What about a Snapchat for older people (with a slower message disappearance rate)?
How about an app that reminds men to wash?
What about a game that lets you pretend to be a samurai and chop fruit?
We all have ideas. If you sit quietly enough in a coffee shop, you’re bound to hear someone talking about one. Some of us have an app idea before breakfast whilst others of us sleep with a notebook by our beds. We have good ideas, and we have bad ideas. The hard part is knowing which is which.
How do I know which of my ideas has the best chance of success? Could this be a strong business idea?
In our line of work we hear thousands of ideas. We are given the opportunity to work with hundreds of startups, developing their next app. App ideas come in all shapes and sizes, but most have been able to confidently answer the following five questions. If you are wrestling with an idea that just won’t go away, we hope you find some of these questions helpful.
1) Does your idea solve a problem?
“Solve a real problem and the world is yours.” Aaron Patzer (Founder, Mint)
Does your idea solve a problem, or make someone’s life more efficient, affordable or rewarding?
All successful businesses solve problems and make our lives easier. Uber made it easier and cheaper to book a taxi. Google simplified online searching. WhatsApp de-cluttered messaging and Netflix revolutionized on-demand media streaming. If your idea starts with a problem it will be much easier to communicate and therefore sell. It is cheaper to market a solution to a known pain point rather than educate an audience on a new pain. It is also far quicker to build a loyal customer base around solving an existing problem.
This concept helps people searching for the next “big idea.” You don’t have to search for ideas, you can start by looking for problems. Start noticing any product or service that you find annoying, inefficient and over priced. You’re far more likely to find a gem that way.
Does it scratch your own itch?
“Best startups generally come from somebody needing to scratch an itch.” – Michael Arrington (Founder, Techcrunch)
Most entrepreneurs will tell you to “scratch your own itch.” This means start by solving your own problems and creating products or services that make your life easier or better. If someone else were to tell you about this idea would you want to use it?
It is much harder to solve someone else’s problem than your own. If you can solve one of your own problems, you will be a far better judge of whether your idea is any good or not. When you know that your idea has already made a big difference to your life then it’s much easier to persuade future customers.
2) Will someone pay for it?
“An idea is just an idea until you have a paying customer attached to it.” – Wil Schroter (CEO, Fundable)
Will someone buy it? Would you?
If you haven’t started to have these types of conversations now is the time. Talk to your friends and family, they may not be your target audience but at least you can perfect your pitch. You really want to have clear evidence that people would value this idea enough to pay for it.
3) How big is your market?
How many people are affected by this problem? How many people care enough about this problem to want it solved? Research how big your target market is and how much impact your solution could bring. Can you find any benchmarks from existing businesses in this market?
You can also use free tools like Google trends, Google Keyword Tool or Facebook’s free ad manager to gauge the interest level in your market niche. You can check out the App store and see how hot your app category is and what the top grossing apps are. You can set up an inexpensive landing page that helps test the interest in your idea before committing to building a mobile app.
4) Who is your competition?
I’m amazed at the number of times that people have told me their big idea, without being aware of the existing competition.
Do you know if someone is already doing something similar to your idea? It doesn’t matter if the answer is yes as long as you know how your idea will be better. However, to blindly enter a competitive market without first assessing the strengths and weaknesses of your competition is risky at best. Understanding both your customers and your competition helps any startup better position themselves for success.
5) Have you listened to your critics?
“Get five or six of your smartest friends in a room and ask them to rate your idea.” – Mark Pincus (CEO, Zynga)
If you feel like your idea is too fragile for criticism from trusted friends then your idea might not be strong enough yet. It is natural to feel defensive over people criticizing our ideas. However, if we can’t hear objective feedback, then it might be a sign that our idea isn’t good enough or that we aren’t ready to move forward with it yet.
You need thick skin to be an entrepreneur, and your idea has to be robust enough to handle criticism. Listening to contrasting opinions about your idea will only sharpens your own vision and refine it. You can often learn as much from your critics as you can from your biggest fans.
If you can happily answer each of these questions then you are in a good place to consider moving forward. Ultimately the best way of seeing if you idea is any good is to give it a try.
First time entrepreneurs often think they need to build their full idea and look for perfection before launching. They think that their product has to launch with all its’ functionality, bells and whistles. They assume that Facebook, Linkedin or Uber all launched in their current form. Nothing could be further from the truth. What happens if you spend tons of money, time and effort launching a product that no one wants? Or what if they don’t want to use it the same way you’ve envisioned.
Seasoned entrepreneurs never build big at the start.
The idea of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a lean startup concept that was popularized by Eric Ries. It means creating something simple enough to validate your idea and gain vital user feedback before building the full product. By building something quick, small and inexpensive you can test your idea out without wasting lots of time and money. A good MVP will tell you how your customers used your product, which features they liked and whether your product has market potential.
“Start small, test, learn from user feedback and then use all of that knowledge to build your users a product they’ll love,” says Bobby John, CEO of Band of Coders.
Do you want to learn more about creating an MVP for your business idea? If you have a big idea and are just needing the right tech partner to bring it to life, Band of Coders can work with you to define the best way forward. Tweet us or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s start talking.
By Band of Coders