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Evaluating Startup Ideas

Someone just asked me, I responded with the following in less than 2 minutes [possibly 1 minute]. What would you tell someone that asked how to evaluate his/her startup ideas?

Evaluating ideas — talk to people; tell them your idea; what problem does it solve. Great if it solves a problem you personally have — because then you know a need exists [if you didn’t find a solution already in all your research]. Start small and ugly. Don’t go into debt — 1 in 100 ideas that are executed actually become something. [I made that number up, but it’s close enough — don’t gamble everything you have; the idea is to get other people involved so you have less risk… if others put money up, or will buy your thing, or use it, then you know you have something]. Stick away from pitching friends — they’ll likely nod their head, think you’re crazy, but won’t tell you because they don’t want to hurt your feelings or burn out your enthusiasm/passion that you obviously have for whatever you’re pitching them.

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  • Ben Hallett

    Thanks heaps for your quick reply Steve. Gave me a few things to think about.

    I’ll definitely be getting out and talking to some of the people that my ideas might help in the next few days.

    Thanks again.

  • Tom Sieron

    If someone asked me how to evaluate a startup idea I’d advise them to try and answer the following questions about their idea:

    1. What’s the real issue? (define domain problem area)
    2. What are you trying to accomplish?
    3. Who is your customer?
    4. What does your customer consider value?
    5. What specification must the solution meet?
    6. What are the minimum results required?
    7. What are the risks?
    8. How are you going to make money?
    9. How is the competition in similar fields doing?
    10. Which of their current “noncustomers” should you be doing business with?

    Usually people think they have the idea all figured out but when it comes to answering the really basic questions they start to discover that their answers are vague and really unspecific.

    I find that helping others evaluate their ideas most of the time means forcing them to think harder about their own ideas.

    In my opinion all the debt advice, “start small and ugly”, “release often release early” and all the rest of the “Getting Real” type of advice comes after you validate a business idea.

  • Chad

    I completely agree with your post! People tend to hold their ideas too close and not let anyone help them develop the idea further. I found a good website that helps people develop ideas through community collaboration at Check it out, it’s pretty cool.

  • kkulpa

    I’ve had the .org, .net and .mobi domains for the name “adaboy” for about 11 years. Just recently, I was able to acquire the very desirable .com domain. This happened just before I was ready to give up on the name and try to sell what adaboy domains I had. To me, those other domains weren’t worth anything without the .com and now that I’ve gained control of it, having those other domains could be good to keep around.

    I want to do something with … but what? It’s a very marketable name, but my mind is blank. I’m know I’m over thinking it and I need some fresh perspective on how I should approach this as becoming a potentially big venture. Do you recommend any places or sites to help jump spark some ideas? Trend tracking sites?