I'm Samuel Porta - Founder and CEO of the Georgia Tech Startup queues. I've spent years working on startups so I thought I would post some useful tips for anyone else looking to get started.
New entrepreneurs almost always fall victim to one of these 4 mistakes when they start a startup - Here is how to avoid all of them. Enjoy!
If you'd prefer to watch my video discussing these points here is the link: https://youtu.be/8zSivkPS1iA
So what are the 4 mistakes that almost all new entrepreneurs fall victim to?
#1 Focusing on a Product/Solution
Many entrepreneurs are too quick to get fixated on a product or a particular solution to a problem. Creating a Startup is NOT about the product/solution it is about the PROBLEM. Remember - There are a million ways you can solve any problem, what’s more important is to figure out if people care enough about a problem to pay for a solution.
#2 Pitching your idea
When scoping a problem you are not trying to sell an idea. You are trying to see if people resonate with the problem with zero salesmanship added. If people care about a problem without you selling it then you wont need to sell your solution when you finally make it - people will seek you out.
#3 Asking for “Expert Advice”
Expert advice about your problem does not matter. One person is not going to tell you all that you need to know about your problem space. Not everyone is going to care about the problem so you need to get a wide sample. If 10 people say they don't care about a problem - that information is much more likely to be accurate than if just 1 person says they don’t care.
#4 Wasting Years of Time
Too many entrepreneurs rush to create a product or solution and spend years working on it without ever knowing if it would be successful at the end of the day. An entrepreneur's most valuable resource is time so wasting years going in the wrong direction is a very expensive mistake that can very easily be avoided. So now we have discussed the mistakes that new entrepreneurs make, I'm going to take you through how to systematically avoid all of them.
Part 1: Focus on the problem
Don’t even think about a solution to your problem. Remember, When you first begin a startup: The problem is all that matters. Once you have your problem in mind you need to test the underlying assumption that people care about this problem which we accomplish through unbiased interviews.
Part 2: Biases Now what do I mean by unbiased?
If you care about an idea you are subconsciously going to be biased in favor of it - which will be reflected in the way you phrase your questions.
“Do you wish your dog was better behaved?”
There are 3 problems with that question
- It's a yes or no question:
- The phrase better behaved adds a bias
- It's a cornering question
So how would we ask that same question correctly? Like this: How does your dog typically behave?
Why is this better?
- It is Open ended - not a yes or no
- And it is Neutrally worded - there is no positive or negative slant to the question.
Part 3: How to do the interview
- Prioritize open ended questions: You want to use questions starting with What, how, why… and you want to avoid questions starting with do, should, can. Now of course some follow up questions can be yes or no but if you can ask an open ended question it’s far better.
- Avoid biasing adjectives in your question: Words such as Love, hate, like, dislike. Instead Use neutral wording like: How do you feel about X… Remember: the goal here is to determine how they really feel about the topic.
- Go where the pain is: If you hear emotional phrases like I hate, or I can't stand or I wish this didn't exist these are gold. People are far more likely to pay for something that addresses a serious pain
- Dig deeper with each question: Open ended questions bring great insights so make sure to follow up their comments up with further questions
- Tangents: Don't be afraid to go on tangents if an interviewee raises an unexpected point. If you get a response you didn't expect, go down that rabbit hole as it will often provide useful insight of a possible solution you could make.
- Interview as many people as possible: The more potential customers you can interview the better as this will give you more data to effectively validate or invalidate the urgency of your problem.
Part 4 - What to do after the interviews: Ask yourself: Is there enough evidence that people care about this problem significantly?
If the answer is no - that’s great. You’ve quickly been able to identify that you would have wasted your time if you walked down that road. Believe me you’ll be glad not to waste years of your life.
If the answer is yes - that’s Awesome - you can now go all in knowing that you have the evidence to back up your beliefs and more importantly eager customers waiting to buy your solution - whatever that may be.
I hope this helps!