Question: How should I get useful feedback on my startup idea?
Talk to Potential Customers
"Business is ultimately about providing a product or service that solve's somebody's problem. How you solve the problem is what makes you valuable in business. Ask potential customers to narrow down the exact features and benefits they are looking for to solve their problem. Ask different types of potential customers to discover an ideal customer type. Ask good questions to get good answers."
Organize Focus Groups
"Get together industry or consumer segments that would be interested in your product or service and do a presentation where you could then receive immediate feedback as part of a group discussion. The individual responses and the reactions to those responses could help you determine if it's a viable idea."
Find a Smart Accountant
"It's customary -- even logical -- to get your business on its feet, and then find a tax accountant to help do your books. However, you shouldn't wait until that long to get input from these guys. Accountants see dozens of businesses, many of them very similar to yours. They see the same mistakes made again and again. Go to one of these accountants first, and you'll be glad you did."
Ask an Incubator, Investor or Mentor
"An investor or incubator is always looking for something good to take under their wing, while mentors are happy to also guide entrepreneurs. Typically, they have the experience and knowledge to know what will work and what won't. That's why these types of people are good sounding boards for your startup idea. They will be more than happy to provide an objective opinion."
Ask Someone Totally Different From You
"Make sure the people you talk to don't think just like you. For example, getting an outside perspective from a "stranger" at your gym, where the demographic is similar would not be diverse. Make sure you are targeting the exact opposite of you in terms of age, race and location."
"When we launched our crowdfunding campaign for our video doorbell, I received over 1,000 emails directly from people who backed the project or were interested. We shaped our product definition and user experiences directly from this list, essentially giving the people what they wanted. The specific feedback was priceless. Also, the project's success validated a strong need for our idea."
Validate Your Market and Ask Specific Questions
"With a little bit of research, you can easily find real pain points in your target market. Make sure you have an idea of what's going to solve them. Then, when you're asking for feedback, be as specific as you possibly can. Otherwise, you won't get objective answers."
Participate in Pitch Competitions
"Pitch competitions are often considered to be a waste of time -- building a two-minute story instead of actually building your business. But if you're just starting out, they provide an incredible way to make progress. The constraints of the competition will force you to clarify your business, and once you put your best foot forward, you'll get direct feedback on your idea's viability from experts."
Ask, Observe, Engage
"Try “The Human Centered Design” method, which solicits client insight and feedback through a three-step process: ask, observe and engage. Ask your clients for feedback directly. Observe them in the context of their typical environment. Engage them with your product to see how they use it, what works and what doesn’t."