How Do You Know That Your Startup Idea Good Enough?

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By Rosina Samadani, Ph.D. (Founder, Truth on Call) Do you have great ideas but can't seem to realize your concept and get to launch? I’ve been there.

In fact, in some ways I'm there right now. For my product Truth On Call, the first text message based physician polling system, I strive for perfection. I try to over-deliver, it must be the absolute best it can be. I've learned to live with this perfectionism and the less perfect reality of the marketplace as I continue to develop my product in the live, post-launch world.

Is there a danger to this? Absolutely. Am I learning more by having my product live rather than safely not launched yet? I think you know the answer to that one.

As ambitious women, we’re tough on ourselves. A 2009 study of 288 adults published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology found that 38% of female perfectionists said they missed their work standards, versus 24% of male perfectionists. We're out-perfecting the average perfectionist, and it's preventing us from launching!

Signs That Your Idea is Good Enough

  • You have tunnel vision -- You can easily stall development by asking questions about the peripheral stuff, but it’s important to focus your energy on the core of your idea. The core revolves around two things: the product and the customer. Of course there are other things that matter, like your competition, but if what you are selling fills a need for your customers than the other aspects of the business will be taken care of as a result of your strong product.
  • You know your first real customer (who you don't already know.) -- When 20 people who you do not consider close friends say they are using your product, you're on the right track. Your friends may not feel completely comfortable telling you their negative opinions. Talk with people who don't feel inclined to tell you that everything you do is great. If you can find potential customers, even better. Ask them to be blunt. Ask them if they'd buy it and if not, why not.This is where you really listen. They are telling you what your product should be. Sometimes, of course, customers really don’t know what they want until you’ve built it. Your idea is too new, and this is where it gets really fun, and I hope you make it there. As my brother, a Silicon Valley design consultant at Fjord, once said to me, “this is how innovation happens.”
  • You have beaten your competition on at least one important point -- To figure out your most important points of comparison, take the list of reasons you've gathered from your potential customers of why they will not buy your product, and convert those reasons to features. Identify the one that is most important to users. Do you beat the competition on the one thing that really matters?
  • You've got one killer feature -- You don't need to develop your entire idea to move forward. You likely do not have a complete idea of your finished product. I guarantee that if you think you know, you don't. Amazon launched with just books, and has become a major retailer for all kinds of items. Is there one thing that your customers will find really useful that they can't get elsewhere? Start there.

I believe we naturally know when our ideas are good enough. Perfectionists just need to have honest conversations with ourselves. If you sense your own hesitation, figure out what is at the center of it. If it's a valid reason, research your options so you can move forward with your closer-to-perfect idea. If it's peripheral to your idea, own that insecurity, and go ahead and get started developing anyway.

There is a great deal more to be learned to make your product perfect, and you will learn most of it after you launch.

Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. Rosina SamadaniAbout the guest blogger: Dr. Samadani is the founder of Truth On Call. She holds a BS from MIT in Mechanical Engineering, a MS from the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology Program in Mechanical Engineering, and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University in Biomedical Engineering. Dr. Samadani was a National Science Foundation Fellow and a Helen Bernstein Health Sciences and Technology Fellow. She enjoys texting but never thought she’d text this many physicians at one time.