14 methods we used to validate our startup
First, let me introduce myself. My name is Petruța and I’m the Founder of Parentool — a holistic educational platform for parents. We curate parenting content, personalize it based on the parent’s psychological profile, and connect them with specialists directly in the app.
For the past 2 years, together with my team, I’ve been working on understanding our customers’ needs and what is the best solution for them.
!Disclaimer: I’m not a parent (at least not yet) so the discovery journey took a little bit longer since we wanted to clearly understand the things beneath the surface. I’ve started with a vision and a passion for the problem.
We are now close to our first Beta tests with real users and I thought it might be useful to share the methods we used up until now.
Without further ado, let’s dig deeper into the methods.
Customer initial discovery
Goal: Understand their needs for each parenting stage
Actions: We selected one parent from each category (from thinking to become a parent up until adolescence). We asked about the things they are searching for, their questions/doubts, and the go-to place for information and advice.
Goal: Get insights about the market
Actions: We’ve started reading as much as possible about the market, the current statistics and what are the areas with the main issues.
Goal: Understand better what else is out there for our audience
Actions: We created a list of ‘’to watch’’ competitors (this list was created based on the feedback we received from mothers in the initial customer discovery) and started research about them: what are their functionality, the best performing posts, the feedback they get and so on.
! Disclaimer: for the competitors' analysis we weren’t only looking at mobile apps, we were looking at every source parents use in order to satisfy their needs: Facebook groups, Instagram pages, blogs, Netflix movies and even playgrounds
Goal: Understand the behavior while using a solution of our competitors
Actions: Here we used our friends :) We’ve discussed with a couple of friends who are mothers and asked them to show us the tools they use and how they use it/how often. This way we got some pretty good insights into the UX and the most used functionalities.
Offline and Online Interviews
Goal: Create a profile of the target audience
Actions: We have created a list of the assumptions that we want to validate. Based on them we’ve created an interview guide following 3 main categories:
- Identify the needs of the mothers
- Gather info for the psychological profile
- Where is Parentool’s place on the ‘’relevance scale’’
Ask an expert
Goal: Get insights from experts in the areas we don’t have skills as a team
Actions: We have created a list of skills that we don’t have and started to contact people to get feedback. We’ve talked with UI/UX experts, Senior developer, Telemedicine guru, etc.
P.S: I know that this one might seem pretty obvious
Picnic in the Graveyard
Goal: Understand why startups with similar ideas failed
Actions: We used our network to identify the startup founders with a similar idea or at least with the same target audience. Once we got some contacts, we talked with them about their journey, what it went well/wrong, the current status, and their recommendations.
Functional prototype testing
Goal: Bring the solution to life and gather feedback
Actions: Once we gathered enough feedback about the audience, we started to sketch the prototype. Using Figma we managed to reproduce the flows and test the prototype with potential users. The tests were super interesting and we ended up iterating and creating 4 versions of the prototype.
MVP — non-app
Goal: For this step we had more objectives in mind
- Gather feedback for the psychological form
2. Understand what does qualitative content mean for our target group
3. Understand the frequency of the information
4. Learn about the hours' patterns for notification delivery
5. Learn about the length of the articles
Actions: We’ve tried to reproduce the flow from the app but in a non-app environment. This means we’ve started to use Google forms and Mailchimp to create the psychological profile and send the content the way we’ve imagined it will be within the app. We spent a couple of months with this MVP and ended the ‘’testing’’ period with one to one interviews to better understand what went well/what went bad.
Goal: Generate awareness and measure traction through newsletters sign ups
Actions: We wanted to test our messages and if the solution ‘’sounds’’ interesting for our target audience and measure the traction based on the newsletter sign-ups. We have created a landing page following the structure:
- Is Parentool something suitable for you?
- What is Parentool?
- How does it work?
- How does it look like?
- What are other parents saying about it?
- Be the first one to test the app field
- Competitions and media publications
- Contact form
Functionalities rating forms
Goal: Help us prioritize the features for Beta version
Actions: Deciding what features should go first in the MVP is one of the most difficult decisions for startups. We had the same dilemma so we have decided to talk with our customers and get their input on this. We have created a Google Form explaining the functionalities and we asked them to rate based on relevance, importance and frequency of the need. This way we understood better what is important for them.
Goal: Identify the USP for Parentool
Actions: We have created 3 versions of the USP and we asked 20 mothers to offer us their feedback. We’ve also asked them to create their own version or tell us why something is/isn’t suitable.
Buying intent survey
Goal: Understand the buying intent and set up the price range
Actions: We used a form using one of the experiments we’ve learned during an acceleration program.
We’ve asked 3 questions:
- What do you think it will be an accessible price for using the app? Why?
- What do you think it will be a high price? Why?
- What do you think it will be an exorbitant price? Why?
The secret is asking WHY every time.
Solution interviews. Demo days.
Last but not least, we’ve been part of different kinds of incubators, pre-accelerators, and competitions to get feedback from business people, investors and people interested in our idea.
I hope this article is useful for the Founders and startup teams out there.
I would be more than happy to share with you more about the learnings and assumptions we’ve tested.
What other methods have you used?