Question: Is there a way I can test and validate my start-up idea without spending big money?

Ibrahim Yusuf, Kano

Answer: Validation is a very important step in deciding to introduce a product or service into the market. Validation is far more important than design, features, price, or how much you would need to launch, or the need to start assembling your team.

What, then, can you do to avoid delivering a product or service that no one will pay for? Here is a simple framework:

  1. Articulate The Problem: Write out the problem in the form of a simple statement. Define and refine the problem your product or service wishes to solve. Clarify it. Express it in one sentence.
  1. Rank The Problem:  Categorise the problem you are trying to solve. Determine whether it is a top-of-mind problem or a nice-to-solve problem. You want to know if the itch is what your potential customers must scratch or afford not to scratch.
    The answer to this puzzle will come from your knowledge of the basic profile of your target market, and how well you know the people who are likely to patronise your product or service.To do this, you should make a short list of members of this group, and double-check your idea with them, through telephone or face to face interviews. Your conversation with them should focus on the problem you have identified, how they are experiencing the problem, what they think about the solution you are considering and if they are likely to buy your product or service.The answers you get from your interview with this focus group will give you a sense of the nature of the problem, whether the problem you are trying to solve is top-of-mind or nice-to-solve. If the problem your idea seeks to solve is not top of mind, your chance of success will be limited.
  1. Check Out Current Solutions:Your interviews with your focus group will reveal how they are currently solving the problem. The fact that they are already solving the problem one way or another indicates that there are other competitors already working on the problem you want to solve.
    This verifies that there is a market which, hopefully, is large enough to accommodate a new player. If the contrary is the case, that you are about to be the first business to solve the problem you have identified, that may be a sign that the market you are looking to serve is too small or does not exist!
  1. . Find Your Niche.It is good to find existing competitors striving to solve the same problem that you want to address. You can then look for other signs, like whether they are serving a sufficient volume of customers, raising money for growth and hiring staff.If the signs are positive, you should now follow up with a second round of interviews with your focus group(s). Your objective is to pinpoint the pain in the existing solutions to the problem. Find out what the target market dislikes about present solutions. Identify the missing link that your idea can offer to better address their pain.

With your new findings, you are assured of a market for your product or service. More important, because you do not wish to launch just another ‘me-too’ product or service, you now have a guide to help you deliver a different and distinctively better product or service.