Apps like YO! rarely grow into sturdy businesses. They might be nice hobbies or side projects, but nothing too serious. Because real business comes from real problems - if it so happens that the solutions to those problems are fun and innovative, that’s great. But it all starts with the problems themselves.
If you’ve identified a problem, know how to solve it, you’ve arrived at the most difficult thing yet - convincing people to pay you.
In this situation, you have 3 options:
- Test it out
- Wait it out
- Rough it out
Test It Out
As with anything, know thy history. Your idea might not be 100% new - Uber, after all, is a form of paid carpooling. People rented out spare rooms before Airbnb. Spotify & Apple Music have been built on the foundations of Napster.
So always, always look for businesses that are similar to yours. Businesses that have existed before your own or that exist right now. Check out http://autopsy.io/ for a quick reference.
Don’t build a landing page, build the website you’re going to use once you’re live. Showcase your product/service (as if it existed) and make it look like you’re ready to roll. You’re fishing for buying intent, and ideas aren’t worth much. Fake an existing business for accurate answers.
Make a file of all your shortcomings and how you could overcome them. Write down your Value Proposition. And see how you can make your service/ product 50% more valuable than you’re selling it for. Niche your audience if you have to, talk to them and sell in-person. Take notes after asking the following:
1. Why are they buying from you?
2. Why aren’t they buying?
3. What could they replace you with?
4. What are they replacing with you?
5. How squeamish are they about your prices?
If you can replace or be replaced by at least 4 products/services, you have a market. All you need to do is outwit and outbid the competition. If you’re unique and they’re not willing to buy from you, find out why. Maybe the problem isn’t that severe. Maybe your prices are too high. In this case, would you be able to live off lower prices? If not, reconsider your business model.
Wait it out
Tested it and your results are inconclusive?
If your startup isn’t your only venture and you’re just testing the waters (as we have with YArooms, some 4 years ago), then build the product/service and promote it gradually. Do as much as you can without breaking the bank or investing too much time.
You’ll know, in a year or so, if people are interested. Once you have some customers, do interviews with them. See how you could improve what you’re doing. Test several pricing methods/plans. YArooms went through a Free stage to a fixed-fee platform, then a pay-as-you-go and hybrid pricing model. These things take time and you need to understand your audience, their needs and usage. You can’t do that with surveys. You need real data.
So, if you can afford to wait it out and invest a bit in your idea, do so. But on your own terms and without loaning money. If you fail, it won’t be that big a deal.
Rough it out
This is a combination of both previous steps. Devote yourself entirely to your startup for a long period of time. It’s probably the best method for testing a business model, but the most costly for you - you won’t be making much money in the beginning, so don’t go for this one if you can’t handle the financial pressure.
Smarter, more business-savvy people have said things better than we ever could. Read the articles below if you’re looking to validate your biz model: