by Salman Ansari


About Me

  1. Software developer by trade (mostly Ruby/Rails and iOS)
  2. Teach lots of web development (BEWD, iXperience)
  3. Founding engineer of involver (acquired by Oracle)
  4. DJ for fun (progressive house, techno)


Spending time planning a business idea cannot guarantee success,

but ignoring that step essentially guarantees failure.

 Measure Twice, Cut Once

Define: Idea

For this session, we're defining it as a product idea that can be delivered to a market to create a profitable business.

Typical Sources of Ideas

  1. Spontaneous [lightbulb moment in shower]
  2. Insider [working in an industry for a long time]
  3. Deliberate [purposefully seeking change]

Ideas can come from any source, at any time.


The key is to look for them constantly, learn to compare and measure them effectively, and to act quickly.



5 Steps to Build an Idea

  1. Inspiration [finding problems]
  2. Evaluation [market research]
  3. Research [understanding users]
  4. Validation [prototyping ideas]
  5. MVP [focus, focus, focus]


What problem should I solve?

How Do I Find Problems?

  1. Make product discovery a habit
  2. Keep a list of potential problems to solve
  3. Discuss ideas with peers regularly
  4. Networking is key to discovering opportunities
  5. Be open-minded, let ideas flow freely
  • You should be able to identify a specific set of users who are affected by the problem you describe
  • The primary purpose of this stage is to give you an area of focus, not a solution
  • Ideal (but not necessary) that you have a personal interest
  • Example problem statement:
    • "It's extremely difficult to find the nearest hospital that has specialists for patients suffering from X."

Define the Problem


Is there a market for a solution?

In order to evaluate the viability of your business idea,

you need to do some competitive analysis,

and establish a business model that you can pursue.

Competitive Analysis

  • Find and study existing competitors thoroughly
  • Try and understand why companies fail, and succeed
    • e.g. Friendster/Facebook, Google Glass, Segway
  • Focus on a few key metrics of each business, such as:
    • yearly revenue
    • # of employees
    • # of transactions (e.g. sales)
  • Try to find analogous business structures, and see how your idea would fit with the same model
    • sometimes there is no existing model. in general, you will have a harder time succeeding in this case, but that's OK.

Try and understand the reasons for success/failure outcomes for as many products/businesses as you can.


Trust me. It's worth your time.


P.S. That's what an MBA is (thousands of case studies).

StudYING Outcomes

CreatING a Business Model

  • Using existing templates from successful business models
  • Strive to redefine / evolve your idea to fit what the data tells you 
    • numbers can be rough
  • ​Start with something simple
    • e.g. app that collects hospital specialist data from API X, and displays it in a simple UI. we will partner with hospitals, and earn revenue through referrals.


Who is affected by this problem, and how?

User Research: Steps

  1. Identify your target users
    • e.g. emergency patients
  2. Make some rough estimations as to the market size
    • e.g. how many per day? per hospital? per city?
  3. Develop a plan to conduct user research
  4. Identify data patterns, establish user personas
    • creating a "post-it wall" of data can help visualize the data
  • Let the data sink in. It might take a while. 
  • Spend time and effort to make sense of the data, discover the hidden insights.
  • Don't bias your questions, or ask leading questions.
    • e.g. Don't ask "Would you use a product that did X?"
  • If you look for a pre-determined answer, you are sure to find it.
  • Don't interview friends... instead look for friend-of-friends, or better yet, complete strangers. They will speak the truth.
  • Learn to asses the value of each interview, cut short if necessary

User Research: Tips


Will people actually use this?

Now that you have a clear business idea, you need to test if it would meet user needs, and expend the minimum amount of effort.




Building Prototypes

  • Prototypes don't have to be complicated
  • Many fantastic tools out there to help make interactive web and mobile prototypes quickly & easily
  • Simple goal: convey your idea in an interactive way so users can visualize it and give you quick feedback

P.S. I'm building a mobile prototyping class

Prototypes are designed to save you time and effort from development costs. Sometimes, developing a working/code prototype is faster than using a prototyping tool.


If that's the case, go with code. Do what works best for you.

Do The Simplest Thing


What is the minimum needed to satisfy user needs?

Building an MVP

  • The key to building an MVP is deciding which features to build
    • use feedback from prototypes to determine which features are the "must-haves" vs the "nice-to-haves"
  • If you do it right, your MVP will feel like it's missing a lot of features, and you'll feel like it's not ready. But it will ship.
  • Only you can determine which features are required. Trust your (well-informed) intuition.
  • This may be a good time to invite others to join the effort.
    • hiring / finding cofounders is a difficult task. do lots of research. take it seriously (you're getting married to them).

The key to a great MVP is focus.



  1. Inspiration [finding problems]
  2. Research [understanding users]
  3. Evaluation [market research]
  4. Validation [prototyping ideas]
  5. MVP [focus, focus, focus]

You can always iterate, but you have to start somewhere.


"I’ve been in this industry for 20 years. This is the best time to raise money ever. It might be the best time for any kind of business in any industry to raise money for all of history, like since the time of the ancient Egyptians. It’s certainly the best time for late-stage start-ups to raise money from venture capitalists since this dynamic has been around."


-Stewart Butterfield, Slack CEO






twitter | @daretorant

        web |         

Building an Idea

By Salman Ansari

Building an Idea

How to generate potential ideas for your next startup!

  • 2,859
Loading comments...

More from Salman Ansari