11 Ways to Validate Your Next Big Business Idea

What is one solid way to validate a startup idea before actually launching the business?

The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

validating ideas
photo credit: Aaronth via photopin cc

1. The $20 Coffee Test

Wade FosterTake someone who might be a prospective customer for the new venture out to coffee. Let them know what you are working on. See if they’d be interested. If they seem to like the idea, ask if they’d give you $20 to help build it. If they do you know it has merit. If they don’t then it’s probably back to the drawing board.

Wade Foster, Zapier

2. Will They Pre-Pay?

Liam MartinThe absolute best method I’ve found for startups to validate their startup idea is to get people to buy the idea, not the product. Sites like Kickstarter are great at this. Write up your idea, present it to people, and then ask them for money. If customers don’t buy your idea, either your marketing or your idea are no good.

Liam Martin, Staff.com

3. Try LaunchRock

Jessica BrondoIt’s a great tool to test ads or an email marketing campaign to see whether or not people are interested. It allows you to put up a landing page that says you’ll be launching soon (or giving invites out soon), and then collects email addresses of potential users. If you test some of your marketing, but no one gives you her email address, it’s back to the drawing board.

Jessica Brondo, The Edge in College Prep

4. Pitch to an Investor

Neil ThanedarAt my very first stages in LabDoor, we planned a meeting with a strategic investor with whom we had developed a long relationship. We gave ourselves three weeks to prepare, and built a very early working prototype of the product. Forcing ourselves to make some small part of our vision into a reality helped us grow, and the investor helped validate our idea to others.

Neil Thanedar, LabDoor

5. Tell Everyone

louis lautmanTell everyone you know and listen to their feedback. Then tell strangers about it and listen to their feedback. Then find the most skeptical people you can find and tell them about it and listen to their feedback. Whether they liked it or not, chances are pretty good they had some really constructive feedback that can help your chances of success in the market. Listen to them before you luanch!

Louis Lautman, Supreme Outsourcing

6. Use Online Tools to Test

Sunil RajaramanThe first thing you should do to validate an idea is to create an “ideal” landing page and test. The landing page should contain details about the product including features (even if you are just dreaming about them). Once your landing page is complete, test it on Unbounce.com, or use a site like Feedbackarmy.comto get raw, unadulterated feedback.

Sunil Rajaraman, Scripted.com

7. Run the Numbers

Andrew SchrageThe best way to validate a startup idea before actually launching a business is to first test out the financial viability of your idea in the first few years. You can obtain an accurate projection with software such as EZ Numbers. The basic version costs just under $60, but there’s a free trial available as well.

Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

8. Build a Minimum Viable Product

Thursday-Bram 2Most startup ideas have a small component that can be created and sold fairly quickly. Since the only way to be sure that someone will actually pay out cash for your idea is to give them the opportunity to do so, putting something on the market is a crucial way to make sure you’ve got a viable idea on your hands.

Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting

9. Find a Mentor

John HarthorneGood mentors have a vast amount of industry experience and intimate knowledge of practices that work and don’t work. Run your ideas by an experienced mentor who’ll be tough about your implementation. Mentors want to see you succeed and they won’t let you start a business unless they think it’s ready.

John Harthorne, MassChallenge

10. Get a Partner Commitment

Aaron SchwartzWork to have partners commit to your product — either through investment or a memorandum of understanding. Finding reputable organizations that commit to your vision will make it easier to find financing, other partners and a team for building it.

Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

11. Tell Your Mom (Really!)

Benish ShahWhile families are supportive, often times they are also the most critical of your entrepreneurial ideas. If you can convince your mother that your tech startup idea is a good one, then you have a winner.

Benish Shah, Vicaire Ny