Just as much as everyone has an opinion, everyone also has a great idea. But sadly most of these great ideas will never see the light of day. That doesn’t mean however that you shouldn’t give your project or idea a go.
In this article we look at the iterative methodology and how it can be used to “fail, fast”. In other words, move on before you have invested too much time or money.
Iterative startups must fail fast
Not that your project must fail, but if it’s meant to, it might as well happen sooner rather than later. In other words, you need a simple and effective method of fleshing out the core value in your idea, building a prototype and testing it with the targeted market. That’s within days, or weeks, but certainly not months! This is so you can quickly establish if your idea is a lemon. In some cases it’ll be a “rapid fail”, for others (hopefully yours!) it will mean prompt validation of your idea and market, and also rapid success!
The theory behind the practice
You need to quickly know if an idea is not going to take off so that you don’t squander your hard earned income or expose yourself to unnecessary risks.
The possible outcomes of this process are:
- Stop, the project or the idea is going to fail.
- Learn something, adapt, and try again (the startup world calls this “to pivot”).
- Keep going, you’re on the right track.
How to apply the theory
01 Start with a concept
An idea is just that, nothing more than a concept. It needs some flesh, but just enough to understand who you are addressing and what you are offering them. Trusted friends, colleagues and business advisors will help to turn the idea into a value-generating concept.
Then ask yourself: is the general feedback I gathered so far worth pursuing the idea? If the answer is no, quit and move on.
02 Put your business hat on
Think about any competitors, the size of the market, and the value (ideally in $$) of what your offering.
Then ask yourself: Is the business capable of generating enough revenues to cover the R&D, marketing, launch and ongoing costs? If not consider reviewing the business model, or quit.
03 Create storyboard and users stories
While the storyboard shows the user journey through your concept, user stories describe briefly each feature, how it will work. These will help in communicating with potential developers and explaining what you are trying to achieve. Each agile and iterative developer will be able to give you a ballpark cost for developing your Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
Then ask yourself: Given the potential return, is the cost of the MVP worth the initial investment? If the answer is no, try and make your MVP more “lean” or minimalistic, to save.
04 Build the MVP with your chosen developer
The last two very difficult steps are to choose a developer, and also build only the most important features (MVP), leaving the “bling” out.
Choose your developer based on their experience, references or recommendations you may have received, and also reputation. But most importantly, they have to be agile, iterative, and lean, where they will demonstrate continuous progress almost on a day to day basis. Many developers will want to spend a lot of time and money upfront and this is a big risk for your project.
Build the most important features only. It is too easy for anyone to fall into the “I need everything” trap, or “everything upfront”. Just remember that you have not tested the market yet. As a rule of thumb, 1-2 weeks of work should be plenty to build an MVP or prototype. If not, the project is at risk!
Finally, find a way of testing your prototype with potential customers. This will vary depending on what it is you have to offer. Social media campaigns, working with a group or association, or existing customers are a few of the many possibilities. Remember, you must capture their feedback. They are your potential customers and will tell you exactly what they require. Think of what metrics you need to collect which will indicate success or failure.
If your developer is half decent, they will be able to help you with a market testing strategy. Do think about this when you look for your developer.
So now you’re ready to make a decision. Keep going, pivot or stop (rapid fail).
Make the most of the failure
Hopefully you’ve been able to make an informed decision quickly and without having destroyed your valuable budget. If you did a “rapid fail” then at the very least you live to fight another day with another of your great ideas. Well done!