Startup idea

Today we are going to continue the series of articles where we analyze startup ideas. As always, we will carry out simple desk research, analyze problems and try to understand what we should do to transfer the idea to a project and profitable business or a startup idea is not worthy. Surely, we will do it from the perspective of our product management background and experienced gain through developing software for multiple startups. Let’s go! 

Startup idea we are analyzing is a mobile application for schoolers and/or students. Using the app, they can get stationery in case they forget and lack someThe app will have a subscription-based business model

Spoiler: it seems that this startup idea is not worthy even before any research. Some weak points coming to mind are: extremely cheap objects of offer (pens, pencils and so on) with a large target audience and even possible absence of the problem itself. Well, we’ll have to consider these aspects also. 

For even better understanding, let’s describe the process of “forgetting stationery” – the most common one – and where we can benefit:

  1. A pupil/student prepares for school/university.
  2. While preparing, he/she forgets something. 
  3. Comes to school or university.
  4. A lesson/lecture begins.
  5. A pupil/student notices some stationery is absent. 
  6. Tries to find and get stationery missed.

Actually, the idea of our mobile app means that exactly at this step a person remembers about our mobile application and somehow gets necessary stationery immediately, because of paid subscription. Supposably, at this step a person presses some buttons in our mobile app and goes to, for example, a special box somewhere in the building and picks up necessary stuff.

Here is our idea statement. There is a hypothesis laying behind it: schoolers and students sometimes forget stationery at home. Supposably, they are ready to pay for it when they need it. 

Successful startup

Let’s remember that there are 2 aspects of any successful startup:

  • Match with existing problem or pain
  • Product market fit. 

What does it mean? Briefly, match with an existing problem means that a startup idea we keep in mind really has a problem to address. And this problem exists not only in founders’ imagination, its existence has been confirmed by customer development activities. Then, product market fit means, in general, that our offer is suitable on the given market for customers with confirmed problem, and they are ready to pay for it

These 2 aspects are important for any startup as well as for our further startup idea desk research. Let’s have a look at what it means for the startup idea.

Startup idea: problem statement

Well, developing our startup idea, it is important to elaborate the match with a problem. Due to the fact that we are limited with desk research only, let’s find out how this problem is solved now. So, when a pupil or a student forgets some stationery, he/she has the following options:

  1. Ask a friend to share. 
  2. Ask a teacher/professor for help.
  3. Try to work without necessary stationery. 
  4. Leave it and do nothing: no equipment – no work during the classes. 
  5. Use other things, for example a book instead of a ruler, pen instead of pencil etc. 

Probably, trying this or that option depends on the importance of the lesson and work planned. When there is laboratory work, the problem becomes pain and the pupil/student has no choice, stationery is needed at all costs. Probably, in this given case a person is ready to pay for it.

We should not also forget that in some schools and universities there might already be spots where anyone can take stationery for free. Actually, confirmation of this fact can make the idea of our mobile app useless, but let’s think more. 

One more important aspect is a short time between the moment when someone needs stationery and realizes it – usually when the lesson is already started, a person sees he lacks some stationery. Or in case when the pen is out of ink or the pencil broke down during some examination work. So, for our startup idea we have to offer a solution that allows us to get stationery no more than in a couple of minutes. 

Startup idea validation

If the thoughts mentioned above didn’t stop us, we can try to discuss how we can test the startup idea. 

The first thing we should do here is to check how this works now. The task is to know how pupils and students solve the problem with stationery. For example, most likely that in Finland and other Nordic countries famous for their pupil-oriented educational system, schools offer everything including stationery for free and our application is useless. Here in CIS countries, for instance, all the school supplies are the problem of pupils and their parents. That’s why they sometimes forget to take some and maybe the mobile app would be useful here. In a word, some deep research is required. After this, it is possible to shortlist countries the mobile app could be launched in. 

Then, to validate the startup idea we can just spend a day in a school or a university with a box of stationery, offering it to anyone. In the selected country, surely. We should also place a note with some written message indicating that here it is possible to get stationery if needed. By the end of the day, we can calculate how many people used our offer. This number will make it possible to check possible market demand and decide should we proceed with further development or not. 

However, this is not a perfect test because it differs from the idea in some aspects. Assuming the application is ready and launched, we will not direct any employees to stay near the boxes and control everyone who picks up stationery, because it is too expensive. The process should be automated. To address this issue, we can try to place secured boxes that can be opened only when an authorized user (who paid for subscription and requested stationery) stays near it, but this seems too costly. Most likely secured boxes will not make our business profitable. 

We can also try a so-called fake door test to validate the startup idea. It is simple. We should create a one-page website with a description of the offer and ”Download application” button. While pressing it, the user will see an alert with an explanation about the startup idea test and promise to add a user to the waiting list. Then some Google Ads should be paid, targeted at students and scholars. In a week, we will have enough statistics to decide should we develop it or not. Actually, this fake door test let’s test any startup idea quickly and at an affordable price.

Wrapping up

Developing any startup idea it is very important to ensure that it matches the existing problem. Be sure it really takes place. Customer development and Custdev interviews are good ways to do it. One more option is a so-called Fake Door test, which means that you create a simple landing page with a description of your product or service and Call-to-action button, be it Sign-up, Follow, Order, Buy now etc. By pressing it, a user sees a notification with a gratitude from you and an explanation that you are still in progress with this startup and are measuring potential demand, if a user is interested, here is a Facebook group or sign-up for a newsletter button. Surely, this means that you will have to invest in some advertisement to obtain traffic. As a result, you will see analytics on how many people really need your product or service. Fake door test is a good step to decide whether you should develop further or not. 

One more aspect you should pay attention to when elaborating any startup idea is the problem statement. There are 3 levels of problems: desire, problem and pain. Desire is something a person wants but doesn’t need actually – the readiness to spend money on it is low. The second level is a problem – when the issue is not significant, but forces you to lose some comfort. For example, the car broke down: no one wants to spend money, but has to. The third level is a pain – when the solution is required right now and a person is ready to pay for it immediately. For instance, toothache. Or absence of a copy-book at the beginning of the laboratory work.

Thus, elaborating any startup idea it is preferably to focus on pains. Getting back to the startup idea of a mobile app we analyzed, looks like it is not so worthy. There are too many issues even at the stage of desk research. However, we should confirm this by means of some field research or at least fake door test, because without a test this is only an assumption.

business and startup ideas

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