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Business validation and the flawed MVP mindset
Why we need to stop over focusing on validating products
I’d be financially retired if I had $1 for every ‘business validation’ request, article or discussion that I’ve digested.
As a result, I don’t really believe it’s nearly as valuable of a process to go through as we are led to believe. I put together some thoughts on the topic.
Business validation and the just do it factor
I’m back to running small scale events. I have no idea where it will go. Really, I just want to get out there meeting people in real life again and see where it leads.
Doing this again, I am reminded about the challenge of any effort to run a business or bring people together. 😅
Some of the people who had said they “were definitely coming”, are not. It’s the nature of the game. Events are tricky, people have lives and places to be on specific dates. I don’t take it personally.
Some of this is ‘classic mom test’ stuff, where people say stuff that they don’t necessarily mean or action, not because they are lying, but more because theory is different from real life.
This doesn’t mean I’ve failed, I feel I need to have enough insights, conviction and find some people to go (which I have, thank god!) and build upon it.
But it reminded me of previous experiences where people told me they were not interested in events and they wouldn’t attend. A few years later, I was running multiple conferences in multiple countries, profitably.
Imagine if I had listened to the people who said no.
I’m not advocating for blindly “just doing it”. It’s more about studying your landscape and try things out. There are never any guarantees. You’ll never know how it goes unless you try. It can get it to work, sometimes.
Business validation and the luck factor
Then there are people like David Park. Various things happened along the way with Jenni (the business) which included a pivot to focus on academics, but a big reason they’ve taken off is by going viral.
Luck plays into business validation.
Luck of timing.
Luck of relationships.
Luck of privilege.
Luck of attention.
Luck of health.
Of course, it’s easy to point the finger at luck. Most people who have experienced luck have been playing the indie game for years.
Luck also doesn’t mean the business will thrive. It’s just one factor that might positively nudge it along.
Business validation and the just keep going factor
It’s frustrating to see MVPs approached in such a black and white manner. Businesses are very much human by nature. They need time to emerge and become who they are. They need credibility and trust. They need failures and adjustments.
Expecting to know or give an answer that a business is validated early on is unfair.
It would be easy to say that maybe Tim should have done marketing earlier. He even admits he probably should have and that there was wasted time building the wrong features.
Or maybe he needed that time to pull a product together that was stable and in a better position to be marketed.
It’s so easy to speculate, to say “what if” or “should’ve, could’ve”. It’s easy to say what you shouldn’t have done when you look at life in hindsight.
Sometimes products need time to evolve and grow. Sometimes they have a life of their own whether we like it or not.
Business validation and going after a market that exists
TransistorFM went after the podcasting market which was well established at the time.
This doesn’t mean it will be easy. Many still fail at this approach. It is one approach, but existing competitors validates a need for those kind of products.
The challenge then becomes: what will you do differently?
Business validation and validating a vision
Validating a vision is about believing and educating yourself on whether there is room to grow in a direction you want to head towards. This could be a problem to solve. An industry to serve.
We have to believe and be excited in the vision of where we are heading. This means studying and experimenting in an industry, a market, and a niche.
I’ve done this before for the software testing industry. I’m currently deep in the community and indie founder world.
We need to figure out if there is space to grow and learn. Money to be made. Important problems to be solved. The specific problem is not as important as keeping an open mind to the picture as a whole and ecosystem as a whole.
The problems will change over time and we should be open-minded to that. Have that as a mindset so that you can change or create new products when needed. Accept the lifecycle of humanity and businesses.
All too often people dismiss product ideas, yet they don’t realize part of the problem is that they need to become more embedded and trusted within their industry.
Sometimes being so focused on the idea closes your mind to the possibilities. However, if you have an overall vision in mind, it will naturally work those muscles of looking at problems to solve from many different and new angles.
When I was builidng Ministry of Testing, my vision was to change the software testing industry. It was ludicrous thinking at the time, but also I had spent enough time in the industry to know that there were so many opportunities. I had to figure out ones that aligned with who I was and what I felt capable of delivering.
It led me down a consistent path of stacking those bricks, maybe not wall bricks, but bricks for paths. Each week, each month, and each year, I learned more. I created multiple paths, and crossroads. I kept exploring. And trying new things. Forging new paths and opportunities to find what works.
I would often ask myself questions…
Is this something that I really want to do for the next ten years?
How can I explore?
Am I thinking about the right things?
What relationships should I be building?
What gaps can I spot?
What are other industries doing?
How can I get objective and spot red flags?
Does it bring joy and excitement?
Do I feel there is room for li'l Rosie to grow something?
Am I cut out for this?
Why should people care?
What is it I really need and care about?
Am I doing a little bit every day to work towards that vision?
The world paints business as black and white when actually it’s very personal.
The obsession with validating businesses is unproductive
Business is hard and probably impossible to teach. I find the best way is through sharing stories.
Each type of business has it’s own moat, it’s own approach to winning and it’s own challenges to overcome.
Some people get lucky. Some never find their way through. Blaming lack of success on not ‘validating the product’ is being blind to the multiple factors that bring success to businesses.
🌻 Thanks for reading.
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