Assumptions, Questions, & Insights

This post was written by Atlanta Tech Village President, David Lightburn.

Creating a successful startup is incredibly hard work. Unfortunately many entrepreneurs make it even harder on themselves by not validating the idea before jumping in headfirst. 

Ah, jumping off this cliff and building a plane on the way down is TOO easy. I think I’ll do it blindfolded as well.

Ok, so what do I mean by validating the idea? Well, when you start something from nothing, the success of your idea is built entirely on assumptions. Everything is an assumption…some examples:

  • Who your customer is
  • How they act (behaviors and motivations)
  • Size of the market
  • How you’ll make money
  • How you’ll deliver value
  • Your cost structure

Hundreds of assumptions. And chances are that many of those early assumptions will be wrong. That’s ok! That’s why we’re going to talk to customers before we build to de-risk our idea. 

You’ve got to de-risk it for the biscuit.

Here’s a quick framework that I use for validating those early core assumptions. It’s an easy way to keep assumptions top of mind, collect feedback from potential customers, and work quickly to prove (or disprove) them. 

  1. On a sheet of paper make 3 columns – Assumptions, Questions, and Insights.
  2. In the Assumptions column list 5-7 core Assumptions about your idea that need to be true for the business to work. 
  3. In the Questions column, write open-ended Questions that will help you prove whether each of your Assumptions are true or false. 
  4. Talk to as many customers as possible. As you do, keep your questions handy. Typically after speaking to 15-20 customers, you’ll start to see patterns in the answers. These are unique Insights that only you know.  “There’s gold in them thar hills…”
  5. In the Insights column, write down those truths you now know after asking Questions about your Assumptions. 
  6. Once you’ve validated (or invalidated) an Assumption and gained an Insight, you’ll add a new Assumption to the column and continue working through your list. You’ll also update your Questions because you’ll have a new Assumption to validate.

At the end of this early customer discovery process, you’ll still have assumptions, but instead of building your business on sand (faulty assumptions), you’ll be starting with a rock foundation.