The 2 Things You Must Do Before Building Your Startup

Think back on all the exciting, new, trendy companies you’ve heard about in the past five years. How many of them seemed like they had it all figured out: the angle, the model, the marketing, the funding?

How many of them made it?

Everyone knows that most startups are doomed to fail. Usually, they fail for one simple reason: the founders believe more in their idea, than they do in the viability of their company. They spend months of time (and more money than they can afford) to build something beautifully designed, elegant in its functionality, an absolute work of genius—but even the most beautiful house, if it’s built from straw, will fall down at the slightest huff and puff from the Big Bad Wolf of reality.

Talk to a failed entrepreneur, and they’ll often say that they had bad luck. Sure, that happens. Then ask them if they followed these three crucial steps before building their project. How many of them would say yes, they did? If we had to guess, we’d say that the vast majority of failed companies do a less than perfect job. Want to give yourself a better chance? Want to build your house from brick, not straw? Here’s how to lay the right foundation to support a great product.

1. Identify the problem being solved, and the customers you’re serving.

Even this step comes with an important “first step”: To identify the problem being solved, you can’t just theorize. You have to research. Don’t start from a statement like, “everybody wants a better way to X, right?” Get out there and ask people if they think X could be improved. Ask them how it could be improved. And then look at the people you’re talking to. Are they a viable market segment? Who is your target market? Have you asked them if they would actually use the thing you’re building?

If you’re not doing this, you’re about to learn a big lesson, the hard way.

2. Test your assumptions.

You’ve already started this process by asking people what they really want—but there is an endless list of assumptions you make while building a startup enterprise. You make assumptions about how your customers behave, who they are, how they will use the product…. Everything you’re building on needs to be questioned, tested, and proven to be solid. This starts with that first, riskiest assumption—do people want what you’re building?—and continues through every level and stage of development.

The world of startups is a world of ideas, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend your entire development phase grasping at straws. Take those incredible ideas and, using thorough research, solidify them into the building blocks that will hold your company upright, even as all your competitors tumble to the ground.

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