Validate your startup idea
Validate your startup idea

Validate your startup idea

Validating a startup idea is hard and requires dedication. In this post, I will share how we validated the idea behind Hello Tyro, a platform connecting students and startups for internship opportunities.

This piece would not have been possible without Laurent, my co-founder. The "we" along this post refers to the both of us.

How it all started

A new work status had just been created in Belgium called "student-entrepreneur" which offered financial perks for students who were looking to work and earn an income on the side.

We did not need much more to fuel our desire to take advantage of this new status and build something around it.

Two sides of the same coin

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Our core beliefs

Talented students can create value for startups
Startups are always looking for talent (cheap if it's possible)
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1st side of the coin

At the time, students mostly earned money with hospitality jobs. They worked as waiters, cashiers, and barmaids. As much as these jobs are very important, students in business school are looking for experiences that will direct them towards the things they want to do most and passionate about.

We believed that some could kick off their careers with jobs and professional experiences that could really make a difference on their resumes. Working for a fast growing startup as a marketeer or business developer would dramatically boost these students' learnings and growth .

2nd side of the coin

Now, I am pretty sure you've heard of the war on talent.

Startups are always looking for the best talents and are fighting over it. Plus, these nascent companies are often strapped for cash and looking to save as much as possible.

Time is also an important commodity for startups. You want to spend time on the things that create the most value for your company. Recruitment is one of the areas that gets overlooked when you are focused on building your business.

Offering a service that would make recruiting these bright young minds easier made a lot of sense.

Pivot, pivot, and pivot

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One thing we did a lot was to pivot. We did it countless times. šŸ„µ

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Two things to keep in mind

  1. Trust your gut! Don't be scared to pivot. If you're thinking about it, it's probably the right move.
  2. Ask questions. A pivot can only be beneficial if you do your research and talk to your prospective customers. Know what they want.

As I mentionned earlier, we started Hello Tyro because of the new work status that students could take advantage of.

We talked to startups, collected insights about their recruitment needs, and got our first few positions to recruit for. We then identified some very talented students that could fit the bill.

After a few weeks, we had some positive data points and feedback:

  • Startups were (mostly) happy with the performance of students.
  • Students loved the flexibility (e.g. working two days per week).
  • Students felt valued and well integrated in their respective startups.

We also had some negatives:

  • Startups were paying students and wanted value in return for the investment ā‡’ Lots of pressure on the students to create value from day 1.
  • Students felt they lacked mentoring from the founders and were not learning as much as they wanted.

The negatives won the argument.

Following this first failed attempt, we still had accumulated some valuable knowledge about the way startups did recruitment . We also had spent time talking to students. We felt their strong desire to learn and have meaningful professional experiences before graduating.

It made total sense to look closer at the internship market. We decided to get into that space.

Do things that don't scale

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First, what's an internship?

any official or formal program to provide practical experience for beginners in an occupation or profession.

We described ourselves at the recruitment agency for internships.

This meant finding the best 'match' between a student and a startup.

Here's what the process looked like from end to end:

  1. Students filled a chatbot on our website (contact, resume, internship type, ...).
  2. We pre-selected the ones that could fit the offers we were recruiting for, and planned video call interviews with each of them.
  3. 30 minutes interviews to get to know the candidate, aspirations, motivations, and interests.
  4. Mix and match students with offers, see if any could catch their attention.
  5. Send the student's information to the startup and get their feedback.
  6. If positive, set up the interview between the company and the candidate.
  7. Close the recruitment if outcome of the interview was positive.

This was a rather long process which required a lot of human time, and tons of interactions.

You're probably thinking a lot of these tasks weren't necessary, or could even be automated. They were... But we would have never learned as much about the specificity of startup recruitment, students' expectations, and much more if we had.

We knew we were onto something but we hadn't found the right formula.

Idea validation is very different from solution validation.

Conclusion

Step one of validation is one paying customer. Someone gave you money in return for a promised value you offer through your product or service.

Spend time doing things manually. It took me some time to really understand this "do things that don't scale" quote but after experimenting like we did, I finally got it. By spending time doing some things over and over such as student interviews, or talking with startups, I accumulated a great amount of knowledge about our target. With it, we were able to say "Yes, there is an opportunity here" and start shaping a product that would satisfy many of these pains and problems that students and startups shared with us.

Expose your idea. Building in a close silo is the sure way to build something that nobody wants. BGo out and talk with your audience, and prospects.

Ask questions.

Collect feedback.

Iterate.

A startup is nothing but a series of validations.

Idea validation is only step one of building a successful startup or side-project.

How you capture this value you create is the next crucial step so you can grow and scale your activity to reach profitability.

This is a topic I will cover soon in which I will tell you more how we productized this recruitment agency with a platform built with #nocode tools.

Additional readings

Startup Builder MBA: a comprehensive tool to plan + validate your business idea and shorcut your path to firs sale before losing too much time and money. Built by Jose Bermejo.

Disclaimer: This is my affiliate link.

Hypothesisly: a tool that helps you keep track of all your hypotheses and insights from customers interviews when validating you venture idea. Built by Lena Sesardic.

Coming soon...

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