Here at Chromaplex, we’ve spent the last decade working with entrepreneurs to bring their ideas to life. It’s a real passion of ours and nothing matches the pride of knowing that we made a real contribution to a new success.
Unfortunately though, not every idea is a good one and even great ideas fail all the time, for any number of reasons. Since bootstrapping startups is our specialty, we’re often some of the first to hear somebody’s newest pitch. Some of them are incredibly awesome, but many fall flat, much to their creators’ dismay. We’re often left with the difficult task of playing devil’s advocate to a potential customer, trying to make sure that their idea is really as groundbreaking as they think it is.
Drawing from that experience, we’ve created a list of general guidelines to run through for any prospective product. Our hope is that it helps you to make the tough decisions about which ideas are worth pursuing and which ones should be left as flights of fancy, at least for now.
We’ve compiled a good deal of information here and while we think all of it is valuable, you may know some of it already. If you feel like you have a solid grasp on more general ‘will my business work’ ideas and are looking for web software specific information, go ahead and skip to part 3 (coming soon!).
Is it more than just an idea?
Ideas tend to start off as “wouldn’t it be cool if…”s. They pop into everyone’s heads all the time and can be the seeds of something truly great. Wouldn’t it be cool if I could store all of my music in my pocket and listen to it whenever I want? Heck yes it would, and that simple idea gave birth to the iPod. For every success that springs from a thought like that though, it’s important to remember how many failures there are as well.
Why is that so critical? We’ll often have customers who want us to work on some top secret web app. They won’t tell us what it is because they’re convinced that the idea itself holds immense value. It’s completely understandable to feel that way, but that’s just not how it works. While ideas are an important start, the true value lies in implementations. Taking an idea and fleshing it out into the how is the most important difference between “wouldn’t it be cool if” and “here’s something that will be cool.” The iPod succeeded because it was truly the best implementation of an idea that several tech giants were trying to make a reality.
The elevator pitch
How do you take your simple idea and start fleshing it out into an implementation that will be ultimately successful? There’s lots of literature out there on this topic, so we do encourage you to read around a bit. Our first step though is always the elevator pitch, because it’s a great way to get a feel for how thought out a potential idea is.
An elevator pitch is simple: Pretend that you only have ~30 seconds to convince somebody of the value of whatever product you’re proposing. Keeping it succinct is important; any product that is just a long list of features is one that lacks focus, which can be a red flag. Briefly explain what the product is, what it does, who it’s for, and what value it offers them. It’s important to also outline what unique value the product offers. Even if you’re just making a ‘better’ version of something that exists already, you need to know specifically what will be better about it. If you can’t explain to a potential user what the app does in less than 30 seconds, you’re going to have an extremely hard time attracting users and your idea will probably fail.
Next: Part 2 – Know Your Audience.