Validating Your Idea

“For us, getting to this understanding of how African users relate to technology, we thought were were really good at it but a lot of the assumptions we make, even in Nairobi, are not valid elsewhere.”
-Philip Walton, Co-founder of BRCK

Assumptions can be a very dangerous thing for most entrepreneurs. Refusing to test and validate them can lead to businesses built on assumptions that turn out to be wrong. Making sure this doesn’t happen comes down to making sure you validate your ideas.

These three stories show how African entrepreneurs focused on validating ideas in small and big ways, and how that impacted their businesses.

##Validating a Business Model

“In the back of my mind, I kept thinking about what development is happening for them, people in the village. What’s really relevant for the members of those communities? The number one talent is farming. Braintree farms was a way to employ farmers, improve their security, saying ‘what can you do at the last mile?’”
-Teddy Rouge, Founder of Raintree Farms, Co-founder of and Hive Colab

Teddy had a real vision for how Raintree Farms would work. But, that idea had to be validated in the field. All the good ideas in the world couldn’t prepare Teddy for the unknown unknowns that his business model would face there.

“We struggled for quite a while, from inception up to last year when we deployed a new model. We struggled with access to raw materials. We know the farmers have plenty of land, but it took us a while to realize the main problem is capital to cultivate the land. So we had to pivot.”
-Teddy Rouge, Founder of Raintree Farms, Co-founder of and Hive Colab

What was important for Teddy was his eagerness to validate his business model. That didn’t mean knowing it would work and fighting to prove that. It meant starting with an open mind and being willing to see it not work and change it in response. Teddy knew that the difference between those two mindsets is enormous.

“We’ll figure it out when we get there, you learn as the process evolves.”
-Teddy Rouge, Founder of Raintree Farms, Co-founder of and Hive Colab

##Validating Your Customer Understanding

“We said, let’s rethink the UX of how someone gets online for the first time. We elminated a lot of things we thought were cool but weren’t useful and added new things. we rethought the whole process.”
-Philip Walton, Co-founder of BRCK

Philip’s company BRCK was pretty certain they understood their customers and could build what they needed. But they were still open to the fact that actually meeting their customers and testing in the field was going to challenge those assumptions. So his team set out to validate their customer understanding.

To do this, they took their product, a sturdy tablet designed for use in rural villages, to the harshest environments they could find. They also put it in the hands of classes to see how the students would use it. They learned the home button was vulnerable to dust and that they needed to add colors to the headphones so the teach could easily tell students which ones were for the right and left ears.

##Validating Your Marketing Strategy

“If you’re making data based decisions, it saves you a lot of time and money. If you don’t have such a model, you have to make it based purely on other people’s opinions.”
-Samuel Njogu

For Chura, a company which allows mobile users to trade money, minutes, and data, their marketing strategy depending on constantly validating what they were doing. Instead of assuming something would work, they constantly insisted on using metrics to make decisions.

By avoiding running their business based on opinions and insisting that their ideas be validated, all three of these companies have been able to avoid costly mistakes and evolve quickly to meet the needs of their customers.