Startups regularly fail because they’re not focused enough. Here’s one way of avoiding that…

Useful startup validation technique incoming…!

Since the number one reason startups fail is “no market need”, lots of the work I do with them is around validation, and making sure they’re solving a problem that is actually worth solving. 

Much of this presents as them not being specific enough about the problem they’re solving, and for who. With 2 of the more common results being:

1 – trying to do too much, and therefore not really focusing on one problem.

2 – being too vague about what actual value they offer.

I’ve developed a very quick framework (still in progress, so suggested amendments gratefully received), that helps focus the mind. It is a grid that has Process (the various stages of dealing with the issue at hand), and Seniority (the type of person that is affected).

E.g. a recent startup i was working with is trying to deal with the burden of paperwork. As a recipient of letters that I don’t know what to do with, I might be low on seniority (I’m just a lowly consumer), & my bank (who has to send millions of letters) is high on seniority

Along the Process axis, you list all the ways paperwork affects me, and at what stage. e.g. First stage is receiving it in the post. Second is it sitting on my kitchen table for a week until I know what to do with it. Third is finding a way to file it logically & securely.

You can slice each of these many, many ways. You could even look at the bank alone, and just list the different people involved with paperwork creation process.

Or on the consumer level you could look at the importance of the types of paperwork each type of person receives.

Here’s what it might look like for startup trying to solve issues around everyone receiving too many emails, and all the knock on effects. But that is WAAAAY too big a problem space to try to address in one go. By using this framework you’re forced to be more specific.

It’s only a quick framework, and the very start of your problem discovery phase. But…

Amazon only sold books for years, and Google only did search for years, before they moved on to different things. FOCUS! Be specific about the problem you’re solving, and for who!

It’s honestly one of the most common problems I see in early stage startups. Founders identify a problem space, but not a specific problem. It’s an absolute guaranteed way of maximise your chance of failing. As someone once said…

“I Don’t Know The Key To Success, But The Key To Failure Is Trying To Please Everybody.”

I go into more detail about how to validate a new startup idea here, with a simple 6 step plan.

Want to get in touch? Head to

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s