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Do you really understand the need your start-up is addressing or have you scratched the surface? How do you know it has potential to be successful?

Photo of Louise Wilson

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There is nothing wrong with following your dreams, don't get me wrong but do start-ups fail because they don't understand the real market need?

Start-ups need money and although there are funds/companies providing grants/funds/incubators, the emphasis is often on the delivery phase. you need to prove you have a suitable team of people with an idea and ideally a prototype.

From speaking to start-ups, from being part of start-ups and from seeing start-ups fail, I often wonder if people need to spend longer on the discovery/research phase before launching into the project. It's easier said than done because there's an urgency to get to market and a developer will probably prefer to be developing than waiting for the brief!

Can we encourage funders to provide more smaller pots of money for start-ups to really focus on identifing what the need is and what is marketable/their USP is before jumping into the idea?

The phrase 'measure twice, cut once' inspired this concept; get it right from the start to save time later on. I was also inspired by Amy's ' MumsNet' inspiration - you're often starting into a new world which you really need to understand as it's very different than you may first think!

How will your concept support web entrepreneurship?

Providing money for research phases will allow people to concentrate on really working out how their start-up can be a success. I believe that businesses plans are not always thought through early enough - ok, you need a business plan to receive funding but it doesn't mean there isn't sometimes the attitude of 'let's just get something down as we can change it later on'. Can we spending time working on the essentials from day one so that we are less likely to need to change the brief, look for different members of the team and change our model later on?

What kinds of resources will be needed to get this concept off the ground and scale it?

It would be good to speak to funding bodies now to see if they see the value in this and then look to reassign budgets!

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Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

hi Louise,
You've identified a really important need. One of my favorite books on entrepreneurship is 'Nail it then Scale it' http://www.nailthenscale.com/. The author propose a very simple process which at the very beginning includes cold calling potential customers and checking with them that your hypothesis about their pain point is valid and your proposed solution is attractive and monetisable.

For many innovators, this is an unpalatable prospect. And I speak with personal experience of this stomach-churning yet essential process!

I think your proposal should probably aim to make this less intimidating by organizing free B2C focus groups and perhaps funding specialist 'feedback brokers'. The latter could do the initial cold calling on behalf of the entrepreneur and set up conversations with sympathetic potential B2B clients.

Photo of Meena Kadri

Interesting thoughts, Louise. Could there also be something in here that might encourage an ongoing learning culture (eg. always-in-beta or learning-by-doing approaches) ? I'm a bit wary of sending the message that discovery comes at the beginning of a linear process and can then be ticked off the list. Looking forward to seeing thought evolve on this one.

Photo of Louise Wilson

I was hoping these types of comments/thoughts would come through from the community. I do agree with you that research and discovery don't stop when the next stage starts and this would definitely need to be communicated clearly.

I was more on the thought that start-ups need to take that step back and reflect before jumping in - this is often difficult because of timing/money. I do feel that funding opportunities tend to be focused on large amounts for developing the idea (which is necessary) but sometimes smaller amounts for specifics can be just as helpful.

Could it be that funders provide grants for initial research but then provide access to more of the grant as the project develops (to be spent on further research)? This is, again, very structured but could help reinforce the importance?

Photo of Paul van Zoggel

I see a mobius loop in the drawing... walking the line all the time.

Photo of Meena Kadri

Hear you on the need for funding especially for discovery Louise. Perhaps ongoing funding could also have a component for this – which would require evidence of this kind of exploration alongside more concrete development?

Photo of Paul van Zoggel

it's a webdesigners problem. We are too much into making things pretty as we dont 'do' physical (to sell) products.

If we combine from start the virtual and physical, than we are part of both researching, and than banks/microloans would invest maybe...

Photo of Ashley Jablow

Louise, I think this is such an interesting and thoughtful approach. You're right: with an urgency to get to market quick, not to mention the emphasis and buzz these days around 'launching to learn,' it's easy to overlook or discount the research phase. One pivotal point in time, that might be worth thinking about, is when an entrepreneur thinks he or she has enough information to be ready for launch. How much research is sufficient? How will an entrepreneur know when it's really time to go for it? Is there a moment in here that we can design for?

Photo of Louise Wilson

These are really valid points, Ashley. Although I'm confident that this is an important concept, there is lots to think about and I'm really looking to the community for help (more than normal!). There are other concepts that are here already and I hope will appear that can help answer these questions.

Maybe the answer to 'how much research is necessary?' isn't known until someone realizes there's a value (because there's a funding opportunity) and takes a step back to think? I do believe that research involves a level of intuition which is developed over time which might mean that any money received needs to be invested in someone else to carry out your research for you...

Photo of Ashley Jablow

Yep, I think you're right - there's most likely no clear cut moment when a founder can say without doubt that he or she has enough information to move ahead. It's probably a mix of research, insights, and gut instinct! Here's hoping others can chime in to help continue building on your great concept.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Very interesting approach Louise. I like your idea to highlight the importance of research and the importance of putting some time "up front" before launching. In another context, in organizations, it is often worth spending some time upfront getting people to understand the motivation of a change program or of a new technology, to get their buy in. It takes time upfront but then it goes much faster after. I understand your idea as being along these lines: put some time upfront for extra research, as if you have a stronger / better idea, your chance to be successful in the launch are greater.

As for Ashley's point, I think it raises an important issue: you don't want to overdue it and become paralyzed. Yet, I don't think there is any clear and cut guidelines on when you're ready and when you have enough information. When you do qualitative research (ethnography, interviews), you stop collecting data when you reach "theoretical saturation" i.e., when no new information or concepts are emerging from the data and the grounded theory has been validated. Is there a way to define the equivalent of theoretical saturation for entrepreneurs?

Photo of Paul van Zoggel

This is so to the point. Can EU funds be inspired by microfinance schemes?

Photo of Louise Wilson

I like your thinking.... It also got me thinking about www.zopa.com loads - ethical, peer to peer funding but only small (ish) amounts...

Photo of Paul van Zoggel

Zopa looks good. Though still need to deal with the microfinance challenge; MF 'still' have the bank focus, invest in hardware to generate more hardware. (plant seeds and machines for annual fruits.. shopinventory..). Are there statistics which 'type' of web/digital ventures are a 'safe' investment risk?

Banks know they can always sell the shopinventory for some money back...