CEO of Prepare 4 VC Accelerator | Partner at EQx Fund | Chapter Director of Startup Grind Boston
Two sides to validate: 1) that your idea is something people will use and buy. The only way to figure this out is to go out there and talk to potential customers and users or try small tests to gauge their interests in your future product
2) That your idea can turn into a business: talk with advisors, other entrepreneurs and investors. The more you learn from successes and mistakes other people have made, this less mistakes you have to make yourself. Happy to chat on strategy here and discuss any of this further
Convertible notes or Simple Agreements for Future Equity (SAFE) solve this and defer the valuation until you have traction. Standard agreements provide a 9-12+ month runway of capital for launch in exchange for a 20% discount to a priced equity round that you raise (sometimes with valuation that cap that places a minimum equity amount for these investors).
At this time, the main tool to reach backers for your ICO are the whitepaper and the discussion platforms to answer questions that arise from potential backers. These two aspects have been disconnected, usually with a PDF version of the whitepaper and a comment board on a discussion site, but Mattervest is changing that model. The Mattervest site hosts interactive whitepapers, where users can comment and ask questions on each section of the document right inside of the whitepaper. Check it out at http://mattervest.com/evermarkets and http://mattervest.com/digipulse
The main question to ask here is "Why do people use my product or service?" If the answer is functionality, cost, or a variety of other reasons, then starting with a simple design and getting your product out there quickly is the best path.
If your answer is "All the other sites are boring, old-fashioned and uninviting" or you are simply coming in as a luxury brand in a space, then investing heavily in design is key. However, there are cost-effective ways to do this as well, such as creating digital mockups and gaining feedback from potential customers and investors prior to the full design work.
Let's chat further as I work with some very skilled designers at every level of your budget.
Check out HelloMogo at https://mogoagency.com/ministry or https://mogoagency.com/coach as they have a great system for creating, managing and selling your own online courses, blogs, or workbooks. I'd be happy to introduce you to the CEO, Jake Press, that I have worked with as well to speak to you directly.
There are two parts you need to consider in making this decision: 1)the total value of the discount and branding & marketing services to your company and 2) the value of your company.
Part 1) The value of the services is an "opportunity cost" of using this company. If you were to hire another firm with the all of the same qualities, skills and timeline, how much more would you have to spend in cash for the same development, branding and marketing services. Call this figure X
Part 2) Develop your valuation for your company that would use for an investment at this stage. Call this figure Y.
If X/(X+Y) is greater than 12%, then you should do the deal, otherwise you should not.
Example: If all of the services are worth 20K to your company, and you value your company at 140K, then you should be willing to give up 12.5% and would take the deal. If all of the services are worth 20K to your company, and you value your company at 150K+, then you should be willing to give up 11.7% and would decline the deal
The examples you have given are dependent upon having users in the area (others date around you, others to do your tasks that live nearby, etc.). These startups find an initial group of users in localized markets before expanding to other locations, usually offering an option to be notified when there are enough users in your area for the launch. The userbase does not have to be huge, just enough to fine tune results and offer concrete data "We tested our dating app in Cambridge, MA and 25% of test users went on a date in the first month. Users tended to click on the interests section the most, so we made that the highlighted section of a profile..."