Validate your ideas before you build

The difference between SOME validation vs. ENOUGH validation

Creating a business the 2nd time around, after fucking up my first one, has been an interesting experience.

I recently shut down the recruitment arm of my business. Was tired of long sales cycles and uncertainty, so I put a stop to it.

Then I sat on my computer for a month, documenting every single part of the experience. Reflecting on every lesson learned along the way.

At the end of it, I had an idea to start a coaching service.

I sent out an email to my mailing list, got about 50 replies, and immediately got excited.

I had validation! I had a new way to make some money for myself! I had my next business!

Immediately I got to work. I started crafting up ideas. I braindumped all the thoughts in my head.

The vision unfolded in front of my eyes like a beautiful work of art. I had it all planned out.

I started reaching out to friends and asking their advice.

I reached out to my oldest brother Cory. I always like to talk to him when I get over-excited because he brings me back down to earth.

His reply? Good idea, seems veritable….BUT the small amount of validation you have isn’t enough. You need to run some more experiments to gauge validation before you build a video course or dedicate yourself to this path.

He was right. I needed to run experiments to get more validation.

Then another friend of mine gave me this article: https://videofruit.com/blog/sales-funnel/

In a nutshell, here is what it said…

Thing #1: Raise your right hand.

Thing #2: Say this out loud…

I.

Promise.

Never to build a product.

Without first validating that people will actually pay me money for said product.

Then it dawned on me in a big way.

There is a difference between SOME validation, and ENOUGH validation.

While I had SOME validation of people who wanted the course, I didn’t have ENOUGH to justify building a course yet.

More importantly, in the article above he stressed GETTING PEOPLE TO PAY YOU BEFORE YOU LAUNCH ANYTHING.

Yes. Get people to pay you, in advance, for a product that doesn’t even exist yet.

THAT is validation.

If you can get a strong percentage of a meaningful number (say sample size of 200+), then you know that you have a viable business on your hands.

If you can’t get a strong percentage of a large sample size, that’s a good indicator that your “business” is probably about to flop.

While it CAN work, it’s more risky. You’re building something and you don’t know if the market will want it. You’re shooting in the dark.

Reading this lesson made me reflect back on my time with BrainGain.

I ran an experiment in year 1 and got SOME validation, but when I look back on it, I didn’t have ENOUGH.

I found 25 people jobs in Bangalore, India and I thought that was enough validation to continue moving forwards.

Then, with little validation, went into year 2 and changed systems, tried to expand, and burned through cash.

The reality is that I was doomed from the beginning. I was investing money into a model that was yet to be validated.

I believed too strongly in the small sample size that had worked.

While I could blame surface problems like bad hires, bad technology decisions, and mismanagement, these are all actually symptoms of the ROOT.

The ROOT cause is that I built a business that wasn’t properly validated.

Reading this article and having this insight hit me like a ton of bricks.

I was determined never to make that same mistake again.

I noticed myself rushing into building a business that I was yet to validate.

I was making the same mistakes all over again.

Not this time.

Not again.

So this time around I’ve been reading. Learning. Talking to people. Going back to the basics.

The old me thinks EXPERIMENT!

It thinks, just create something and put it out there today!

But the NEW ME realizes that I have to learn how to create an EFFECTIVE experiment.

For example, if you send a survey out to your subscribers and get a bad response, you can accidentally think you don’t have a good idea.

The ROOT CAUSE could actually be that you just created a BAD SURVEY.

The quality of questions you ask determines the quality of replies you receive.

So similarly, I might have an idea for an experiment I want to run. Let’s say a video.

I can go rant and make a video right now. But do I know the right techniques to get you to comment? How to get you to click the link? Get people to drive you to the website?

No.

And these small details are what make ALL of the difference.

So I’m paying attention to slowing down. Researching how other people do it. Modeling their examples. Reading the experts opinions.

I’m also paying attention to learning how to become emotionally detached from my business ventures. Learning how to not become so involved so quickly. How to not care.

I’m just running an experiment. I don’t have a business YET. I’m seeing if a random idea I have can work as a viable business.

Rather than building a complicated business you can put a few hundred dollars (if that) into an experiment and gauge results BEFORE you build anything.

Violate this principle at your own risk. Don’t come crying to me when your “new business” flopped because you never validated before building.

I’m enjoying how I’m able to walk this line now. Be more balanced. Be more thorough while trying to move quickly and execute.

I’ve been catching myself now when falling back into bad habits. Noticing when I’m violating a past lesson learned, and then correcting course so that I don’t make the same mistake again.

It’s like when I started meditation, the first piece is to CATCH yourself lost in thought. Drifting off is inevitable, but how quickly can you notice when you’ve drifted off, and then bring yourself back to the task?

Similarly, I’ll notice when I’m about to make a mistake I’ve made before, and consciously tell myself not to fall into that trap.

 

I’m enjoying these learnings again. I’m enjoying noticing myself falling into previous mistakes, and then counteracting it.

To notice it is one thing, but the fact that I am also correcting course feels great.

Ray Dalio said that there’s always a gem to find in every mistake we’ve made.

I’m grateful for this process of making mistakes, finding the gems, and then carrying those gems around with me for the rest of my life.

One day, I hope to be sitting on top of a mountain of gems. I hope to have a life filled with mistakes that build a foundation of beauty 😀 


Also published on Medium.

4 thoughts on “Validate your ideas before you build

    1. Start small. Try a pop-up restaurant for people to try your food and give you feedback. Survey people on if they would be interested in the restaurant you are opening. Give out sample foods/products to get people interested. If you have people asking you to start a restaurant after this, than do it. If not, you may want to reconsider. Now, you might very well be able to launch and do well without validation, but it’s a higher gamble. I wouldn’t worry about someone stealing your idea, because they can’t copy the quality of your food, the quality of your service, the experience of your restaurant, your personal touch. No two restaurants are the same, and just because it might be the same type of food doesn’t mean it will be the same restaurant.

      1. Thank you for your reply. A pop-up would indeed be a good idea in theory. But in practice its hard to find a location, let alone with built in kitchen. So installing a kitchen would already result in an investment of 20k. Eventually the pop up loses its value because its almost as costly as starting a new businesses.
        Also the strength of this restaurant is namely the fact that its a new kind of kitchen (middle eastern) in this town. Thats the main factor why i believe in this idea. There is no such thing while people are craving for new food joints here.
        Whats your opinion?

    2. I still believe that there are small ways to test and see if people are actually interested in a restaurant of this type in your area. You can cook food at home and let people try it. Go to a food market. Use surveys of people and ask if they would try a middle eastern restaurant. All of these are small ways to test the market before you invest money. You want to identify that people NEED what you are going to build, and that they are willing to pay money to fill that need. Don’t build a business that you want, build a business that others need.

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