When Founders Ask Me “What Do You Think of My Startup Idea?”

People ask me all the time about their startup or product idea. “What do you think of my idea?”

I don’t give them any answers. I can only ask them a bunch of QUESTIONS.

Here’s what I ask them:

  • Who do you think will buy and use it?
  • What problem of theirs are you trying to solve?
  • Did you experience this problem yourself?
  • How many people with that problem have you talked to?
  • Are they telling you they would pay for a solution to this problem?
  • Is this problem bigger than almost any other problem they have on their list?
  • Why hasn’t this problem been solved already?
  • Why is this different from other solutions that are available today?
  • How many ideas have you come up with already? Why is this the best idea on your list to invest time to test it out?
  • What’s the next thing you need to prove to see if there’s really a business opportunity here?

Here’s what I DON’T ask them:

  • Can you build it?
  • Can you get funding for it?
  • Where did you go to school? Where do you live?
  • Do you know how to code? Or sell?
  • How old are you?
  • Is the potential market in the billions of dollars?

I don’t know if your idea has potential–unless I’m your target customer and understand the problem and pain.

And it’s still just an idea.

It’s a long, long way from being a working product or a real business.

Beware of a founder who says “This will definitely be big!” before customers are using the solution and paying for it.

Beware of the founder who wants to build something before talking to hundreds of potential customers.

Beware of a mentor or investor or friend who says, “That will definitely work. You should quit your day job!” Or worse, “You should get funding with that idea!”

Also beware of someone who says, “That will never work” or “You can’t do it” when you have happy customers who pay you.

The only judge of a good software startup idea is a potential customer that is VERY, VERY interested in paying to use your solution if you build it.

Even then, success is not guaranteed. Or even likely.

But that’s a good start.

What other questions or caveats would you add to this list?


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