Self-study research

notebook, pen, and baby picture. With text "Self-study research" over top.

Throughout the Spring, I had been posting a blog entry about once a week. I had a writing schedule that worked well for me. Then something happened that disrupted my routine – I had a baby. This is my second child, so I had a better idea of what I was getting into. But I was still surprised (or rather, reminded) how much an infant disrupts your entire life. I had high hopes of continuing to work on my start-up challenge over the summer, but baby #2 put the kibosh on that.

However, having a second child gave me even more ideas for potential startups. There is so much worry and work that goes into pregnancy, giving birth, and caring for an infant. And I think there is a lot of business potential in products and services that make parents’ lives easier.

So while I didn’t have time to write regular blog posts over the summer, I did have time to engage in a little self-study. Continue reading “Self-study research”

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Criteria for success (Startup Challenge – Part 2)

Over the past several days, I’ve generated 60+ startup ideas by following my idea generating process I blogged about last week. When I look over my list of ideas I have a lot of “gut feelings” about them. Some of the ideas seem too simple, some seem too complex, some seem dumb, and some seem beyond my skill set. While I think it is important to, at times, trust your gut. I also think it’s important to not throw away an idea before you at least consider its merits.

In today’s post I’ll go over my personal criteria to evaluate each startup idea. Similar to my idea generating process, I created this list of criteria for myself. I designed this list to help me think critically about each of the ideas I generated. I recommend that you take what I’ve written here as a starting point, do some more reading and research, and create your own idea evaluation process tailored to what’s important to you.

Continue reading “Criteria for success (Startup Challenge – Part 2)”

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3 ways to validate your startup idea without building a damn thing

picture of yellow measuring tape, with the words "validate first, build later" written overtop

Last week, I shared my ideas about MVE’s: Minimum Viable Experiments. To recap, an MVE is a type of experiment that should…

  • require minimal set-up,
  • require minimal cost and materials, and
  • ultimately help you determine whether you’ve got a startup idea worth pursuing, or not.

MVEs are great because they take the focus away from building and shift it towards validating. In fact, I think that the longer you can pursue your startup idea without building anything, the more open you’ll be to new ideas, and the more successful you’ll be when it comes time to execute.

So to help you embrace the validate first, build later mantra, I’ve created a list of three ways to test your startup idea without building a damn thing:

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The MVE: Minimum Viable Experiment

picture of beakers and experimental jars with the words "the minimum viable experiment" written over top

You have all been dutifully instructed to “fall in love with the problem, not the solution.” A lot of ink (virtual or otherwise) has been spent making sure you do your customer research. But as much as the start-up crowd seems to value research,  it still seems like you can’t call yourself a “real entrepreneur” until you build something.

For example, if you spend your time investigating better ways to help senior citizens get to where they want to go, you’re just a do-gooder. But if you tell everyone you are making the “Uber for Seniors,” you are suddenly an entrepreneur.

Even the Lean movement, which espouses an experimental approach, puts a lot of focus on building something. (That “something” being the “minimum viable product.” Emphasis on product.)

I think that would-be entrepreneurs would find a lot more freedom to explore and grow their ideas if there was less pressure to come up with a “thing” to build. Instead, it may be better to focus on conducting worthwhile experiments. So in this post I’d like to introduce the MVE: minimum viable experiment.

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The Startup Pitch

set of clear elevators with the words "perfect your startup pitch" written overtop

In graduate school, whenever we were getting ready to attend a conference, we would all get together to practice our elevator pitches. In theory, the reason we practiced our pitch was that if by some miracle we found ourselves on an elevator with a philanthropically inclined Bill Gates we’d be ready to win him over with a 30 second spiel on our research. In practice, this never happened. We did use our elevator pitches to introduce ourselves to like-minded researchers and build our professional networks, which is almost as good.

The general formula we followed was:

Pitch = problem to solve + method to solve it

My pitch went something like this… Continue reading “The Startup Pitch”

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In an MVP, do looks matter?

Set of makeup brushes, with the words "In my MVP...do looks matter?" written over-top.

The value of building an MVP is getting your concept out in front of the world as quickly as possible so you can start gathering feedback. The keyword in Minimum Viable Product, of course, is “minimum”. An MVP should have minimum features and should require minimum work. A real MVP should just cross the the threshold from useless to functioning.

One question I get a lot is,

When it comes to building your MVP, do looks matter?

The TL;DR answer is : It depends. Probably not too much. But you should definitely come back to worrying about aesthetics as soon as you are ready to move on from MVP to a full product experience.

Continue reading “In an MVP, do looks matter?”

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Good startup ideas: Where do they come from?

Good Startup Ideas: Where do they come from?

Lately I’ve been thinking about startup ideas.  That is, I haven’t been thinking about any particular idea, but rather I’ve been contemplating how to generate good startup ideas. I’ve been noodling questions like…”where do ideas come from?” And, “how do you make an existing idea better?”

Continue reading “Good startup ideas: Where do they come from?”

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Strong ego required in entrepreneurship and design

Picture of a bubble floating in the air, with the words "strong ego required" written overtop.

Ego has a bad rap. Conceited, over-confident people are often described by the size of their ego, which has made “ego” a word we try to avoid. But it’s actually a useful concept to think about. In psychology, ego is defined as…

the part of the psychic apparatus that experiences and reacts to the outside world and thus mediates between the primitive drives of the id and the demands of the social and physical environment.”

In other words, it’s you. It’s the thinking, feeling, piece of you that deals with your instincts as well as the outside world. It’s the piece of you that makes decisions on how to act and behave. It’s the “bubble” your consciousness lives in.

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Why designers hesitate to take on startup clients

picture of man extending hand for handshake. "Why designers hesitate to take on startup clients," written overtop.

For the past year and a half I was a freelancing UX designer, and all of my clients were startups. I’ve recently decided to put my freelance business on the back burner for awhile to take a full-time position and pursue a few passion projects. This has given me some time to reflect on my experiences with startup clients. I realize that there were some startups that were amazing to work with, and others that had some Issues with a capital ‘I”. And when I’ve talked to other freelancing designers, I found that they encountered many of the same problems with startup clients. So here is a short list of reasons that designers hesitate to take on startup clients.

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What I learned about design through writing

What I learned about design through writing

After I finished my Ph.D, my brain was “done” with research and design. I wanted a new craft to pursue, and I decided to take up writing. After one round of NaNoWriMo I had written the most miserable, trite novel. And I loved it. I also had learned a lot of life lessons. First, I learned that all novels start off trite and miserable, but with discipline and hard work you can make them better. Then I realized writing and design are more similar than they are different (and that my brain wasn’t as done with research and design as I thought.) In this post I share three pieces of advice I learned on my brief foray into writing. These are mottos that all writers know, and designers could benefit from.

Continue reading “What I learned about design through writing”

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