Validation: The best tool to de-risk and inspire

Jordyn Bonds

You’ve identified a pain point and you have an innovative software product idea to solve it. What now?

You might be tempted to jump immediately into scoping and building an MVP. We know the feeling! Once you see the opportunity, you have to assume others see it too and the race is on to be the first to market with a solution.

This moment is precisely when slowing down can actually speed you up. Taking the time to validate the opportunity now will ensure you don’t waste time and resources building the wrong solution. Running a validation process will also help you identify the right solution to build instead.

What is validation?

Validation is the process of stress-testing your assumptions. Broadly, what you’re trying to uncover in this process is whether or not your product will be desirable to customers, viable for your business, and feasible to build.

The questions that a validation process can help answer include:

  • Does the pain point you identified exist?
  • Is the pain point widespread enough to present a market opportunity worth pursuing?
  • Does your product idea address the pain point?
  • Will people be willing to buy and use your product?
  • Is your product feasible to build?

Why would you not validate an opportunity?

If you’ve made it far enough to consider building an MVP, you are likely to already be emotionally invested in this pain point as well as your idea for solving it.

Because of that, you may feel like you can skip validation this time, or that your handful of casual conversations with friends and family is enough validation for you.

It can be helpful to remind yourself that problems and solutions are in no short supply! Validation will help you figure out where you fit in the market, and in terms of your product, it clearly shows you what not to build and what to build instead.

Sometimes your original idea ends up being the right one. Validation is still important because it will arm you with the evidence you need to confidently invest resources in the idea or secure outside funding for it.

What’s at stake when you build the wrong thing?

Let’s say you do move forward with building and launching an MVP without first validating your approach. What are some of the risks to the business?

You may find that what you’ve built is valuable to some customers, but that the costs of maintaining the product outweigh that value.

You may find that in the time you spent getting to market, a competitor emerged with a better solution. Catching up with them may require an even steeper investment.

You may have redirected resources away from sales and support of your current offerings to a degree that their viability also suffers.

These types of risks will hold you back from continuous growth. They could make or break not just your product, but your entire business.

What should you build instead?

We are happy to report that validating your opportunity is not all doom and gloom! An equally important consequence of this process is discovering what to build instead.

The world is a work in progress. We have not built products to address every single human pain point or need yet. It is therefore very likely that during the validation process you will uncover a long list of additional pain points your customer is experiencing. One of those pain points may be more valuable to solve than the one you had initially focused on.

Validation will help you figure out which of those to pursue now, and which ones can wait until later. It will help you figure out how (and how much) to invest in the most important opportunity such that you meet the need with as little risk to your business as possible.

How to get started validating

To learn more about the validation process and how we approach it at thoughtbot, check out our new Research & Strategy Playbook. Inside you’ll find guides for:

  • Finding, learning from, and engaging your customers
  • Turning customer insights into innovative products
  • And more!

To chat more with us about doing a validation project together, contact us.