One of the biggest issues you need to address is as an early stage founder is “Are you solving the right problem?” Have you found a real problem that you can solve? Lots of founders start by trying to solve a problem they have seen in their own lives in a way that they would want it solved. This can work, but it is not always going to be the most effective solution.
You need to make sure that you are solving the problem in a way that is going to be scalable and reach a large audience. You need to survey a wide range of potential customers and make sure there is a real pain point that the existing solutions is not addressing. There is a big risk of confirmation bias when you survey the market. Don’t just look to confirm you are right, probe to learn something from all potential customers so that you insure you are on the right track.
Let me share my experience with a company that I ran called Sportalspace. My kids played travel sports, and we could never find gyms for practice and training when we needed them. We talked to coaches in Atlanta about our idea for an online booking platform, think Open Table to rent gyms and fields. Every coach we talked to loved the idea, so we launched Sportalspace and started running as fast as we could.
At the end of 2017, we went live and quickly got over 70 gyms and fields on the platform. Then we went back to the coaches that were so excited about the idea but couldn’t get them to transact. It turns out we asked the wrong question. Sure, they wanted an online platform, but only when their normal gym fell through, which didn’t happen that often.
We asked the wrong question and we solved the wrong problem. What can you learn from my experience? Ask a lot of questions, dig deep on the answers, challenge your own assumptions, and iterate fast in the early days of product development. You don’t want to get locked into an answer until you’re sure you’ve got the right solution.
That’s it for today’s Founder Coach post, I hope this provides a framework to start evaluating your business idea.