It’s been a while since my last post (How to come up with a multi-million dollar idea) so I will skip the introduction and get straight into the most important thing. The first thing you need to do to convert your idea to serious bucks is to figure out who your customers are and whether or not they want your product.
Customer discovery is the most important thing when embarking on a new business venture. Say you have a new app that is targeted at university students, go and speak to university students, get them to trial the app. If they end up deleting the app after a few days it means your target customers don’t want it. So go back to the drawing board and try again. The same applies to any other product. If it is a type of food or new recipe you have and no one is buying it, go back to the drawing board. This process should take a few weeks and should include surveys and REAL CUSTOMER DATA, not just market size estimates and market growth forecasts.
When you know customers actually want your product and you have market size and growth estimates, its time to think of a business model. Sounds complicated, but its actually just a model/plan which describes who your customers are, what your product is and why it is different to the competition, and how you plan on making money.
Once the business plan is done you can combine this with the customer data + feedback you recieved earlier and start making some initial financial forecasts to see if this is a business actually worth pursuing.
In other words check if revenue is greater than total costs in the long term. You obviously don’t want to be operating a business at a loss. If at this point it seems you will be breaking even or losing out, STOP. Don’t think of it as a waste of time, think of it as an investment you made to stop yourself on losing out on money and time.
Once you have your business model and you have produced some low cost prototypes and have real customer data purchases, it is time to make a decision. Do you iron out the bugs of your current product before you release or whilst you release it? This is a difficult question to answer and depends on what the product is so read up on past companies and case studies before you decide (e.g. Dropbox).
The reason this is very important is because these decisions will heavily influence whether or not you will pass the barrier which occurs at the early adopter’s stage and kills the majority of start-ups (See the figure below)
Most business dont get past the “early adopters stage” shown in the diagram as often their products require a radical behavioural change. If there is one thing entrepreneurs learn the hard way, it is that no one wants to change for your product or app or whatever you have. So find a way to make it convenient around people’s current lifestyles.
So once this is decided and you find yourself approaching or at the early adopter’s stage, you will be considering your second stage of funding and will be looking for investors, most likely a venture capitalist.
NOTE: Before even approaching a venture capitalist you need some customers, you need to show there is a demand for the product, it works, and your business model and projections are reasonable and can forecast some profits which are worth investing in. This isn’t forecasting profits of £1000 after a year. This is after you have really thought about your business model, what your sustainable competitive advantage is (what you have that is difficult to imitate) and when you have good answers to the following questions:
- What are the other technologies available that can achieve the same thing
- How much does it cost you to do this relative to competition
- What do you have that someone else cannot really imitate
- What are your projections for the next three years
So to summarise, we have covered a few things in this post. First and foremost is the importance of researching weather or not customers want and will buy your product- this takes weeks and sometimes even months. Second is the importance of having a well thought out business model, knowing the market growth forecast, knowing your customers, and using this information to make a reasonable financial forecast. Third is thinking about how you can get past the early adopters stage to get mass adoption of your product by minimising behavioural changes and tweaking your product to better suit customer needs. And finally once the above points are sorted, preparing yourself for standing in front of a venture capitalist.
Stay tuned for part 4 where we talk about what companies do when they have passed the early adopters stage and how they establish themselves as key players in the market. In other words, going from £millions to £billions.