The Startup Idea Filter

The Startup Idea Filter

Much like an adolescents take years to mature and develop into adults, startups take years to mature into established companies. I’m finding that lack of focus may be the #1 killer of startups. That is to say, entrepreneurs typically have idea A.D.D. Idea A.D.D. at many times has almost killed me, and it has almost killed Reflect7.

Monday was the last night of the Brasch Fast Start. It’s a 12 month program led by John Brasch to educate entrepreneurs in the community. If you’re a Lincolnite, you should definitely think about signing up for the next session. But, I digress. I was at the meeting and the group’s discussion prompted me to start developing an idea filter to test if a company should spend time on it or not. Without further ado, they are not presented in any prioritized order. This Startup Idea Filter is an idea in and of itself that needs to marinate and be fleshed out.

  1. Monetization Strategy - This is critical. If you aren’t making money, you don’t have a business. You have a hobby. You don’t have to commit to any particular monetization strategy, but you should at least think of a few in the event that one of them fails.
  2. Time to MVP
    • How long will it take until you get that MVP built? If it’s longer than three months, you may want to consider something else. If your initial estimate is three months, you know as well as I do that it’ll take at least six. Your estimate should be 1.5 months. The goal is that you need to be able to get something up and in front of customers ASAP. Even if it sucks.
  3. Customer Validation - Steve Blank is a proponent of this one. Find 10 customers who will pay you for your product before you even write a line of code. No, not 10 customers who say that they would pay, but say that they will. Of course, they might not, but there is a big difference between “would” and “will.” “Will” shows commitment.
  4. Research competition - Competition validates your market. Don’t be afraid of it. If there isn’t competition, your idea might really suck.
  5. Be a Pill - Not a vitamin. I heard this from one of Matt Mullenweg’s keynotes. This isn’t a dealbreaker for the idea, but the main point is that your idea should solve a clear problem.

Of course there will be more filters that you can and should apply. In fact, I’m sure the “Startup Idea Filter” will gain additional points.

I would add that once your idea meets this filter, you should do the following:

  1. Blog About It - Feedback can help you refine your thoughts. No one will steal your idea because they don’t have your vision and they aren’t you. I should also add that if your idea is that copyable, that may be another reason that it sucks. Plus, it’ll eventually be copied anyway. But, consider that most people who are able to copy your idea most likely have ideas of their own. I blogged about MindSpread twice. I’ve gotten little feedback despite driving over 500 hits to the original announcement. I even have a plea asking for help. Does the idea suck? I don’t know… but people’s lack of interest is a bit telling.
  2. Marinate the Idea - Don’t act on an idea right away. Action on passion is poisonous. Ideas need to marinate. Plus blogging your idea helps marinate them. Consider other’s feedback as the spices and your time away from the idea discussing it with your partners is the sauce. If you get continued interest and many people asking you about it, you may have an idea ready to bake.

I’ll let the “Startup Idea Filter” marinate for awhile… what do you think should be added?

If you enjoyed this, you may enjoy:\ The Only Person Who Cares About Your Idea is Your Mom

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