Module 1: Problem Validation (aka Why Does My StartUp Exist)

January 08, 2024 4 mins read

The key to a good problem statement is focusing on the problem itself, not the solution. The problem validation workbook ask you to exclusively focus on the problem definition.

The problem you solve is the foundation of your go-to-market strategy and the cornerstone of understanding the value chain you operate within.


SU001.2 Why Does My Startup Exist Problem Validation by James Sinclair

SU001.2 Why Does My StartUp Exist (Problem Validation)

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    Purpose: To rigorously define and validate the core problem your startup aims to solve, ensuring a clear and deep understanding of the issue at hand and its relevance in the market.

    Earned Right: Completing this module authorizes you to proceed to the next stage of development. It confirms that the problem is real, significant, and merits a solution. This foundational clarity is crucial for moving forward with confidence and direction in developing a meaningful and viable solution strategy.

    Completing the Framework: Completing this step earns you the right to assess whether the problem holds sufficient accretive value to justify exploring potential solutions. It’s crucial to remember that sometimes you might have the problem area right, but not the exact point of maximum impact. If that’s the case, consider widening the scope of the problem and think about all the steps where the most friction might lie or where the highest opportunity for impact might be. You likely have the beginning of a beginning.

    Guidance for Each Section:

    The Problem:

    • Focus on clearly defining the problem. Think broadly and critically about all aspects of the problem.
    • Consider how the problem affects different stakeholders. What are the broader implications?
    • Examine existing solutions and their limitations. Why are they not sufficient?

    The Market:

    • Gauge the market’s awareness of the problem. Are they actively seeking solutions?
    • Define who exactly is experiencing this problem. Go beyond demographics to understand their experiences and needs.
    • Evaluate the market size and growth potential. How big is the opportunity here?

    The Validation:

    • Gather evidence that validates this problem as a significant one for your target market. What proof do you have that people are willing to pay for a solution?
    • Identify key metrics that would improve by solving this problem. How does solving this problem change things for your potential customers?

    Taking Action:

    • Once you have completed the framework, review your answers and assess the depth and clarity of your understanding of the problem.
    • If you find gaps or areas where your understanding is shallow, take the time to research, conduct interviews, or gather more data.
    • Remember, the goal is to have a comprehensive understanding of the problem before even considering the solution.

    Next Steps:

    • After completing this framework and understanding the problem in-depth, you’ll be better positioned to explore potential solutions.
    • Use the insights gained from this exercise to guide your approach to solving the problem in a way that genuinely meets market needs.

    Final Thoughts:

    • Approach this exercise with an open mind. Be willing to challenge your assumptions and be ready to uncover new insights.
    • Remember, the foundation of a successful startup lies in deeply understanding the problem you are trying to solve.

    Example 1:

    • Not a Problem Statement: “Our solution helps people find a great place to eat when traveling.”
    • Corrected Problem Statement: “Travelers often struggle to find quality local dining options due to unfamiliarity with the area and overwhelming online choices.”

    Example 2:

    • Not a Problem Statement: “Our app streamlines project management for small teams.”
    • Corrected Problem Statement: “Small teams frequently face challenges in coordinating tasks and tracking progress due to limited resources and lack of specialized project management tools.”

    Example 3:

    • Not a Problem Statement: “We provide a platform for efficient online grocery shopping.”
    • Corrected Problem Statement: “Consumers experience difficulty in quickly sourcing and purchasing groceries online, often encountering issues with product availability, delivery options, and time efficiency.”

    Example 4:

    • Not a Problem Statement: “Our wearable device monitors heart rate for athletes.”
    • Corrected Problem Statement: “Athletes, especially in high-endurance sports, lack accessible tools to continuously monitor and analyze heart rate data for optimizing their training and performance.”

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