90% of startups are failures. How do you minimize the risk of wasting a lot of time on a project that nobody wants? You can of course use specialized startup services. But here are a few more tips.

Don’t measure yourself – survey your target audience

Popular misconception: A startup idea is great because it solves my immediate problem, which probably worries a lot of people. It’s even worse if the idea is created in a vacuum – when it just seems like it might be useful to someone. But what if there aren’t people in your country who need the service of calling a garbage sorter to their home? An ingenious idea that came to you under the shower might not interest the audience.

Don’t be too quick to admire the idea. Ask potential customers if they are interested in your proposal and how they cope with the problem that you offer a solution. Maybe people don’t have one at all, and their mom and a couple of friends complimented your idea as a courtesy. It’s not enough to ask 100 or 1,000 people if they’re willing to pay for your product. It’s better to ask open-ended questions, asking what, how and why. 

Try automating the familiar

Solve the problem of routine operations in a field you know well. That’s exactly what UBER did. It used to be that you had to find a cab company, call and explain where to come. Then you had to pick up the phone to know the car was at the door and check if you had enough cash in your wallet to pay. UBER’s service solved these pains.

Where’s the money, or why there’s no such thing as free products

Someone makes a product that people would love to use, but they’re not willing to pay for it. Hence the popular conclusion – there’s no point in continuing with the project. But it might be worth changing the perspective. Completely free products don’t exist. Either users pay you for your product, or they become your product.

When users are willing to pay, everything is clear. Often the standard ways of monetization are used: advertising, paid subscriptions, direct sales. If people are interested, but don’t want to pay – it’s about accumulating a base of loyal users who may be of interest to the buyer.

You can team up with another service, which will pay for the integration and the users brought to it. You can exchange data with the partner and show targeted advertising. Another option is to grow a loss-making product for sale. Sooner or later it may attract a large company that is looking for a popular or niche product and doesn’t want to waste time on development and risk.