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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Generating Startup Ideas (Startup Challenge – Part 1)

lit up lightbulb on a wooden desk, with the words, "generating startup ideas" written over top

Last week I announced that I would be taking on the Startup Challenge:

Try to take a start-up idea as far as you can without building a thing.

So I’m kicking off my efforts by launching into a startup ideas brainstorming session.

Continue reading “Generating Startup Ideas (Startup Challenge – Part 1)”

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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:

Continue reading “3 ways to validate 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.

Continue reading “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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Review of “Emotional Design” by Don Norman

The book "Emotional Design" by Don Norman, sitting next to coasters depicting a llama and a brown coffee mug.

(Originally published on the UX Bookclub)

Usable design is good. Emotional design is better.

I first read Emotional Design in graduate school. I considered it light reading, compared to all of the thick, indecipherable academic texts I was consuming at the time. I remember loving it. But over-time, I started to forget the details. The message didn’t stick with me.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I saw Emotional Design as part of a library display of design books. I decided, on a whim, to take it home with me and read it for a second time. I’m glad I did.

Continue reading “Review of “Emotional Design” by Don Norman”

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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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UX Mini-lesson: Storyboards

In the background, there is a storyboard describing the user-centered startup use case. Over top, it says, "UX mini-lesson: Storyboards."

Storyboards are the UX designers’ secret weapon. They can be used in so many versatile ways, but require relatively little effort to make. Storyboards are a powerful design tool because they…

  • convey the “big picture” idea in just a few frames,
  • combine many design elements (personas, requirements, solutions, etc.) into one coherent story,
  • produce assets that can be shared, tested, and collaborated on,
  • and, most importantly, they force you think through and articulate the problem you are trying to solve and the requirements any solution would have.

Continue reading “UX Mini-lesson: Storyboards”

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Equity, Designers, and Startups

paper and pen with words overlayed "equity, designers, and startups"

In a recent post, I discussed some of the reasons a freelance designer might hesitate to take on a startup client. A primary reason designers may balk at working with a startup is compensation; specifically, not receiving it. One potential solution is to ask the startup for equity, but that brings its own list of concerns. For instance, consider this question from a freelancing UI/UX Designer that climbed aboard the startup train for the first time:

I’m serving as UI/UX and Front End Dev for a pre-money startup. They have 3 founders and one other employee, all technical and competent. I played a significant role in distilling their ideas into solid workflows, prototypes, and a defined scope for MVP. I will build the front end for the MVP. We have a good relationship and they want me to stay on board. I intend to get them at least to MVP, likely further. How do I contextualize my value?

Continue reading “Equity, Designers, and Startups”

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