You're One Idea
Away From a Totally Different Life.
So you’ve considered starting your own business or a side-hustle whilst at university? Great!
There is no better time to start and explore the world of startups and entrepreneurialism. At university, you have the time, an abundance of resources at your fingertips, as well as a massive support network of friends and academics who can help you take your very first steps. More importantly, there is little risk involved as you can still leave university with a degree and get a job if things don’t work out.
If anything, you’ll gain a load of experience which few others will ever have - making you even more competitive in the traditional careers market - and, who knows, you might end up starting something which means you’ll never have to “work” again!
But where do you start and where does this idea come from?
For many, ideas often come from their own personal experiences and things which they encounter in everyday life - it might be related to a passion or it might come from something in which you have particular expertise. But the best way to begin is by looking for problems.!
The secret to startup success is by creating something which people want, and often this comes as a result of solving a problem which is faced by many and providing a solution to this. At the end of the day, for a business to be successful, they must be able to monetise it in some way, and this means that at some stage someone has to pay for what you have created. Whilst it may be tempting to chase an idea which you think will make lots of money, a business will only be successful if it can convince customers to part with their money and to do this you will need a compelling reason for them to do so. As a result, it is vital to understand what problem you are solving!
Once you identify a problem, you need to make sure that whatever idea you come up with provides a suitable solution and is a good “fit”. It’s important to make sure that the solution you come up with actually solves the problem and this dictates whether it is worth building your intended solution in the first place - it’s best to find this out early so you don’t waste time and money creating something which people aren’t interested in! This can all be achieved through testing various hypotheses and any assumptions which have been made when you first came up your idea.
So what’s the best way of doing this?
Simply, you are faced with two questions which need exploring further:
- Are potential customers faced with the problem which you believe them to have?
- Is the solution which you are providing, preferred by the potential customers, particularly when compared with alternatives?
When examining both of these questions, it’s important to make sure that the problem is widespread enough that it is commercially viable to create a solution for it, as well as ensuring that you will also be able to deliver it. If you find that the answer to both questions is “yes”, then you have found Problem-Solution Fit, which means you can start working towards making your idea a reality. In expanding on these questions, the use of the “5 Whys” - repeatedly asking the question “why?” each time you get an answer from the potential customer, five times - can be useful in getting down to the root cause of these answers, particularly if the answer to either of the two questions above turns out to be “no”.
Another one of the most accessible and easy to follow approaches which can be used to help find Problem-Solution Fit, is by using what is known as the Lean Startup methodology. The methodology aims to make testing the viability of a business model as quick as possible and helps to avoid wasting time and resources.
It is easily broken down into three main stages:
- Build - shape and define your idea
- Measure - present it to potential customers and get their feedback
- Learn - analyse the feedback; how can this be used to improve your idea?
These three stages can then be used in a repetitive cycle to quickly improve your idea, and reiterate it so that you get a good Problem-Solution Fit which you can then use to start building the actual product/service.
To help with this three-stage cycle, it can also be useful to break it down into a few more defined stages:
Define your idea
What are you offering and what problem is it looking to solve?
Create a set of hypotheses which you want to test
List as many hypotheses to test as possible, ensuring that they are as specific as possible and address them in order of risk.
Test the hypotheses
Assess the hypothesis which has the highest risk to begin with. In doing this, you can save vast amounts of time if you find out that your assumptions were wrong; whether that be customers not wanting it, or whether it may not be financially viable.?
Analyse the results
Identify any common trends as this will help indicate whether there is any Problem- Solution Fit.
Refine your idea and repeat stages 2-4 until you are satisfied that a good Problem- Solution Fit has been found
Issues may be raised when testing the various hypotheses meaning that you have to reform your idea and then go through this process again, testing hypotheses for that improved idea.
If a good Problem-Solution Fit can’t be found: pivot
Even if it becomes clear that your idea doesn’t solve a problem or the problem isn’t something which potential customers can relate to, don’t give up hope! Use this information to consider other options, including coming up with a brand new idea.
Start making the idea a reality!
Once you have comprehensively tested your idea and a good Problem-Solution Fit can be found, get started with working on it!
In following these steps, you should hopefully be able to work towards creating something which is genuinely useful and which addresses a specific problem. To help with all of this, we have compiled a selection of resources to help inspire and guide you as you work through these stages.
We hope this gives you a crash course in tackling the Problem-Solution Fit problem! In the next blog, we’ll be looking at more validation but later into your business journey - once you have a minimum viable product (MVP).