Startup Series: Ideas are overrated, Work isn’t
How many times have you gotten a mind-blowing idea about how to solve a societal problem or how to develop a revenue generating business?
For a lot of us, we come in contact with challenges every day, from seemingly mundane issues like how to get to work faster, get someone to clean our houses, get ‘nannies’ for our pets, to more serious issues around access to quality education for children in third world countries, financial inclusion solutions for the rural poor, or access to quality health care for pregnant women.
The interesting thing about ideas though is that no matter how ingenious they may seem there’s no monopoly of ownership to them! It so often happens that an executed version of the idea you’ve glamorised in your head will stare you in the face at some point and the reaction is often one of shock, then disdain. The reality we never come to accept is this: Ideas are overrated, work isn’t!
I imagine by now you’re beginning to think about how true this is and how you can relate to it. The question then becomes ‘How do I move from the idea phase to execution’? That’s exactly what this article hopes to address and we’d be adopting a simple, easy to follow cycle shown below
Idea generation: This is the point where most of us are stuck. As the name implies, it’s the point where you identify a potential solution to a clear challenge and you turn it over in your mind. Given that this is the stage we are trying to get past, I won’t make the same mistake we’ve made to this point, which is dwelling on the idea stage!
Market research: This is where the real work starts. It involves getting all the information available about the subject at hand. The market research can be carried out in a number of ways ranging from simply surfing the Internet about the industry and market to having conversations with industry experts, or business consultants. The way to conduct the research is equally as important as the questions asked. Some of the questions you should aim to answer through the research exercise include:
- What are the challenges and pain points in this industry?
- What are the current industry and market trends?
- How’s your idea different from what currently obtains in the market place? etc.
Business model development: This involves developing a methodology on client and market engagement. As a follow up to the market research, this is the point where you’d need to think through how you intend to engage the market. For example, imagine you’re trying to solve the challenge of agricultural logistics, at this stage you’d be defining your target market i.e. are there specific farmers you’re looking to help solve the logistic challenge? What is the best way to deliver your proposed solution to these farmers? Should you be employing a tech enabled solution or a manual one? What’s the value chain for this solution? How should the solution be priced? etc.
Market validation: It is often said that the market ‘defines its own needs’, hence it is always smart to have a ‘pilot run’ to test the strength of your business model and also confirm whether you have a minimum viable product (mvp). The pilot run may involve using a small geographical location as a test space for launching your solution and seeing how your target market reacts to it. It is what you may term the pre-product launch phase, where what you’re really trying to do is ascertain that your solution indeed addresses the market’s pain points.
Model assessment/Product launch: The model re-assessment is a follow up on the market validation. Based off the result of the pilot phase, an assessment is performed on potential loopholes and also strengths inherent in your business model and appropriate adjustments are identified and implemented. After the strengths and weaknesses identified have been addressed and appropriately enhanced, a full-blown product launch can commence!
Remember, however that this is a cycle, and as you go about your business, more questions and ideas will arise, and what will keep you in the game over the long haul is the ability to keep moving past the ‘idea’ phase to execution.