A great email landed in my inbox from Richard Ortega, now of TrueAbility and formerly CTO of Grapevine. He described a great test often used at Geekdom when evaluating startup ideas:
Your product needs to be a must-have, not a nice-to-have.
Must haves occur when you are solving a #1 pain point for a group of people. This group of people will love you tremendously. A ‘nice-to-have’ is likely a pain point, but it’s likely maybe a #7 or #8 and some education will make it a slightly higher priority on the list. Grapevine was an example of this. Our demographic’s pain point was not high on the list for Mom and Pops, but when we started targeting agencies that had multi-franchise locations we easily found out that they needed our service offering (however their turn around time as a business was slow and we couldn’t sustain that long).
Two emerging successes in San Antonio’s nascent startup scene pass this test:
- TrueAbility helps companies hire the best techs and system admins. For their customers, the ability to recruit talent is critical to their operations.
- Par Level Systems provides telemetry (i.e remote monitoring) systems for vending machine operators enabling them to dramatically reduce waste and increase sales. (for full disclosure, I invested in them.)
There’s numerous other examples at Geekdom being “Must-Haves” like Promoter, VentureLab, ZippyKid and others. If any of these startups elected to turn off tomorrow, there is a group of people that would be banging down their door. It doesn’t have to be everyone, but a substantial group of people must really need a product.
So, no matter what, make certain a new product or service is something a group of people really want — or go back to the drawing board.