Can you actually validate a product without a product? Yes (enough to get seed funding)

So u/singh981 read one of my previous posts advising people not to build first but to validate first and asked me how this is possible in practice for B2C. So here goes…

B2C is both harder than B2B and easier at the same time.

For B2C the hardest part is finding a need that you can really solve enough to motivate people enough to engage with you.

For B2B it's easier to find the problems but navigating the sales process is much harder.

So how do we validate if our idea solves a real problem? Well it's B2C right, just corner your family and friends and ask them how hard is that? Very few apps have broad enough appeal or should even try for broad appeal right at the start that this has any chance of working.

Let's say I think Snapchat filters for dogs is a completely undeserved market. If I just ask my family they'll probably tell me I'm crazy, my gran will say hey what about an app for knitting patterns, my uncle will nod his head sagely and tell me I should build amazon. Etc.

So I need to think about who my ideal user is. They're probably someone who takes an inordinate amount of dog pics and likes sharing them and probably someone who's dog is well groomed. So how can I find these people and validate my idea?

I could go to r/aww and look through the poster's pics till I see someone who posts a lot of pics of a good looking pupper, bonus points if they dress them up in any way. So I message a bunch of them telling them about my idea and that I'd love to have a 15 minute chat.

If they don't like the idea I'll probably get no replies. A good sign it's a miss is if you reach out to 50 people and 10 don't even want to talk about it. Either the audience is wrong or the solution is wrong. I'm in luck though and I get a bunch of replies. So I talk them through what I want to make and ask them if they'd use it, would they pay my price for it. Does it feel low, etc. What other features would they love, etc.

Then you ask would they pay the same price as the app for a concierge service? If they say yes, then get them to pay you and deliver them this service. I ask for $ 10 a month for unlimited photo edits, they just have to give me $ 10 via PayPal every month and then any time they want they send me over some doggy photos and facetune and photoshop that little guy till he's beyond perfect.

People start asking where they're getting the photos and I've got more people asking to become customers, I start trying to create some templates and ways to make it more scalable. Pretty soon I hit 50 customers and it's just too hard to manage manually anymore.

So at this point I've got a great idea of the market I can test app designs on them, get feedback on proposed functionality and I'll have learnt loads from operating it manually before building anything.

Now this example is totally made up but the Lean Startup has some great examples of real ones and there are many more online. The two big tricks are:

  1. Find a problem that a group of people want solved enough they'll give you their time.
  2. Worry about scalability later and operate it manually.

If you're technical, you might find it's easier to build it than to mock it but you should take the principle of developing as a last resort if there is a faster / easier way to test the hypothesis.

If you're not technical, you should hopefully be able to get enough paying customers for your mock service that you can attract the technical talent and seed investment.

Hope that's useful!

Edit: for clarity

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