The biggest mistake entrepreneurs make is building their product before finding out if people want it.
I was working on a company last year to develop a product to help small business owners start leveraging social media and the web without spending hours on them. We had the business plan and the feature list. We had plenty of people telling us it was a great idea.
About the time we were planning to start development, I attended Lean Startup Machine in Boston, a weekend-long competition where teams try to create a business, prove the market, and achieve revenue by the end of the weekend using Eric Ries’s lean startup method. The opportunity to practice lean startup hands-on crystallized a set of assumptions that had nagged me for months.
After the conference we started talking to people who weren’t social media experts or small business experts. We talked to people who could conceivably become our customers some day and asked them if they would pre-order the service. Over and over we got the same response: small business owners who needed web presence help didn’t want a tool that made creating and managing it easier; They wanted guidance from someone who could walk them through the process, and they wanted someone else to worry about all the technical details.
We had identified a valid problem, but our solution didn’t fit the market. So we pivoted.
We cancelled development of the product and migrated to a services model instead. We still help businesses create and handle their web presences, but instead of building tools that none of them wanted, we guide them through the process and take care of all the technology so our clients can focus on running their business.