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Validating Your Startup Idea In 5 Weeks

Shope Delano

Brand and Content Manager

There’s a gap between having an idea and validating it as a venture-scale business, and more often than not founders are left to their own devices when trying to cross it. Our Founders Programme initiative - which is now in its 3rd run - seeks to solve this by bringing venture-level services and access to top-tier startup operators to founders at a stage where such resources are typically less accessible. 

The programme consists of 5 deep-dive workshops over the course of 5 weeks, curated to help you turn your back-of-a-napkin concept into a venture-ready proposition. With our 3rd programme now coming to a close, I wanted to share the week-by-week schedule our founders go through, alongside links to various Path Forward guides so you can run your idea through a similar process. 

All of our guides are put together by our investors, and in-house product and marketing experts, many of whom were former founders, so you’re in great hands. I'd recommend using these guides as a starting point and building on them through the further reading lists contained at the end of most articles.
 

Creating Your 5-week Founders Programme 

 

Week 1: Introduction to VC & Customer Development 

Week 1 is about getting acquainted with the mechanics of VC, and diving into the fundamentals of how to research your idea and talk to customers. Your goal at the end of this week should be to:

  1. Understand the nuances of venture capital,
  2. Evaluate and research your idea to understand whether it can deliver venture-scale returns, and
  3. Start talking to users.

The mechanics of VC

"We offer terms to 0.2% of the opportunities we see. The chances of raising VC investment are far lower than getting into that high school, top university or coveted corporate job. In fact, you have a 11.8% higher chance of getting into Harvard Business School.

Chris Corbishley MacBain in Raising VC investment: The odds and how to improve them 

Researching your idea and talking to customers

"At the earliest stages, products are often recently launched or maybe even just a bunch of ideas, hypotheses and assumptions while teams are both easy and very hard to assess as that’s a subjective matter. That leaves “market” as the only real quantitative element that we can grapple with. As a result, we spend a good amount of time assessing the market… and you should too!

Matt Bradley in How to know your market.

 

Week 2: Build A Lean Canvas 

The second week is about mapping out the key components of your business and thus identifying the key assumptions. Your goal at the end of this week should be to:

  1. Build a lean canvas, and
  2. Identify your key assumptions, and start testing them (or build an action plan for how you would test them).

Lean Canvas

"Paul Graham famously said - “No product survives its first interaction with a user”. So it is invaluable that once you feel confident that you have identified a strong need through user research that you build a prototype and get it in front of users quickly.

Dharmesh Raithatha in Test your startup idea in a week with design sprints.

Week 3: Understanding Growth Marketing 

During week 3, we explore growth marketing and how to implement growth marketing processes in order to find your first 10 customers and consequently reach a wider customer base. Your week 3 goals should be to:

  1. Understand the fundamentals of growth marketing, and
  2. Identify what early tests you could run once you launch.

Growth Marketing

"A growth engine is a set of activities that you can systematically undertake to drive growth. This could be as simple as running an AdWords campaign or blogging and sharing your content. Typically though, these are more complex constructs made up of lots of moving parts. Lots of parts usually means that the engine can be iterated on and optimised well by tackling each part at a time.

Thomas MacThomas in Growth Marketing Fundamentals: Growth Engines & Loops.

Week 4: Fundraising 101

Getting clued up about how to craft and refine a great pitch deck, and how investors evaluate entrepreneurs is the focus of the fourth week. During this week you should be single-minded in understanding all components of the fundraising process - from outreach to your pitch deck, to your general comms - so that you can set yourself up for success.

Raising money

"The more confident you are with going off-topic and addressing our immediate concerns, the more meaningful the meeting will be, as investors will be able to dig deeper past the surface of your deck within the hour. Learn your pitch by topic (market, USP, traction etc) instead of relying too heavily on a chronological narrative. 

Katie Kim in Using communication to supercharge your fundraise.

Week 5: Mastering The Pitch 

This is the week that Founders Programme founders pitch our investors on the idea's that they've worked to validate over the past 4 weeks. You can simulate this step by reaching out to us via Office Hours (if you’re pre-launch) or share your deck with us (if you’re post-launch).

"Tech entrepreneurship (and by association, investing) has some ‘core texts’. One of these core texts is a book called Crossing The Chasm by Geoffrey Moore. The book deals with how to scale software companies however it contains a nugget of information about the rough formula for an elevator pitch. That formula, I believe, is the source code for all great pitch decks."

Matthew Bradley in The day zero pitch deck.


Our next Founders Programme will be running later in the year, so keep your eyes peeled for when applications go live. In the meantime, you can learn more about our Spring 2020 cohort here. Happy building!

 

Shope Delano

Brand and Content Manager

Shope is a marketer, writer and headshot photographer. As Brand and Content Manager at Forward Partners, Shope executes on our content strategy and works to build our awareness with early-stage founders. Prior to joining Forward Partners she worked at e-commerce and marketplace startups, initially as a content creator at ASOS, before moving onto support Drover and Common Objective with their communications and content. She has a strong interest in consumer brands and sustainability.

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