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 IndieDev Tips #4 • Guide to MVP - Part 2: Validating ideas

 IndieDev Tips #4 • Guide to MVP - Part 2: Validating ideas
By Edouard Barbier • Issue #4 • View online

Hey, welcome back! Let’s continue working on your MVP.
So you’re set on the idea you want to want to focus on. What’s next? Many developers just start coding… I know that’s the fun part and it’s ok to dive into code directly if you’re just doing this for fun. But if the goal is to make a profit you have to be careful about how you invest your time. 

That’s where validating ideas becomes critical. If done properly, it can save you tons of time, money and possibly a lot of headaches along the way. Let’s go over how I generally approach idea validation. I’ll keep it simple and split this in two sections:
  • All the items that can strengthen your idea ✅
  • All the items that might hinder your idea 🥴
1. Assess the market
  • Verify that there is an existing market. Found one or more competitors? Great, that means there’s an existing demand for the solution you plan on building. ✅
  • You found no competition at all. Either your idea is truly innovative and nobody came up with it before, or you’re at a risk of building something that won’t reach product-market fit. I generally Google a lot about my ideas. Sometimes it leads to blog posts of people who tried and failed with similar things. Worth the extra effort before investing time. Careful. 🥴
2. Assess business models
  • Verify that the competition is monetised. Ideally, finding competitors that are already selling to customers would be best. It’s always reassuring to find that people are already paying for similar products. ✅
  • If they only monetize with ads, this is a semi-red flag for me. Relying on ads alone requires a huge amount of traffic & a huge amount of data collection (either directly by you, or most often via 3rd-party tools like AdMob). Definitely not the business model I would recommend for indie devs. It’s much better to build products people will be ok to pay for directly. 🥴
  • You don’t want to be fighting against massive VC-backed startups who are burning through their runway money to acquire users. Businesses like that are harder to compete with since they can afford to burn their capital by giving their product for free for a while before eventually monetising or exiting. 🥴
3. Research how competitors acquire users
  • Check if they are running ads to acquire users (Facebook’s Ad Library lets you see all ads ran by a page). If they do, that could mean they already have a big enough ARPU (average revenue per user) to justify driving installs with ads. At this stage, the more money you poor in the acquisition campaigns, the more revenue you get. That’s the graal for any app business**. ✅
  • If many of your competitors run ads to acquire users, you are probably targeting a highly competitive niche. That can lead to a lot more work to get initial traction. It doesn’t mean your idea doesn’t have potential, but you just need to be aware that marketing will play a key role for you and that you might need to invest into marketing early on to make space for your product to grow in that niche. 🥴
4. Look at what people are saying
  • Analyse your future competitors and look for complaints from their customers in app reviews (AppAnnie is great for that). Finding some or many? Great, that means you can improve the existing offering. ✅
  • If the only complain you find is about the pricing, that’s not great. There is always going to be a percentage of people who do not pay for anything and always love to complain that things aren’t free. Their complain simply means that the product is great but that they aren’t ready to pay so they vent their frustration in reviews. These people can’t be made happy unless you’re a non-profit. 🥴
5. Talk to your future customer
  • Talk to your target customer and ask them the right questions. Don’t ask them if they find the idea interesting or if they would use this product. They might say yes to make you happy or to encourage you. That’s dangerous for you. 🥴
  • Ask them if they would pay for such product. They’ll be stuck because you’ll now be talking about them becoming your customer instead of just being nice to you. ✅
Oh… and don’t skip this one… it’s probably the most important one in this list. It’s very easy to avoid talking to people, a common symptom amongst the dev community. But trust me, if you’re hoping to develop a business from your idea, you will eventually need to chat with people. Better learn early. You’ll thank me later.

These 5 steps are generally the ones I tend to follow. There are tons more ways to validate ideas I haven’t covered, but I don’t use them and I want to stick to my own experience so you know there’s no BS involved. It doesn’t have to take days. I often just spend a few hours to double check a few things before I know if an idea is worth pursuing or not.

Where do we go from here? Do you start coding? Nope, not just yet. It’s time to brainstorm the list of features you want your end product to offer. In the next issue, I’ll share my approach to achieve this in a productive way.

If you enjoyed this newsletter, please consider sharing it with a friend or tweeting about it. You can find me on Twitter @edouard_iosdev or on Instagram @edouard_iosdev.
Thanks for reading.

** that’s in principle, in reality, getting there takes a lot of effort in product optimisation & a/b testing, and getting the ads right is also a massive undertaking.
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Edouard Barbier

I’m Edouard, an Indie iOS Developer & Serial App Maker from Belgium. In 2015, I started to teach myself how to make iOS apps. In 2018, I left my job at Google to pursue the indie lifestyle.

This newsletter will include tips, mistakes I’ve made and tons of experiences I can share with others including a roadmap to escape the 9 to 5 and build products for a living.

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