Do the smallest thing possible to start your business and validate your solution. This will cost you less time and money, and will also help you validate your product. Write your ideas here.
Write down your creative idea about how you are going to build or validate your business in 1 day.
Many startups have found such easy ways to validate the "first version" of their MVP (Minimum Viable Product) without spending dime or time on it. While you will still eventually need to build your MVP, you could basically validate your solution using a first or "smaller" and unscalable version of your MVP - which will allow you to start your business right away.
I'd like to call this technique as the MVB (Minimum Viable Business). While an MVP requires an actual product, I think it's actually quite possible for many cases to be able to deliver the same solution without a product (initially). This is also a perfect technique for non-technical startups or co-founders.
Many entrepeneurs get stuck in the beginning because they tend to think that the first thing you need to do for a startup is build. However, if you take a step back and think about it, when you talk about buliding a product, you are thinking about building a scalable and more automated version of the solution you want to deliver (Serve to 10,000 people instead of 10).
However, you don't have 10,000 users now, so why not just try to deliver the solution manually to jumpstart your business. Actually, by building a manual/offline/unscalable version of your MVP (Minimum Viable Product), you would have already started your business, because you would already be able to deliver the solution to your customers, which will allow you to start charging.
MVB Version of companies (some are examples):
Groupon: Wordpress blog
Orbitz: Traditional travel agency
Uber: Private driver - get 4 limos and start doing it offline
Airbnb: Ask your friends for their empty rooms and list them (for money)
What kind of ideas are MVB-friendly?
Service-centric (Companies like AirBnB, Vayable, Groupon, Uber) - These ideas are basically taking something you do offline, and bring them online - making it scale and more automated. These are perfect for non-technical co-founders and as MVB ideas.
Can you charge? Since you can already deliver your solution, then it makes sense to start charging even if you don't have an online platform.
Tech-centric (Companies like Google) - Less friendly, but you can try to build a mockup or prototype that demonstrate the finished product.
Can you charge? While you can get feedback for a mockup, charging will be hard.
Must Read: Try a service-first business
Also, Online to Offline (O2O) services are the trend since 2012. Look at services like Uber, AirBnB, Vayable, and many other popular services all take what people are already doing offline, and make a better version of it online. YComabintor, Techstars, and other top incubators have been investing these less risky and profitable ideas.
So, for non-technical co-founders, this is perfect. Because all O2O platforms have a smaller version of it that you can do manually without a website. Non-technical co-founders are perfect for O2O services.
Case Study: Think about those traditional travel agencies where everything is done manually with man power. Those travel agencies are actually the smaller scale + offline versions (smaller versions of MVP) of huge online travel reservation websites like Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, Kayak, etc.
You can actually keep doing this until you start needing an automated version of your service because you have run out of bandwidth.
Drop the build-first mentality and think very carefully about the smallest thing you can do right now to deliver your solution. You can potentially save months of work and make money in the process.
Case Study: Ash Maurya started a blog on Lean Startups and he received a lot of requests from his readers who asked him to write a book about it. He wasn't sure if only the minority were interested. He didn't go ahead and just wrote the book. Instead he created a table of contents for his book, and held a workshop in Austin Texas that helped him validate his MVP and get feedback. He also got his first customers for his book - before he even had a chapter written.
So by organizing a workshop:
1. He found out the number of people who would attend. Thus proving if it's a sizable problem.
2. Whether or not the solution he taught is actually what the customers need.
3. He got feedback from the customers and got early adopters to pay for his product right away, even though he told them he could only release the book chapter by chapter. Some peole were just too excited and willing to get it chapter by chapter, while others wanted to wait. Regardless, he got early adopters and got people to pay early.
So, Ash cleverly used a table of contents and workshops to help him validate his idea, get early adopters, and got his first paying customers.
You too can think of a smart way to test your MVP without having a product or even a demo. Start with a MVB that will still accomplish what your product will accomplish, on a smaller scale. You can also use the emails you've collected in the last section as a way to contact your early adopters.
If you are working on a tech-centric idea, then below are some great suggestions you can consider when creating a prototype for your MVP, which will be used to quickly validate your eventual MVP.
Some other methods you can consider:
1. One-use-case - Cut out 95% of the work and built a one-use-case. Create a mockup (See tools below) of your website with static pages but connecting links so that a customer can navigate through it and understand what you are going to build. With this simple example, the customer will also know if this will solve his/her problem.
2. Build a search engine that could only search for red shoes, but it would still show what happens when you search for something.
3. Create a video that demos the whole process of the product. Dropbox did this and was wildly successful.
4. Organize workshops and seminars.
5. If you're a designer, borrow a friend's or shop's store space and test sell your clothes. Instead of going out and renting a shop. Same goes with someone who wants to open a resaurant.
Tools you can use to make a mockup or a prototype:
Mobile App Mockup Tools:
If you decide to build a mockup or offline version to validate your solution, go ahead and build it! You will need it for the next stage (Solution Interview) when you ask customers to give you feedback on your solution.
Since you collected users from the last stage (Demo Page), you would then have your first batch of leads that you can try to sell to.