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Most Startups begin from a “I could really use a…” or “It would be great to be able to…” moment. Then (hopefully) follows a brief period of market research, before the entrepreneur starts enthusiastically building the product.

There’s also another way to go about it. Instead of first having a product and then finding a market for it, first select the target market and then create a product that the market needs. Find the market first!

Both ways can of course lead to a successful startup, but the latter way is less risky. In some cases your customers may well be so convinced about your solution, that they may put down money to preorder it before it’s even being made!

1. Find the market

It’s best to choose a certain market segment that is interesting to you and you have some expertise in. Additionally it needs to be a group that is large enough and has money to spend. You also need to bear in mind who will be paying for the product. Is it the target user, or someone else entirely? For example, you might want to help school teachers by building a system for tracking student attendance, but if schools don’t have extra funds to pay for it, you won’t be able to sell.

2. Collect data and find a problem to solve

At this stage you need to spend a lot of time observing your target market and asking plenty of questions about the problems it faces. Soon enough, you will hopefully start seeing patterns and can identify a common pain point that you are able to solve.

A good amount of time should be spent on this step, as the success of your product will depend on it. You need to make sure that there will be demand for what you’re building!

3. Propose a solution

Once you know the problem, it’s time to come up with a solution. Ideally, make some simple mockups/drawings/prototype of your solution to allow your potential customers to actually see and feel the product. Then go out and show it to several people representing your future clients. Listen to their comments and suggestions and ask them if they would use the product.

If you’re planning on hiring designers, developers, or any other talent to help you, it is especially important to try to get people to commit early. Give them a realistic estimate of how long it will take to build your product and offer them a discount for being your first customer. If they are convinced, they may be willing to pay for it upfront.

4. Build & Sell

Hopefully by this point, you’ll have some money in the bank and some customers waiting for you to launch. Build your product as quickly as possible and get it out to them.

Once it’s ready, you should have no problems getting your next clients, because it should be exactly what they have been looking for!

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