Where to start with a startup, Part III: Make it real

Where to start with a startup, Part III: Make it real

As you start creating a clear mental picture of what it will take to get something of real value to market, you can now begin ideating and conceptualising the product itself.

Concepts and prototypes

Conduct breakout sessions where your Customer Experience and Visual Designers work closely together  and come up with low fidelity ideas that will (hopefully) range from the obvious to the absurd. 

There are no limits to how far your ideas can go. As the Experience Designers elaborate on the chosen concepts the Visual Designers can mock up a higher fidelity version so you can easily imagine the concept in a more realistic scenario. It’s important that those continuing to stress out the detail of the concepts work closely with those visualising them as conclusions and decisions made along the way may affect the overall design dramatically.

Prototypes can take many forms, from physical to digital, hardware to software, device to application or even a structure or process. The main thing is that you get to something ‘real’ as quickly as possible. Depending on the problem you’re trying to solve you have all the tools and capabilities to execute an almost replica product that can be tested in a multitude of ways with your partners and customers. This gives you a great opportunity to gather feedback with people in the real world and gain insight into the needs and desires of your audience.

The name game

Finding a name can be a daunting task. It’s so often a case of just knowing where to start. The options are limitless and can seem overwhelming.

Try thinking first first about your long term goal. Ask questions like:  will you want to tag-on products in the future, or will it stand alone? Will you need an emotional connection to distinguish yourselves? Will your market need us to be specific about the product offering? Do you want to be seen as a bold brand willing to take a risk and be at the cutting edge of your industry, or is it important that you portray responsibility and safety?

Once these are considered, try separating your incoming naming options into four categories:

  1. Descriptive: Does what it says on the tin (e.g. Travelodge)
  2. Suggestive: That suggest the benefits (e.g. Twitter)
  3. Metaphorical: That have connotations (e.g. Shell)
  4. Arbitrary: (e.g. Apple)

Once these pillars are in-place, jot down as many names as you can and let them to simmer for a day then you can refine them further.


Finally, you should consider what you want to include in your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and the subsequent wider Business Roadmap.

Your MVP should have some clear inputs by now and the whole team should feel they have a firm grip on the features that will make your business idea into a fully fledged product.

You should  now define the bare minimum required to get it to market and test your assumptions and hypotheses.

The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a key lean startup concept. The basic idea is to maximize validated learning for the least amount of effort. After all, why waste effort building out a product without first testing if it’s worth it.  —  Ash Maura

Another key action you need to consider is financial planning and how to attract investors and funding.

This often involves an investors presentation which will discuss what the problem is you’re trying to solve, proposed solution, opportunity and market validation, revenue model and growth strategy, current financials as well as the team you’re asking the investors to buy into.

So much of the success will depend on this last aspect as investors are heavily driven by the people they’re investing in and whether they believe they are the type of people that are going to make this product and business a success.

In a short and focused time, you can turn a great idea into a clear and categorised collection of deliverables that will serve as the structure and foundations from which to build a successful business.

This is not a one off exercise but a template for the future.  You have started a process of iterative validated learning based on a ‘customer first’ approach (but in-line with business goals) that will keep your business lean and flexible no matter what the market may bring.

This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.

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