Proven Need

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Surfacing your startup assumptions using a business canvas

Dharmesh Raithatha

Product Partner @ Forward Partners

Before you get too far with your idea, make sure you're solving a problem that other people are actively trying to solve.

Key takeaways:

  • It's wise to test your assumptions before you build out your product;
  • A good way to do this is to complete a lean canvas;
  • You might be solving a problem that's important to you – but is it one that others are looking to solve?

When we’re considering working with a founder to fund their startup, we’ll run a two-hour workshop to help us understand their thinking about their business. We structure the workshop around the ‘lean canvas’ It's simple tool where we cover all aspects of your business. We ask founders to fill in the lean canvas before they come in for the first meeting. The lean canvas covers:

  • Your problem
  • Your solution
  • Your key metrics
  • Your unique value proposition
  • Your unfair advantage
  • Your customer segments
  • Your channels
  • Your cost structure
  • Your revenue.

It essentially covers all the bits of your business. We find that 80% have never done this before. However, everybody finds it valuable whether we decide to invest or not. In the workshop we go through every single part of the lean canvas, and we normally find that the founder has made a lot of assumptions about their business. Our job is to bring all these assumptions to the surface, so that we can test them as fast as possible to see if they hold water. Startups are about making a bet on an idea. You want to understand as quickly – and as cheaply – as possible whether that idea is worth pursuing.

Is your problem really a problem?

People often approach us at Forward Partners with an idea, and say: "I know this solves a problem." They just want to get the money and go and build the product to solve that problem. But I say: "Let's just take a step back and really see if there's a problem here and, if so, what kind of problem it is." That’s why the first thing that we do is go out and really understand how people are already trying to solve the problem you’re talking about. People will sometimes insist that they 100% know there’s a problem. Even so, they’re still not ready to go ahead and build it. I tell them: “Yes, there is a problem, but now we're trying to build a product to solve that problem, and all you've given me is a very crude definition of that problem." The thing to remember is that you’re still at the idea stage, so you have the luxury that nothing’s ‘baked in’ yet. It’s all up for grabs.

Useful links

  • LeanStack - Tool to create your own lean canvas - by Ash Mauyra
Dharmesh Raithatha

Product Partner @ Forward Partners

Dharmesh is Product Partner at Forward Partners and helps founders the've backed go from ideas to a great products and businesses. He has a passion for User Research, Lean UX and using data to inform decision making. Dharmesh has a background in artificial intelligence and has been doing product for over 12 years in his own or other high profile startups.

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