Is IDEA Validation total Bull$hit or the Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread?

*note: MVP Validation -> IDEA Validation
I was calling this MVP Validation, as in "Validate your MVP before you build it. Just as the the MVP is validation for the product ". But that was confusing folks. So I changed it to IDEA Validation

1.Did you validate your idea before you built an MVP? And if so, what sort validation?
2. And what did you learn from it (specifically, did it add or remove features from the spec)?
3. If you did not Validate the idea, do you wish you had? Why didn’t you do it?

FYI, I’m offering a bit of free consulting on this forum to help me test my approach.

And by IDEA Validation I mean:

  1. Create some basic marketing info to communicate what it is. (Typically this is a Coming Soon Landing Page)
  2. Get some sales prospects to visit. (Many ways to do this., Same way you’d market if there were a product)
  3. Survey a large group of visitors you can get to your Landing Page about whether they have The Pain that you are solving.
  4. Talk to the most interested ones. Do they have the pain. Quantify the pain.
  5. Tweak your basic marketing info and repeat but this time ask for sales. (Variety of ways to do that "Would you pay $X,

I’m doing some research on Validating Your MVP. All the cool kids today say you should validate your MVP.
Of course, what do they mean by this?
And when does it work and what makes it difficult.
Several startups I’ve interviewed about this say "yeah, it’s a good idea, but I couldn’t do it, or “it could not be done in my case”.

After talking to them I think that at least some of the could have validating but didn’t understand how to do part of it (and thus felt it couldn’t be done)

Clay Nichols
Creator of over a dozen successful products.
(I’ve only had one product not make money: the one I did not do MVP validation on)

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MVP Validation is simply a dumb downed way to say “Do your market research before you invest too much time and money” and then narrowly apply it to internet software businesses all in one easily marketable phrase.

And I don’t think anybody would say “Well Billy, I’d really RATHER NOT know if I can sell enough of what I’m about to create to make it worthwhile before I spend the next year of my life making it”.


I built an iPhone-only version of my app which demonstrated the core unique features of the app, but didn’t have the relatively complex underpinnings needed for a real, salable version. I had ~15 people in the target market use the app while I watched and then talked with them afterwards. Response seemed positive enough that I keep working on it. I’m part of the target market as well, so I didn’t get any great insights from the users, but it was great to validate the idea as not completely crazy.

Very true. However, what I’ve found so far is:

  1. . Everyone says “that’s a great idea. For everyone ELSE”. Possible because of 2 and 3 below.

  2. “Market research” can mean a lot of different things, much like Usability Testing. The Theory for both was that you need a scientific approach with a large N sample size. But as Steve Krug points out (Don’t Make Me Think), it doesn’t need to be statistically valid. You’ll get more aha moments in UX design with one 30 minute 1:1 observation than you’ll get in an N of 100 worth of Stats.

  3. There is market research that is $50K and 500 hours of work, and there’s market research I’m talking about (which I call Validation to be more precise) that’s 20 hours of work and $100 worth of Adwords.

Oh, and John, I have had people tell me something close to that: “They might ask for something I can’t build”.

That sounds like a great approach.

  1. Did you talk to them about the pain that you are solving?
  2. Have you tested whether people would BUY it? (perhaps you asked these people) and how did you get an Honest Buy Signal™?
  3. How do you plan to market it?
  4. Have you considered testing the marketing a bit (which might also get you more beta testers)?
  1. Yes. In general terms, in part it is about making something which is solitary and boring competitive, fun, and better in certain other ways than the current solutions.
  2. At least one of the people unprompted said they would buy it.
  3. A website, video(s) on YT, advertising on a relevant forum, and contacting schools/universities about using it in classes and studies. There are sharing/competitive features built into the app which will also act as a soft form of marketing.
  4. I considered marketing before finishing up the app, but the iOS 8 UI creation tools are either so finicky or so broken that I can’t guarantee what the UI will look like or when the app will be finished. Were the situation different, I would have been marketing for a while.

I’d say I did in th general sense but not following the formula you outlined. I had like 2 potential customers that I asked about the idea very early on. I built an initial set of features and started charging for it after a couple months I think.

I’d do pretty much that again if I created another product.


  1. Do you feel like you have a clear, honest, Buy Signal?

  2. Do you think you could learn more about the feature set and WHY people would buy this?
    (That might help you prioritize features and tweak your marketing)

  3. Do you have any interest in further validation (which could help with #1 and 2)?
    If so, would you be up for a 30 minute Skype or gHangouts call? (I’m testing my “Validation Recipe” against what YOU are doing. I may either find things that are missing from my recipe or things that might help you .

(I realize you may be have started development and may be committed regardless, but #2 might still be of help)

  1. As I noted above, one person directly said they would buy it. From what I know of the space, there will also be some economic/regulatory reasons people/schools might choose my app.
  2. I’m sure I could learn more, but I have been in this space as a user for years. It’s not an app designed to meet everyone’s wishes; it has a relatively narrow focus. There is already a customizable, jack-of-all-trades app in the space; I view my app as complimentary to that app. There will be some unique features AFAIK which will be the reasons people who already have competing apps would consider purchasing mine as well.
  3. Thank you, but other than making the UI work in Adaptive/Auto Layout, the app is 98% finished. Once I saw people didn’t think the idea was completely crazy, I slogged through the hard stuff needed as table stakes for this sort of app.

I do encourage you to make a new thread offering your validation call to others; it sounds like a good idea for people starting to work on a business idea.

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Excellent point:

It 's not an app designed to meet everyone’s wishes; it has a relatively narrow focus

I’m adding that to the list of “problems with validation”

I will say that the goal is to find out their needs. So, if you interview 5 more customers and they are are giving you mostly new/conflicting needs, but confirming some of the common needs, that can be helpful.

What do you think about this?
Also, you can use your earlier validation to tweak your marketing to get more target customers to interview.
So it’s, a virtuous cycle:

  1. Interview a few.
  2. Determine what they need, look for patterns, how they would search for it, if they HAVE searched for it.
  3. Tweak the “algorithm” you used to find the first folks to interview. Find more, but better targets. (This tests your ability to find those users.
  4. Interview the new (targeted) users to 1) confirm your targetting worked and 2) further confirm that need is common in this targetted nich.

[quote=“Clay_Nichols, post:11, topic:2601”]
I will say that the goal is to find out their needs. So, if you interview 5 more customers and they are are giving you mostly new/conflicting needs, but confirming some of the common needs, that can be helpful.
[/quote]I think that’s a good idea for a traditional product which is an incremental improvement on existing products. My app is in some ways a radical departure from existing ones in the space, so existing customers are asking for the equivalent of a faster horse, while I’m offering, I don’t know, maybe a penny farthing bicycle.

Yes, You can NEVER count on the customer knowing they want. As Jobs said “… it’s not their job”

BUT, they know their pain better than anyone. And they may describe or interpret it differently than they do.
Thus, the reason to talk to them is to better understand THEIR pain. That can inform features, copywriting, and marketing (and keyword SEO)

One of the more clever ways of determining what features are essential to your product is to sit down with a potential buyer and give them a conceptual $100 to spend on features. You list/explain the features (perhaps totaling $500), each with a price based upon level of effort. What is often found is that those “essential” features people claim are so vital really aren’t so vital.

This whole conversation reminds me of lots of key points I took away from a book called Nail It then Scale It, by Nathan Furr:


“All too often, entrepreneurs fall in love with their product or technology, they ignore negative feedback from customers, and they spend years building a product based on a vision that no one else shares.”

“By remembering to fail fast, you focus on rapidly testing your assumptions, iterating swiftly, and then, because you have less attachment, you can see when you need to abandon one approach in favor of a better approach.”

“Somewhat counter-intuitively, simplifying increases customer adoption and reduces costs. Customers are attracted by simplicity and confused by complexity… Entrepreneurs should focus on developing the minimum feature set to close a customer purchase.”

“Money allowed the entrepreneurs to execute their flawed business plan rather than to stay laser focused on the market so that they could find the facts about what customers wanted and adjust accordingly.”

“The key difference… is not to just ask customers what they want but to deeply understand the customers–their motivations, their needs, and most important, the job they are trying to get done… Thomas Edison stated that `I find out what the world needs. Then I go ahead and try to invent it’.”

“The price your customers are willing to pay is the measure of the degree to which you have nailed the solution.”

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