The $0 Startup: Business Validation

My first website I spend over $1,000 before I had a single customer. Not a successful startup. And if you don’t count Google ads, then I never had customers. Why? Why did I spend all this money on a project that didn’t work out? Many reasons: unrealistic business model, listening to people, and “believing in it”. All of these you are listening to yourself or someone else, not watching the market. The people who decide if your business is going to work is not, but your customers. Your customers drive your startup.

Today I validate with $10 and I aim to spend $0. How do you do this? The goal is to confirm there are customers and that you are offering value. You can test if you are providing value by trading what you are offering for someone’s resources. This could be e-mails or money. How do you validate?

Set a goal.
Make a prototype.
Ask for something.
Present your prototype.

This is really the basics to any crowdfunding campaign.

Set a goal

Have a set goal before you go into it. It’s easy to tell yourself after the fact that you are successful. If you set the goal ahead of time it’s harder to lie to yourself. There are two goals to set: number of customers and feedback from your value. 

You can check customers by how many people are searching for your idea. This can be done on Google trends.
One goal could be to collect 100 e-mails within a month. Or make your hourly pay in sales during one day. (Everyone has an hourly pay.) Set the goal. Write it down. Stick to it.

Make a prototype

A prototype for digital products is easier than physical products. Consider what product you want to offer and strip it down to the basics. If you want to write a book, the basics are information. A prototype could be a blog. If you plan to offer a service your prototype could be videos explaining what you do and a video demonstrating your service. Another good prototype is a newsletter about a specific topic. Not knowing what your final product is going to be is ok. Just know the problem you want to solve and an area you want to work. The important thing is to grow an audience.

How do you make a prototype for $0? For a blog use the basic WordPress blog, it’s free. For a video, start by shooting it on your smartphone and upload it to YouTube. For an email list, there are several free beginner offers, one of them is MailChimp

Ask for something

The ask helps your goal. If the goal is to get 100 newsletter signups, then ask for others to sign up and put in their email. Basically, you are offering your finished product of the prototype for something. You could ask for people to pre-pay for the item, but be careful. If you don’t deliver the item make sure you refund the money, otherwise you are stealing and would get into trouble.

Present your prototype

Show people what you have made. Post it on social media. Tell your friends what you plan on doing. E-mail people who would be interested. Don’t spam. The difference between telling people and spamming is that you know they’d be interested and how personal the message is. Make the message personal.

Now is the time to launch. Go.

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