How to validate startup idea w/o giving it away?


My current startup has stabilized and is running pretty much on cruise-control... What is interesting, however, is that as I was looking to provide an additional service to my potential customers, I was surprised to find that there was really no platform for such a basic need... and out of that, an idea was born... I think if done right, it could be a /big/ deal. One of those: "why didn't I think of that?" ideas.

Now, I realize ideas are worthless without implementation... but I can implement, lord knows, I can implement.

My issue is as follows: I have absolutely 0 traction with my new idea. I want to validate/find out if it'll get any use. Everyone I asked thought it was a great thing, but that's not market validation.

What I can share, is that I'm looking to connect two kinds of people:

1) Those who have a service to sell and do not realize that they can sell it or often care to go thru hassle of monetizing it (one of the reasons likely because no easy platform exists to help)

2) Those who have a /very strong/ pain but do not realize that someone out there can help them in a non-traditional way

I need to validate if would be used by both kinds of above mentioned people, as without either of them, the business is dead. The outreach is "generic" and can be used by either B2C or B2B and is not industry specific, although I'm sure some industries will find the service more useful than others.

I'd really appreciate any practical tips on how to validate the idea, without giving away all the guts of it? I have 0 traction...

There is a one startup that received $1m last year in seed money to do something similar. I do not like the way they've done it and think it is "all wrong" and frankly no-one has heard of them. They're positioning/marketing/doing everything with their platform all wrong, IMHO. :)

Edit: to be more clear, I'm not afraid of sharing it in right environments... I am more afraid of posting it on websites such as this, that are infested with people who are looking for the "next thing to do". So, I guess my question would be, how to share it and get feedback without people who are looking for an idea for a startup to latch on and implement it themselves

Ideas Business Plan

asked Apr 5 '11 at 06:38
886 points
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4 Answers


You can't. I know -- that is blunt. But you can not validate an idea without sharing it.

You just can't. I am sorry. There are 100+ posts on here from people who are trying to ask the question in a different way -- how do they protect their idea, how do they not give it to a VC, to a potential partner, to a prospective incubator. And the community always answers the same way:

You can't. It is kind of a Zen thing. To protect your heart you must give it away. To hold on to something dear you need to let it go. Maybe I should say it is a Yoda thing? :)

You can't validate an idea without having customers. And you can't have customer without selling them the product/service. And you can't sell them the product/service unless they know what it is.

So write a white paper and circulate it for feedback. Identify people in your target group that you have a relationship with and share the idea with them and ask if they would buy it. In fact, better yet -- ask them if they would pre-purchase the service right now. Develop a beta version of the site and invite people to it.

You can implement -- "lord knows you can implement" -- so start implementing and make it iterative enough so that you can respond with fluidity to the speaking of the market, grasshopper.

answered Apr 5 '11 at 06:46
Joseph Barisonzi
12,141 points
  • Joe, I agree and thank you... see my edit? – Igorek 13 years ago
  • Great edit for the clean up. I think you have a LOT of different questions here and it is a really valuable topic for deeper exploration by our community. Don't let my schnarkiness detract -- perhaps we could make another question that zeros in on specific aspects a little bit? – Joseph Barisonzi 13 years ago
  • To quote an angel investor, "You can't blow someone's mind if you don't pull the trigger." And for reference, if your idea is good, investors will bite. I funded my first startup with a non-functional static website demo. – Sold Out Activist 12 years ago
  • Howard Aiken said: Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats. – A. Garcia 12 years ago
  • They can steal your idea, but can't steal your passion, desire to succeed and vision. – Bahadir Cambel 12 years ago


Scott Adams (Dilbert) says the market value of a good idea is zero. I think he was being optimistic.

answered Apr 5 '11 at 14:38
121 points
  • I guess Dilbert was a horrific idea then ;-) – Ron M. 13 years ago
  • I believe he attributes his success to actually *doing* something with the idea. – Barrycarter 13 years ago
  • +1 for answer and comment even if it was a bad answer. – Sold Out Activist 12 years ago


I'm with Joseph Barisonzi on this. I would reach out to people who are interested in this and invite them in a private beta. Give them real benefits in exchange for feedback. And build the idea around that. When you feel it's ready for prime time, get it out there.

You can basically prove your idea with a subset of the market.

answered Apr 5 '11 at 06:56
Mircea Grelus
782 points


The only way to validate your idea without ever sharing it is searching and locating competitors who have implemented the same thing.

answered Apr 5 '11 at 23:52
Ron M.
4,224 points

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