but not the least, believe in your idea, be passionate about it, learn quickly and change quickly if required.
About Us: Headstart is India’s largest grassroots level, non for profit organization that believes in changing the world through entrepreneurship.
Since its inception in 2007, Headstart has supported a great many startups through various initiatives.
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Article By: Roma Roy Choudhury