Winter in Kuwait is special. The weather is beautiful. People drive more calmly and smile more often. You can say people in Kuwait become more pleasant. For myself and three friends, December was the perfect time to get excited about starting a new business.
We met at a cozy little sandwich place called The Foundry. Our entrepreneurial juices were flowing. We definitely felt that we were onto something. We exchanged pleasantries, engaged in small talk, and had some delicious pressed sandwiches.
Plates out of the way.
Let’s get to it.
We wanted to provide service packages for households. For a reasonable monthly payment, we’d have your house covered from plumbing and electrical work to maintaining your indoor pool. For a bundled set of services, our company would provide you with the peace of mind and convenience of not having to be in contact with multiple service professionals.
We whipped out our A3 paper, Business Model Canvas staring right back at us in all of its glory. This is how all great businesses start, right? First and foremost, we needed some data. How much cost are we incurring to provide this service? along with all other information needed to fill up our Business Model Canvas. We split the workload and research amongst us, as well as the bill, and set out to each collect his part of data. We were to meet a week later.
Yea, I don’t think this will work.
I know. It probably won’t.
Based on our estimates of the running costs we’d have to incur to provide these bundled services, we’d have to charge customers in excess of $600 per month. We estimated that customers would be willing to pay anywhere between $150 and $200.
Our promising business came to a crashing halt, without even having a chance.
Each went his separate way.
That December of 2014, I learned a very important lesson. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t come to my attention till several years later. My friends and I started our journey with an idea, not a problem. We did the right thing of researching the idea, but we did no research the problem. What happens when you do that is you risk scrapping the entire project if your first idea fails its testing phase. However, had we spent time testing the problem before testing the idea, we might’ve looked at alternative ideas when the first one failed to materialize since we know that we’re trying to solve a problem worth our time. The correct approach is to start with a problem then spend time validating the problem – doing research about the problem. Let’s assume that you have validated the problem you’re working on, and that you’ve done extensive research understanding all the parts that make up the problem. Let’s also assume that you came up with several ideas that you feel solve the problem you’ve identified. If you test the first idea and it doesn’t work out, you’d shift your attention to the next idea you came up with. You would not scrap the initiative. With a validated problem, you know that you’re not wasting your time. All you’ve done is verify that one of your ideas is not the right solution.
Remember the classic video games (like Crash Bandicoot) where you had to go through several checkpoints? This is exactly the same. The process of innovating or building a business is extremely messy. However, it’s a good idea to go through some checkpoints along the way. Checkpoints allow you to respawn at the last checkpoint you passed through as opposed to starting from zero. Think of problem validation like a checkpoint. Once you’ve validated the problem, you will feel better when your first idea doesn’t go as planned, because you won’t have to start from scratch.