Business validation

November 17, 2020
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You need market validation for a product/market fit. But whose opinion matters?

Finding the right type of product/market fit is crucial. It allows you to move on, get more funding (if needed) and start to plan for scaling of the venture.

There’s a danger of starting to see a lot of nails all over the place when you have a hammer in your hand. When you need something it’s easy to convince yourself of a narrative that gets you out of the pickle.

The more innovative and far reaching your product the fewer the places that are providing you with the validation you need. That’s natural since others have not walked the path you have already travelled.

They don’t know what you know. They have not gone through the mental journey from the vision of something different, to reasoning, trials-and-errors, and re-evaluating the relevant assumptions.

They don’t have the experience you have now. That’s a good thing because this is your cutting edge. This is why the market needs you. This is why you can have a market share and even dominate the niche. You can deliver something that others will realise and need soon, and they cannot get it elsewhere, yet.

The downside is that you speak a strange language and your message is unfamiliar, different and therefore strange. Anything new is a potential threat and should be treated with suspicion. At least, it can cause change and that is an unpleasant experience for most.

Don’t expect others to see your brilliance or embrace the future like you have already. You live in the future that others are not seeing yet.

You would not ask advice from people that are not qualified to answer your questions. This is what you get when seeking for business validation from the wrong places. You get exactly what you asked for: confusion, denial, rejection, and at best, a lukewarm neutral response.

Asking the right type of questions unlock the puzzle. Who are the people in the know? And even more importantly, who are the people that are not? To rephrase the latter one slightly differently: who have the most to lose? Who are the conservative ones?

To get you started with the business validation quest I give you some places that tend to be the wrong places.

Your friends and family are biased and may see you the way they have learned to see you. This may not reflect your recent changes or new aspirations.

Similarly your current customers may have a similar bias. They put you in a certain mental box or category and if you do something else they may have a hard time to see you in a different role.

Anyone who has a vested interest in your current success is a good suspect. The more dependent they are of the status quo the harder it is for them to have an open mind for changes.

Incumbents are not famous for innovation. Per definition they have the most to lose. They are not embracing change with open arms. It takes an exceptional corporate culture to dive first into new ventures that may fail. Risk-taking is not the first appetite in large organisations, and can ruin your perfectly good corporate ladder-climbing career.

If you have investors in your company or you’re considering getting some VC or other equity investments, that’s another bad idea to ask from investors in general. They are money allocation experts but you’re the innovator and the practitioner. If you seek validation from investors you’re not leading the way. You’re a follower.

General public is also a dead end. What is left?

I leave the obvious answer unanswered so that you can revisit the previous questions and do a bit of mental work yourself.

If you need help figuring out the right answer you know where to find me. It’s not that hard. Just think, or ping me.