Now that we know there is an opportunity in the market, we want to get some expert advice on how to approach that problem, market, and industry. Think of this phase like asking your college professor what the answers to the test are before you ever start the course.
In almost every case there are experts out there that know many of the answers you're looking for and are willing to share that information with you. The challenge is to find the right experts and present them with very specific questions about your concept.
From there, you also need to be able to evaluate the feedback you've gotten objectively, as even experts can be wrong with their analysis.
Identify credible experts and get critical feedback about the viability of your concept.
We’re going to determine which aspects of your concept require expert input and then find the ideal experts who can weigh in on those particular points.
We need to make the most of our time with experts so we’re going to narrow our question set into just a few highly pointed questions that can get us the best possible direction for our go-forward efforts.
Last, we're going to compare the results to see if there are any patterns we can react to in order to refine our business model.
Consider you want to create a company that measures caloric intake. To create a piece of wearable hardware that can measure caloric intake would require the ability to measure blood glucose levels. At this point, the only way to measure blood glucose is by collecting a tiny blood sample. Perhaps, you chat with someone who works in the R&D department at a Biotech company and the expert tells you that “several very large biotech companies are trying to develop a method for “bloodless” monitoring of glucose levels.” You ask -- “what is preventing the technology from being commercialized?” And the person responds with - “The bloodless method creates a very large technical hurdle that we haven’t figured out yet.”
You may be asking yourself, “if multi-billion dollar Biotech companies haven’t figured this out -- how can I?” Maybe they are distracted. Maybe they don’t have your expertise. Maybe it is actually a really tough problem to solve.
Again - this should not deter you, but it certainly requires you to rethink and reconsider: how can you pull this off? What do you have that they don’t? What resources would you need to make this happen? Is there a different method or perspective or lens that has not been considered? Are there similar technologies being used in other industries that could potentially solve this if applied to this industry? Sometimes the best ideas are not always new ideas. Great ideas may simply be a a better version of an existing idea or a different application of existing technology that is used elsewhere. Maybe you can be the first to connect the dots correctly or in the most efficient manner.
Not all experts are created equal - a fact that goes heavily overlooked by rookie Founders. Your uncle that made millions in real estate may know a lot about how his business works, but isn’t going to be the right person to question about the feasibility of your social mobile app. In this step we’re going to create a profile of who the ideal experts might be and then determine where to find them.
The experts we identify are typically:
Subject Matter Experts.
Your business concept may have lots of moving parts that require different expertise, from writing code to acquiring customers to managing vendor relationships. Depending on the hurdles we uncover in the Research Plan Phase, we will want to identify subject matter experts who can give us a clear indication as to how challenging each facet of our business model may be.
Founders of similar businesses are a wealth of knowledge, and as it happens, they tend to love helping other aspiring Founders! There’s no better way to learn what to avoid in your new venture than talking to people who have already been there, whether successfully or unsuccessfully. A good conversation with an expert Founder can also lead to useful introductions that can accelerate your plan dramatically.
Talking to investors early in the development of your concept isn’t really about raising money (yet) as much as getting the perspective of someone who looks at startup business models for a living. Investors can give you useful feedback on how big they envision your market to be or where they may have seen similar concepts in the market. You don’t need to be raising capital to get good feedback from investors.
We’ll want to make great use of our limited time with our experts, so determining exactly what questions we want to get answers to is important. The questions sets will vary based on your particular concept however we tend to develop our questions around four central themes:
Questions should be tailored to each expert and their subject matter expertise with the intent of getting actionable feedback from them. We are also attempting to garner as much detail and insight as possible about the business itself before we move on to the next phase which involves talking to customers.
The results of our expert interviews will likely take you from “this is the best idea ever!” to “this is the worst idea and you should do literally anything else with your time!”
Remember that the experts are here to give you guidance toward answers, not the final decision as to whether we pursue this idea at all.
Sometimes the interviews will yield an answer that lets you know that the idea in its current form just isn’t possible (for example, if a lawyer told you it wasn’t legal). In this case we may be reverting back to the research phase and we will pursue experts again later.
As you interviewed experts, which aspect of your new product created the most obvious benefit or opportunity? We’ll want to explore that with customers to make sure they concur.
If we feel the feedback we’ve received gives us a reasonable indication that this concept is feasible, and we don’t need to do more digging, it’s time to talk to customers.
Weighing Expert Interviews
In addition to evaluating the answers we get, we’ll also want to take a look at how well the experts themselves served us as sources. Sometimes a highly qualified expert can offer a poor interview experience in which case we may need to revisit some discovery with more experts in the field.
Getting a Second Opinion
We may also want to get second opinions on the advice we got if it feels too off base. For example, if a single investor we spoke to says “it will never get funded” we may want to corroborate that with 1 or 2 other investors to make sure it’s not just a single bias.