Published On: Mon, Apr 27th, 2015

Making the jump into creating a Startup product — 4 simple steps to help you get started

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What to do next with that Idea – Guidance on how to start… 

The nature of our business at SEED Digital is Digital Product Development, a few people don’t know what that means but in summary, we take ideas (or as we like to call them problems) and turn them into successful products (solutions that solve a problem for a particular audience) using a design thinking approach.

We get a few people coming to us at SEED for help with developing their idea into some sort of product usually an app, website or service design optimisation exercise. I usually meet with the would be founder and chat about what they are trying to do. Most of the time they have already come with a solution in mind and with the expectation for us to jump into build mode and deliver. While it will probably make commercial sense to say “yes” and start building their prescribed solution, it does not fit with our overall goal as a company to deliver “Products that enable”.

Our mission is to always develop viable products as such I usually tell most founders and businesses they need to do a little bit more work on developing the idea before setting about doing any implementation. If you have an idea you wish to explore use these quick strategies to start the process of fleshing it out.

1. Napkin Pitch

This simple method is a quick way to assess ideas you might have. Using the napkin pitch implores you to ask these 4 questions first. WHAT, WHO, WHY and HOW. This can be done on a sheet of paper or napkin.

Napkin Pitch

The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas. – Linus Pauling

Remember you want a portfolio of napkin pitches to assess the different forms your idea can take. It’s also a good idea to post them on a wall or board and pitch it to a few people to refine the ideas you come up with. I suggest time boxing the exercise, aiming for 30 mins – 1 hour, it’s important to have many ideas out on the wall.

Keep each one specific to a problem, persona (people whose problem you are solving) and solution. I encourage you to find people that fit the description of the answer to the “who” question and pitch to them for feedback, this will give you a more objective view of if your idea is viable or not.

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2. Lean Business Model Canvas

Business Model: A single diagram that describes your business.
– Steve Blank

Based on feedback from your potential customers (personas you identified above), you would have filtered out the best napkin pitches, next thing we usually do is to use the Lean business model canvas tool – created by Ash Maurya (Author of Best seller Running Lean) –  this is a good way to start matching your idea to a business model.

This helps to keep focus on what your outcomes are, it’s good to draw it out on a board with a partner if you have one, so you both have a clear vision of what the service you are delivering is. You can use our Lean Model Canvas Google Sheet as an interactive way to fill out the canvas and share with people to review and get input. Links to the resources are below.

3. Pretotype It i.e test your assumptions

Pretotype It: Make sure you are building the right it before you build it right – Alberto Savois

The assumptions you make when you create a canvas should be taken as just that, assumptions and until you have proven them. You can test the best ideas that you come up with using a concept called “Pretotyping”. This is a set of techniques, tools and metrics developed by Alberto Savoia while working at Google, it allows you to validate your assumptions and make sure you are building a solution that people will actually want to use.  An example of a Pretotype which we usually employ at SEED are interactive app or website mock ups, using a tool like Invision or FramerJs. The end result are “apps” like this these, which look/act and feel like a final product but are just pictures stitched together. The important thing is you can test your idea with potential customers using minimal effort and know if you are building the right it.

4. Build your MVP (Minimal Viable Product)

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. ― Abraham Lincoln

Now that you know what your customer needs, it’s time to develop your MVP. Think of your MVP as the minimal set of features that your product should have to satisfy your customer needs.

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Or another way to put it is your MVP should solve your customers most pressing problems, you need to focus on solving that problem with your product and not get distracted by nice to haves, those can come later in the future when your product is successful.

You might need a tech co-founder to make this happen, some people have had some success using off shore development firms but that can be quite time intensive to deal with.

There you have it, 4 simple steps that can help you refine your idea. I’d love to hear from you so use the comment box below to reach out.

At SEED we like to partner with entrepreneurs to help them develop their ideas into successful products, reach out for a coffee or chat and let’s get started on making something awesome.

Want an email of all the resources mentioned in this article? Grab them now

About the Author

- Mike is a speaker, yogi, writer and the Technology Director at SEED Digital http://seeddigital.co a product development firm that works with a digital product development agency that partners with emerging businesses (startups), established forward thinking businesses (enterprise) and businesses trying to change the world (social enterprises) empowering them to realise their goals by using lean startup principles to create innovative solutions.

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