jayson manship on stage at the hi-fi indyHow do you validate your idea? This is a common question asked by entrepreneurs and demanded by investors. You think you have a good idea for an app? Prove it, knucklehead. Maybe you survey potential clients or customers. Maybe you build an MVP and go to market. Maybe you get a Kickstarter… Wait, that doesn’t sound right… Or does it?

Upping the Auntie on Idea Validation

Last week, we heard from Jayson Manship, Founder and “Lead Nerd” at inSourceCode, an Indianapolis-based WordPress development company that has built bad ass websites for companies of all shapes and sizes. In addition to being incredible at WordPress development, Jayson and his team are also wildly passionate about building small businesses. We saw this passion first-hand at the #FightForSmall Launch that we co-hosted with them and it was on display again last Thursday night. This time, the idea was bigger and smaller all at the same time. What if you could build an online community for your local community that would provide extremely high visibility to small businesses while rewarding bloggers and content contributors with gift cards to those businesses? The idea is a little out there, even by Jayson’s standards, but he doesn’t believe it’s up to him to decide…

Jayson is entrusting his community with this decision in the form of a Kickstarter. If you like the idea, donate. If you don’t, leave it alone. It’s the simplest form of idea validation we have at our disposal, so why don’t more entrepreneurs use it?

Advantages of Using Kickstarter to Validate Your Idea

The secret no one really wants to tell you: Kickstarter doesn’t have to net you a dime for it to be worthwhile if you’re an entrepreneur. If you’re using the medium solely for idea validation, you could offer swag such as T-Shirts at cost in exchange for the vote of confidence. Many entrepreneurs talk about selling two to three times before you build something. Why not sell a few dozen times instead and use T-Shirts as collateral?  You can also use Kickstarter to offer early-adopter benefits. This is most common with video game developers who offer backers the ability to get themselves actually built into the game as a character. While Kickstarter touts itself as a funding mechanism, it’s really an  online marketplace for ideas.  “I like this idea, so I’m going to vote with my wallet.”  If that’s not customer validation, I’m not sure what is.

Issues With Kickstarter

Kickstarter could be a great source of validation, it could also be a nightmare. With most forms of idea validation the worse case scenario is that your idea doesn’t hold water and you move on to something else. Do to the public nature of Kickstarter, if you hit your goal and you don’t deliver a solid product, you could face massive consumer backlash. Additionally, when people back a Kickstarter, they feel a sense of ownership to that brand. That sounds like an awesome perk, right? Well, not if you want independent control of your company. What happens if you make an unpopular decision like Oculus Rift selling to Facebook? You face no legal ramifications, but you could have a serious PR issue to manage. 

Whether a Kickstarter is a good idea for your company or not, I’m curious…

How Did You Validate Your Idea?

When you were starting your company, what did you do to validate your idea? Who did you consult? How did you test the market? When in the process did idea validation come in? What advice do you have for someone looking to validate their own idea? Drop a comment, we’ll be sharing the best answers! Thanks for coming out last Thursday! We had an awesome event in an awesome venue in Fountain Square called the Hi-Fi. If you’re in that part of town, they’re definitely worth a look. To learn more about the Fight For Small initiative or to donate to the Kickstarter, click here!