Tools to help understand if a startup concept is viable


Ok, so you've got a great idea, it solves a tough and troubling problem for millions of users. Now, before you go head-first and implement, what tools are availble to test whether your idea is actually viable? I'm looking for tests like UsabilityHub, but targeted at the earlier "concept" stage.


asked Jan 20 '11 at 07:26
137 points

4 Answers


If 'viable' means 'people will pay', you should be googling 'minimum viable product.'

Your comment that, "it solves a tough and troubling problem for millions of users," suggests that you've got something with significant potential. So you want to get something out there that either

  • Solves the whole problem really well (but I'm guessing that's non-trivial), or
  • Impacts most of the problem modestly (which could be the MVP for the people who experience the problem most acutely, and can be the shortest route from prototype to shipping product), or
  • Solves just one part of the problem really well (which is the most common form of the MVP, and is often the shortest route from a blank sheet of paper to shipping product), or
  • Isn't a solution, but describes the problem or/and the solution (which is a non-functioning kind of MVP, and is really just a bit of market test analytics)

Any of these lets you start testing viability by observation rather than speculation. And that's totally analogous to the toolset at UsabilityHub. Those tools (and similar alternatives) focus on optimization; MVP thinking focuses on realising and iterating initial concepts.

answered Jan 21 '11 at 03:01
Jeremy Parsons
5,197 points


I'm not sure that there are tools (as in stuff built that you apply to something to change or measure the outcome, say a website or a piece of software), but there are great processes.

One of the more popular these days is Customer Development (book ), developed by Steve Blank (great blog ) and made popular recently by The Lean Startup movement (book ) fronted by Eric Ries (great blog ).

Please see this answer for more info.

answered Jan 20 '11 at 08:50
John Sjölander
2,082 points


The idea stage is a very tricky stage to be in, sounding cliched - a lot depends on the execution. To me, an idea is really not viable, the way you present & the usability determines the "viablity"

It shouldn't take you a lot of weekends to code a basic version (MVP ) and get it out to your network - make it invite-only / share it with your friends circle, get their feedback, see if they really want to refer to their friends, add some virality, etc.

I don't think there can be any tool to decide if an idea is "sellable" or not, we need to put it out

answered Jan 21 '11 at 05:57
482 points


Here is a great post by Chris Dixon - - about discussing your idea with others that touches on your subject

"There are lots of benefits to talking to people. You’ll get suggestions for improvements. You’ll discover flaws and hopefully correct them. You’ll learn a lot more about the sector/industry. You’ll learn about competitive products that exist or are being built. You’ll gauge people’s excitement level for the product and for various features. You’ll refine your sales and investor pitch. You might even discover your idea is a bad idea and save yourself years of hitting your head against the wall."

Food for thought.

answered Jan 21 '11 at 09:37
Steve D
318 points

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