In this post I want to be as specific and detailed as possible how we tried to (and sort of did) validate our business idea before writing any piece of code. Fortunately I always have a lot of ideas in my mind. The bad thing about it is that it’s impossible to execute each one - though I would love to. I really wanted to do a good job choosing the right idea for my business because I don’t want to waste months of work for an idea which is not sustainable. (2020 update: I absolutely did this exact thing 😅 )
So basically I had three cornerstones which I followed to validate my idea.
I wanted to talk to people. I wanted to talk to people who were involved in ecommerce. First of all, I wanted to learn more about the ecommerce world. Of course, I did a great amount of research about ecommerce and how products are priced and such. But you know it’s always the best to have a real conversation with a competent person so you can ask more and deeper questions. Also, I could meet a cool guy to have business with later.
In the past, I thought that if someone else already has a working business in the niche I want to enter then it’s a sign that I should throw that idea out of the window. But if you think about it, it’s a wonderful thing to know that there are people who actually make real money with the kind of business I want to do as well. It means that there’s a need for my SaaS and there’s a market for it already
This is not strictly about the business itself rather about me. Because I cannot work on something for a long time wholeheartedly if I don’t fall in love with it. So I asked myself these questions. Do I really think it is something that makes sense? If I had to pitch the idea for someone will I be able to present it in a passionate way? Also, I think it’s almost impossible to work on something twelve or more hours a day if you don’t love it. And as a founder, it’s sometimes neccesary.
So these three principles shaped the way of validating my idea. I considered business perspective and personal perspective as well. Let’s talk about what I actually did.
I didn’t have ecommerce business owner friends. I didn’t know anybody even close to that. So I couldn’t talk about my idea with them. Rather, I cold emailed businesses for interviews. Each ecommerce business I could find in my area. I simply wrote an email for them and invited them for a light skype conversation with me about ecommerce. That’s all. I sent out 16 emails. Obviously, I personalized all of them so it wouldn’t come off spammy.
After sending out the emails I didn’t really know what to expect. 12 out of 16 responded in a week or so. 2 out of that 12 people accepted my skype conversation invitation. But actually only one skype call happened the other one flaked. So 1 out of 16. The other ones either didn’t respond to my email or politely declined my invitation (and one of them said yes then I was never able to reach him again).
I consider mainly two reasons why the conversion of these emails was so low. One is that I did not provide any real value for them. I just wanted to leech value from them actually. I wanted them to educate me. They must have had better things to do than teaching a young dude about ecommerce. I totally understand it. The second reason might be that some of the companies I emailed were not small businesses with few hundred products. Some of them were large companies in my area. So it shouldn’t be surprising that they declined having a chat with me.
So 15 people said no one way or another. But there was one competent person who was like “sure let’s do this”. So I skype called this really friendly guy. He was very very open about his business and taught me a bunch of stuff about the ecommerce world also some tweaks and tricks webshops often do. It was an awesome 20-30 minutes conversation. At the end of it I asked him about the kind of SaaS I was about to build and competitor monitoring just in general. It turned out that at the time, all the competitor monitoring stuff my software automates he did it manually over and over again. I told him about my SaaS and he was really excited about it. So we agreed that when the software is done or at least somewhat usable, he would use it and would give me feedback. This is exactly what I needed.
I realized that cold emailing is really just a numbers game, at least if you have no clue what you’re doing like me. Talking to that one person was crucial. I learnt that my software can help him and save time for him. And if it really does it for him, then I’m pretty sure it will do for others too.