Check out the Product Innovation Framework!

Podcast: Three Simple Steps To Self-Starting Your Idea

Dan:

Hello and welcome to the Lighthouse London Podcast.

Tom:

Hello.

Dan:

Happy New Year.

Tom:

Happy New Year.

Dan:

I’m Dan.

Tom:

I’m Tom.

Dan:

This week we’re doing a sort of accompanying podcast to a blog post.

Tom:

Yeah one from last week that we just put out there. Go and have a look wearelighthouse.com/blog.

Dan:

Forward slash?

Tom:

I don’t know, long URL.

Dan:

Long blog post slug. It’s almost like the book and the audio book really. Or more like a director’s commentary.

Tom:

It’s amazing, it’s good.

Dan:

That’s exactly what it is. Blog post director’s commentary. The blog post in question …

Tom:

Does that mean that they have to listen to this as they read in the blog post as well?

Dan:

Yeah absolutely. That bit there, that’s a blooper. The blog post in question if you are going to read along is called Just Do It – How to Get Your Startup Idea Going Today.

Tom:

It’s strong, isn’t it?

Dan:

It this very strong title, makes me want to read.

Tom:

Click bait.

Dan:

Yeah absolutely, click bait but with a tasty … It’s a tasty bait.

Tom:

It’s lovely, it tastes delicious.

Dan:

It’s like, it’s nice.

Tom:

Hook so it’s like a trade mark infringement there which is always good.

Dan:

Yeah absolutely. If Nike do want us to change it we will of course. Do you want any help with your website? Could end there, could end.

Tom:

That’s our new marketing strategy there.

Dan:

You say copy right infringement into new business. I like it. I suppose the point of this blog that we came up with was essentially that there are so many things you can do that don’t need a web agency.

Tom:

Yeah, well the very start of it was this a new year. This is a really busy time for us, so from those people getting attached with, they’ve had a start –up idea in their mind for could be a couple of years or something or a while. Since it’s like January 2016, why don’t you just go ahead and do it.

Dan:

Completely and I think people …

Tom:

Yeah people often don’t come to us with everything completely thought out.

Dan:

Absolutely and if you say to yourself I’m going to start something when you haven’t got a lot of knowledge of it, it’s then a case of “Okay, so I’ve got the motivation, what do I actually do now? What is the first step?” I think people’s perception of what the first step is in starting this to business or building a product, their perception of the first step is all the things they don’t know.
It’s how to technically do it. What technologies to choose. People coming to us and I think sometimes they like hang up on what hosting you’re going to use and things like that. Because those are the things they consider to be outside of their knowledge. They thought about their products and these are the things that they think are the bits that they need.

Tom:

Yeah definitely.

Dan:

I think that’s the wrong way round. I think actually those things are the easy part really.

Tom:

Well they are because you go to people and they help you with it. There you go to an expert in that field and then they’ll tell you what you need to know. You don’t need to worry yourself with that really, that comes later once you’ve properly built up your idea for what it is you’re trying to do.

Dan:

Yeah exactly.

Tom:

The first step is you communicating that with someone else essentially. Or learning a lot yourself, but at some point you’ll have to tell someone about all these things, so you need to learn as much as possible earlier on.

Dan:

Yeah completely, it’s like all those programming languages exist, hosting exists, web agencies exists. All those things are there they are not risks. The thing that doesn’t exist is your business essentially and that’s something that you’ve got to do something about. I think the things that we … As you say the going out there and learning, people actually think they’ve done that.

Tom:

Yeah.

Dan:

They think that there job is to be completely confident of their idea and have thought it out completely. Now the missing ingredient is …

Tom:

It’s the techie part.

Dan:

Yeah it’s techie part. What I think we wanted to say here is that that is completely the wrong way round. The techie part isn’t the hard bit. The learning is much harder than people think it is.

Tom:

Definitely yeah, or there is always room to learn more. No matter how much you’ve done there is always new ways to find stuff out and this is something that we doing all the way along the project. You’re always going to be learning. You’re always going to be the techniques we describe right now you should be using all the time.

Dan:

Completely.

Tom:

It’s just a good way to get into approaching this stuff at every level.

Dan:

Absolutely, start getting practice to these things. I think the good thing about them is they are just things people can do and can do straight away. You don’t need anything.

Tom:

Yeah definitely, you can do it immediately you just need to have a little thinking and a pen and paper and go out and talk to people. Essentially is what you’re doing.

Dan:

Completely, so we break it down to three things. Like a path to having gone round in a loop, because this we will discuss later basically this thing create a learning loop TM. Yeah that’s my trademark. I’ll give it you Just Do It, but now we are going for learning loop. Simplifying your idea I think it’s the first thing we came up with.

Tom:

Yeah totally.

Dan:

What’s the opposite of this? What are people needing to simplify?

Tom:

Well they need just to get this thing distilled into their head as easily as possible. What a lot of people will come to us with is a big long spec sheet of things that the app is going to do. What features it’s going to have, all these different things that they thought about that right now aren’t really important. You need to make sure you’ve thought about the basics before you think about the complex parts of it.
It’s all good to think, “Yeah I’m trying to build this thing. Someone’s got to log in, someone’s has got to do this. They can have a thing that they can click and like something.” Or all these many interactions they’ll do. That comes after time, but quite often someone can’t breakdown the actual essence of what their application service or product is, when you talk about this stuff. That’s really important. You’ve got to like not get side tracked in all these kind of complex little things that you thought up that you think would be cool.
You’ve got to really understand the problem you’re trying to solve. You’ve really got to understand everything about your business from the very basic level.

Dan:

Yeah and I think more than just being cool, I think people get in their heads that these things are vital. Someone will sit their going, “Well the thing that’s between me and this thing being successful is I want people to … Say like liking or something, whatever. I want people to like, but in my app they like in groups of people or something like these. It’s like well what happen if one of those people removes their like? Well do the other people get told about it? They get into these very intricate things about interactions within their product and they get obsessed with that.

Tom:

Well they think that’s what’s going to sell the business but it’s not.

Dan:

Yeah absolutely and they think that’s … They see that as a necessity. I think simplifying your idea is about saying let go of that stuff. Because people that build products all the time, the best people who build products no one thinks in that manner. It’s all about observing users, just working out what problems that they have got. Then building features and keeping those features simple. Until you seeing someone use it and then maybe it gets complex.
These people are always first in that complexity and to those people that length of thinking about a single interaction, what probably it says is then this is too complicated. That would be a warning sign to them. The best people at doing this are not the people who can come up with those interactions with the most clarity. It’s the people who know their audience the best.
Simplifying your idea here as you say is about saying let’s just get back to the problem we’re trying to solve. Don’t worry that we can’t think about how what email should be sent at what time to what people that we don’t need to know that yet, at all. That the key things we thought, what basic problem you’re trying to solve? Why are you trying to solve it and what assumptions have you made? People get scared that there is any risk at all. They think that this big spec is a nailed on business, okay?

Tom:

Definitely yeah.

Dan:

That’s fine, assumptions are fine and risk is fine as long as you’re aware of it. To say right, here’s my business plan, here’s the bit I’m worried about not working is just very healthy.

Tom:

Absolutely yeah. You’ve got to know the areas that you aren’t sure of, because that needs to be tested. Like you don’t want to push something out guessing why this is going to solve a problem. You need to work that out. People also come to us saying they’ve identified a service isn’t doing something well and they want to sort of copy that. Who knows? I’m trying to think of one we had. That Pinterest isn’t great, they’ve got an idea for a contender or something.

Dan:

Yes.

Tom:

They often then just say “Well these are features that are going to beat it, make that.” It’s like “Well no, that’s not the reason to approach it. What you need to work out is why Pinterest for instance isn’t good, but what problem they’re trying to solve and how you’re going to do that better. Then you can come with your features on top of that, you can do that kind of thing.”

Dan:

Absolutely, that’s it. This approach can be applied to the whole problem and it can also be applied to those little feature problems as well, so that’s why it’s a great thing to get good at. How someone would simplify it? Well there’s a lot of good thinking out there, because as I say this is what the best people in the industry do. I will suggest something the lean canvas.

Tom:

Yeah definitely.

Dan:

There’s a link on the blog post.

Tom:

We do that a lot with people who come for the door and when they are kicking off projects. We are meetings and then we go through that quite regularly.

Dan:

It’s basically putting your business idea down on one page of A4 and you do it in a half an hour.

Tom:

Yeah.

Dan:

If you can it fill in … This is like divided into nine sections, which cover like customers, solution, revenue streams … It’s I think it’s too big for this podcast to go into but check it out. The idea is if you can’t fill in a bit you just move and that’s left as an assumption. That’s something you need to check out, a very light weight way of doing it.

Tom:

It just identifies areas that you might have not thought about as well, because it’s coming at all angles at this problem. Someone might probably you may might not have even considered that option and you do need to. You got shower holes in your plan.

Dan:

Along side that I’d say a good book a compliment that is Running Lean.

Tom:

Yeah definitely.

Dan:

That’s great, we’ll put that in the same notes and a Value Proposition is the same as well. It’s another one we look at quite a lot. Those are always to practically do what you said there. To help you just put down quickly on a piece of paper the basic problem you’re trying to solve and who you trying to solve it for and map out the idea in that way.

Tom:

You’ll always be referring back to this throughout the project life.

Dan:

Completely.

Tom:

Always be the thing you use to base decisions on and what you’re going to make and all these kind of stuff.

Dan:

You can do it in what? In half an hour, I mean the first time you do it, it might take a little bit longer than that. It’s essentially that you can do in a day and you’re started. That’s something that you can do, you don’t need any help and you can just get started on that.
Having done that the idea is that at the end of the day you are able to explain to someone what the idea is in a sort of I suppose elevated pitch. The way and be not but just generally the vision. You know what needs to be tested, you know the assumptions.

Tom:

You definitely know at that time what you’re unsure of and the only way to really fix that problem is to talk to people.

Dan:

Completely and that’s it. You’re ready at that point to actually meet a potential customer.

Tom:

Yeah definitely and you have to, like it’s such an important thing to do. Any of these ideas you’ve got to find your customers as soon possible and you’ve got to start asking them lots of questions.

Dan:

Absolutely they … Yeah again another thing is that you can’t get in front of a customer until you’ve build the thing. Well who made that rule because …

Tom:

It’s not even true.

Dan:

Yeah exactly. It’s why are you putting that limitation to yourself. Meeting customers I mean …

Tom:

You’re not demoing a product to them.

Dan:

No.

Tom:

It’s quite important that you don’t go to someone and to just pitch an idea and say do you like it? You want to go to them, ask them about their experience of this industry. You need to take a step back in the same way you’ve done in simplifying your idea. You have got to go and ask them do you think they’ve got a problem with X? Go and ask them what their experience of using X is? Is it a difference of what you’d say? Is your assumption right or have you learned something different about how a user has a problem with that service or that product or even just that industry.

Dan:

Absolutely, there is a format of how you just speak to customers. I mean at first don’t worry if you don’t know that format.

Tom:

No, when you assume on account for getting good feedback definitely.

Dan:

I think getting good at talking to customers is completely vital.

Tom:

Absolutely. It’s one of the most important things that I think people need to do. It’s really easy to get it wrong, I mean certainly we’ve made mistakes in doing interviewing and research which has … You learn as you’re doing. I think you’ll soon work out the right sort of questions to ask.

Dan:

You get the confidence.

Tom:

Yeah, and it’s a hard thing to do as well. Like I used to go … This is literally if you’re going to the streets and start talking to people on the high street. That takes a bit of courage to go and do that. You’ll ease into it relatively quickly and it’s such a powerful thing to do, it’s such a valuable thing to do.

Dan:

I think here as well you’ll find a lot of … Once you’ve started doing it, you’ll find there’s a lot of great resources out there. There is Running Lean again actually has … In that heat describes problem interviews and solution interviews. Problem interviews where you’re trying to work out what people’s pains are. Then a solution interview where you’re actually showing them a potential solution to it and find out what their reaction is. You’ve read a book recently.

Tom:

Yeah the Mum Test or Mom Test.

Dan:

Mom.

Tom:

American test which was incredibly useful. I mean really I can’t recommend it enough. Actually most of the mistakes described in that book are what most people would do. I think if you haven’t read it, it will probably change the way you think about conducting research, conducting interviews and that kind of thing. There is so much reliable information there.

Dan:

I originally thought it might be sexist as in testing things on your mum, because your mum is rubbish. Then actually yes having looked to that …

Tom:

It’s questions you can even ask … One of the things we mention in the blog post is these people you talk to early on can’t be members of your family. They can’t be your friends because first people are biased toward you doing well. Your mum is always going to tell you that your idea is great, but the actually the point of this book and the name of it is that you can even ask your mum these questions and she’ll give you meaningful feedback.

Dan:

Yeah that’s it.

Tom:

Which is a great way to think about it.

Dan:

Because that’s another thing people will often come to us where they say, you say “Have you researched this at all?” The answer will be “Yes, we’ve done some market research.” I think market research is fine but actually the sort of research we’re talking about is where you’re actually delving a bit deeper. Again I would look at some of the resources we’ve linked to especially Mom test book, which just says you’ve got to get that bias out of things.
Your friends and family are going to want you to succeed. That’s their role, their role is to be supportive. Actually when you’re deciding what a product should be, you don’t just want people who are telling you to do it regardless, you want customers who actually want what you’re offering.

Tom:

Yeah I mean the book also really helps you remove bias from your questioning.

Dan:

Right, okay.

Tom:

On the other side as well like you’re probably really passionate about this idea and you really want it … You want to be proved right from your assumptions. It’s very easy to ask questions that’ll give you the answers you want. Really that many of the techniques and lines of questions that you’ll read in the book are getting rid of that. Really getting honest answers from people to sometimes difficult questions which mean you could be proved wrong, but that’s a really good thing.

Dan:

Totally.

Tom:

That any time you’re proved wrong it’s going to save you a lot of headache later on, a lot of problems. You need to work out what people will actually want and this is the way to do it.

Dan:

Web agencies by the way will also just do it again and do that … That’s again coming and saying to someone who you’re potentially going to pay to build something, “Do you think it’s a good idea to build it?”

Tom:

They’ll be like “Yeah.”

Dan:

There’s no way no matter how ethical they are, there is a clear bias there that you can’t I guess pass.

Tom:

Of course there is, yeah definitely.

Dan:

They are not a customer so there views actually don’t count to that point.

Tom:

It doesn’t matter, they are being some people get involved in different ways but they can build the thing for you. Because your job is to communicate to them what the problem is, how it should be solved, they’ll come up with the technical implementation of it. You need to know these stuff yourself, it’s so important that you know it.

Dan:

Absolutely and once you’ve done that, the next step is to make something. Pure and simple just make it, thanks and bye.

Tom:

Yeah and then just code it, yeah.

Dan:

Then code it.

Tom:

Just to …

Dan:

What? But that’s not right is it?

Tom:

At all.

Dan:

Because this has to be something that they can do without necessarily …

Tom:

I mean we talk a lot about foundation of be coders, how getting stuck into code straight away is a really bad thing to do, but making something is a good idea. You’re going to have a lot of ideas in your head. Every time we speak to someone about these kinds of things everyone is talking about all these cool stuff they might do, all these problems they need to solve or ways they might solve it.
It’s good now that you’ve done all these research and talking and learning to get something down on paper or however you want do it. To then help illustrate what you’re trying to do to potential partners. It could be investors, it could just be people you know who are going to give you a bit more feedback.
Having something for people to look at is really going to help you explain what you’re doing and there’s a load of ways you can do that without needing to code anything, without any technical skill at all. Stuff that I mean pen and paper is good. You can just draw stuff, or a Y frame on a piece of paper is great. You can make a power point presentation which works as a good prototyping tool.

Dan:

Yeah just a messaging, like just …

Tom:

Like start writing stuff definitely.

Dan:

Well if you’ve done the lean canvas then you’ve already got something there. This is more about something you might put in front of someone. Just mock-up a landing page, mock-up a way that one of the interfaces might look. I suppose that the complicated end of this people would start calling it prototyping. To me that scares people they are like “I can’t build a prototype.” What we’re literary talking about is just get crafty and just kind of create this thing on a screen somehow.

Tom:

Definitely, or one little bit of it could be anything.

Dan:

It doesn’t matter if you can’t design it.

Tom:

Anything that helps to illustrate the point.

Dan:

Yeah exactly, the key value that’s it. You really want to just illustrate the key feature, the one thing that through this learning, through this customer interviews you’ve done, the one thing you think everyone wants. Now it’s time to put that back in front of them in a format that looks like it’s something that someone might use.

Tom:

Also the fact is the technology is not the most important thing, like messaging and how things look is really important. Start making mood boards. Write some stuff down, write your headlines down. Write what your elevator pitch down and you can test that with people. You can go in the street again and ask people about what you’ve written and the way you’re trying to tell your story. It’s so important to get that right early rather than worrying about what colour it’s going to be or what the website looks like. It’s not ready for that yet.

Dan:

Yeah, at this point it’s time to put as I say put back in front of people what you’ve learn and see if what you’ve learned stands up, because that’s how you learn more. That you show someone a screen and people worry about how well designed it is, it really doesn’t matter. In fact I’d even argue that it doesn’t have to look good.
In fact sometimes looking good can be a hindrance almost. The reaction is you don’t want someone to go “That looks cool,” you want someone to say “That sounds useful. That might solve my problem and despite it looking rubbish I think it might solve my problem.”

Tom:

Well if it looks rubbish and they connect with it and guide you there, then you know you’re on sign. If you show them something that looks cool but they are just focused on the nice colourful blobs and the illustration you’ve got or whatever it is and not thinking about what it’s saying or what’s offering then that’s a failure, isn’t it?”

Dan:

Absolutely, so as there’s a great build pressure that recently by The Happy Star School who do a lot of these kind of stuff. Definitely if you’re looking to start out, looking to work out how to get started before you go about building something you can do it a lot worse than look here them they’ve run courses, they’ve write loads on it …

Tom:

It some good, great stuff on that blog, it’s a good one to follow.

Dan:

Completely, so we’ll put a link to that as well. The idea then is that you’ve gone through those three steps. You’ve kind of worked out what the core value is and the core vision for the thing. You’ve actually met someone that you’re trying to solve that problem for and then you’re showing them something that you’ve made or are going to make. It doesn’t matter.
At that point you’ve learned something. If you haven’t learned anything at that point then I don’t know … You weren’t doing it right. Or you believe so much in this idea that you’re never going to actually listen to anyone and that’s not going to lead to a successful business.
You’ll have learned something, so what do you do then? Well basically you feed that back in. You go back to the vision and you feed in what you’ve learned to it. You tweak it, is it aimed at the right customer? Have the customers told you there’s an angle to it you might want to change? Are you proposing it in the right way? Did you think it would be because it was going to be truth and everything else but now you found out that people don’t care about price so you can take that out of the vision?

Tom:

Yeah.

Dan:

You tweak that vision then you go back and talk to the customers and this thing that you’ve made. You essentially just keep going around that cycle until something is sticking. Until you’re hearing the same things, until you get it and that is a point to say, I should build that.

Tom:

Definitely yeah.

Dan:

Because that’s the point where … That’s how it has worked for every startup you can mention.

Tom:

Completely and well they might have got there much later than we’re saying you will be able to.

Dan:

A lot of people fluked demand. I mean this I’d say now is how Startups work. I think a lot of start ups are there and established they are the fluked this. They have accidentally built something that customers wanted. They were probably trying to build something else and then they realised is that other thing we built that people wanted, maybe we should listen to customers more. Now those people are absolute experts in how to do this process.

Tom:

Definitely.

Dan:

You’re not scrimping and being cheap by just going and doing this stuff. It’s not like “Well if I can afford an engineer, then obviously I’d use an engineer.” No, engineering is expensive however you are. If you’re Google, if you’re one of that it’s expensive for everyone. Yeah Google can afford but it’s expensive for everyone.

Tom:

They don’t want to waste money, so be doing it in the right way. It’s not like Google having all the money in the world just throws cash at stuff that they know it’s going necessarily work.

Dan:

It won’t work and that’s why this is so sure the healthy way of thinking. It’s because even when you’ve got money and got uses and are successful, you won’t stay successful unless you follow this kind of path. Of working out what you’re trying to deliver and making sure that your customers are on board with that.
That was basically the blog post and I just what’s great about it is that someone could just literary turn this off now and just do … There’s nothing to stop someone doing this stuff, which is you’re off today.

Tom:

Yeah just clear your afternoon and do it. I mean it’s not rocket science actually.

Dan:

No.

Tom:

It’s easy to do.

Dan:

Yeah absolutely, like the techniques are easy. The actual thing of defining a vision and building a product people want, that’s not easy.

Tom:

That’s not easy at all.

Dan:

You should even see that as a thing you can actually … Well there’s no end point to solving that, right? You don’t go “I’ve done it, this is what customers want.” What customers want is always changing and that’s why this is something you’ve got to keep going around and have evolve.

Tom:

With the right approach to it, your customers will tell you these stuff for you. It’s not down to you to come up with this grand plan that you’re the genius or whatever. Your customers will tell you what they want, you just have to make it. You’ve got to learn this way of working to give you the best chance of getting the right answers out of them.

Dan:

Absolutely, so go and do it and …

Tom:

Then come to see us.

Dan:

Get back to yeah. Well get back and toast to us and tell us what you made and how you found it.

Tom:

Yeah. We like that any time anyone comes through the door with this sort of stuff already is brilliant. We just love to sit down and look at what people have been doing and what they’ve been building themselves and all the things that they’ve put into stuff, it’s excellent.

Dan:

Yeah and it will jump start any project that we do. Having a group of this stuff and this way of working is just going to help everything once you start bringing other people onboard.

Tom:

Definitely.

Dan:

To letting other people know what the vision is. Yeah, go and do it. Let us know how it went. You can get onto us @wearelighthouse on the twitter.

Tom:

Yeah, drop us an email or hello at wearelighthouse.com. You can find us on Facebook if you really want …

Dan:

We are on the Facebooks and we’re on the LinkedIn.

Tom:

Yeah we are on them all. But wearelighthouse.com come and have a look at what we do if you don’t know already, but yeah that’s about that.

Dan:

Great, all right.

Tom:

Awesome, music was by Encompass Sound thank you very much guys and that’s it.

Dan:

Bye.

Tom:

See you.