A special thank you to Developertown's Michael Cloran and Mike Kelly for steering the discussion and exercises on the oft-maligned process of testing your new business ideas.
This is a very concise subject when put into bullet points. Not so much when it comes to putting the wheels in motion and talking to real people in the real world. The importance of lining up interviews, product tests, feedback, and even critical assessment is crucial to avoid pitfalls, wasting money, and losing time. Launch your idea by addressing a problem, finding the solution, and then monetizing it.
1. Talk to people.
If you're developing an app or a program and the users don't know what to push, what to click, or where to swipe, you have a problem. Just to clarify, talking to people doesn't mean that your team sits around a table and gets the ball rolling in a massive groupthink exercise where there isn't a bad idea. That would in fact, be a bad idea. You need outside opinions, potential target markets, and most importantly, you need people that are willing to tell you that you're wrong.
It's a bit embarrassing when you are pitching a new idea and within 15 seconds, someone has pulled up an identical product on their phone and asks, "You mean like this?" Devastating. Do yourself a favor and see what is out there already. Refer the step 1, spend some time on search engines, search the App Store. Do everything you can to make sure no one has beaten you to the market with an identical product. If you do find one, be honest with yourself, admit that its the same and move on, don't start knit-picking about minor details being different. Those details won't earn you market share. Move on.
3. Pitch, Refine, Pitch, Refine
Flexibility is key. Adaptability is a must. Rarely, if ever, will you have an idea that stays in tact throughout the entire process. It will be sliced, diced, cored, and chopped. Each round of pitches, formal and informal, will serve a purpose. You need to listen to the feedback and rework the plan. Major and minor tweaks will occur along all stages, even after launch. The market is a fickle thing and you must be able to change with it.
4. Be open and honest, close the deal
You will learn a lot from the potential customers and even more when you get in front of a VC or equity group. Listen to them and don't hide anything. If they have a good idea, incorporate it. If the pitch goes well and they love your idea... ask for a check!