Assumptions: Start with your constraints

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Launching a startup means discovery. Previously, I talked about establishing good assumptions or business guesses before launching into interviews. Likely, your most critical assumptions deal with identifying and understanding customers. But how do you know you are asking good questions? How do you know you are getting somewhere with all those interviews?

It may help to have some constraints as you start. An important constraint is usually funding. Will you have enough runway towards the next milestone? But you might be working against other constraints such as talent, equipment, or time.  How might your interviews change with your unique constraints?

I knew a team developing a solution in healthcare. While the team knew the problem, they needed a good health economic justification for their solution. Even with a working MVP, this constraint influenced product design; early champions, and impacted their team. Understanding healthcare economics led to novel process observations, new metrics for documented value, and resulted in the recruitment of key team members.

Pinpointing your own constraints helps you ask better questions and hopefully steers you away from confirming your bias. Focus on the places where you fear the most resistance. If it is funding, talk (don’t pitch) to investors. If it is getting efficacy data, focus on key partners and understanding where and how to collect the necessary data. If it is manufacturing, explore early manufacturing partners and the economics of those engagements. Often, these answers will influence your product design, the key product features, and downstream, expensive processes like patents.

Not sure where to start? Start with Design Thinking exercises to focus on the ‘empathizing step.’ Find ways to dig into your users or customer’s processes so you can identify your riskiest assumptions and strategize around if and how to address your own critical constraints to deliver a delightful solution.

Overcome your constraints

Learn more about how CTC can support your discovery with programs like Ideadvance and how to leverage non-dilutive federal funding to help overcome your small businesses’ critical constraints.
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