Validating Your Idea Without Writing one Line of Code - Part 2: Identifying Underserved Needs.
Welcome to part two of our three-part series on achieving product-market fit. In part one, we laid the foundation for this process and found an attractive market, and now we’ll delve deeper into customer needs. So, let’s continue our journey toward achieving product-market fit.
Mo' Problems, mo' Solutions

When it comes to addressing customer needs, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of finding solutions. After all, solving problems is what we do as entrepreneurs, product managers, and designers. Still, before we can start thinking about solutions, we must take a step back and ensure that we focus on large enough problems.
The bigger the problem you solve, the more value you create. The more value you create, the more your business will grow. In the case of Dropbox, Drew Houston, at this time a developer, was riding a bus from Boston to New York. He had initially planned to work on his laptop during the trip but realized he didn't have his USB memory stick. He felt the pain, and the idea of Dropbox arose.

"If you build for yourself, you'll always have product-market fit". Naval Ravikant

Paul Graham, the founder of YC, calls those ideas "organic." Organic ideas are often promising because if you identify the problem and develop a suitable solution, the chance is high that there are others with similar needs.

The Problem Hypothesis Framework

One way to do this less organically or test an organic idea is by using the Problem Hypothesis framework, which involves identifying a specific problem you believe your customer is facing. By conducting interviews with potential customers, you validate whether or not this is a problem that they have.

But before starting with interviews, search for all information available:

  • Have others attempted to solve this problem before, and why did they succeed or fail? Research and technology portals, patent databases, open innovation platforms, competition, and tools like Statista.
  • How many people experience the problem? Social networks, expert and consumer blogs, blogs of relevant influencers, test portals, and tools like Google Keyword Planner.

However, interviews with potential customers are essential in the Problem Hypothesis process. These interviews help you validate whether our problem hypothesis is accurate and allow you to learn more about your customers and their needs.

It’s important to remember that these interviews aim to understand the customer, which means listening more and talking less. You want to allow your customers to tell you about their experiences and challenges rather than trying to pitch them a solution. I made an extra post on conducting interviews, have a look before you start.

Validating a Solution

You can start thinking about potential solutions after you’ve validated your problem hypothesis through customer interviews. Testing a solution can be done relatively quickly by creating a sketch, wireframe, presentation, or prototype and letting the user comment and rate it.

Here are five key strategies you can use to ensure your solutions are truly meeting your customers’ needs:

  1. Sketches: Creating quick sketches is an easy and effective way to validate your solution concept. Use pen and paper to sketch your design ideas, then show them to your target users.
  2. Wireframes: Wireframes are low-fidelity representations of your product that focus on the layout and structure of your design. Use tools like Sketch or Miro to create wireframes and show them to your users.
  3. Presentations: Creating a presentation that outlines your solution concept is an effective way to validate your ideas with stakeholders. Use tools like Google Slides or PowerPoint to create a presentation and then share it with stakeholders for feedback.
  4. Prototypes: Prototyping is a more high-fidelity way to validate your solutions. Use design tools like Figma or InVision to create interactive prototypes that users can click through.
After showing your sketches, wireframes, presentations, or prototypes to users, ask them for open feedback and then let them rate your solutions on a scale of 1 to 10. This feedback can help you understand how well your solutions resonate with your target audience and what improvements you need to make.

Success Criteria of Step 2 — Customer Needs and Pains:

  • You’ve conducted at least five interviews per persona or continue until new information is no longer obtained.
  • You have a validated solution that results from a big problem or needs your customers (personas) have.
  • Time: four weeks (two weeks problem space, two weeks solutions space)

By following this process of problem validation through customer interviews and solution validation, you’ll be better able to ensure that you address problems your customers care about and that your solutions effectively solve those problems.
Product-Market Fit & Beyond
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FEBRUARY, 22 / 2023

Text author: Boris Manhart
Photography: Readon Mobile
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