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Why I had to crush a 15 year old’s dream (I’m not sorry)

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A few months ago I had lunch with a bunch of highschool aged entrepreneurs to give them feedback on their idea.

They were planning on building an energy generating play park for kids.

Now, I don’t mean to come off as a direct poo-pooer of dreams…

… but after 15 minutes of listening to their pitch I decided to ask some questions that I knew were going to shatter their excitement.

  1. Have you figured out the average time a kid plays on a play park?
  2. If they did play with your version of a swing, how much energy would it generate?
  3. Does that amount generate a sizable amount of energy?
  4. What’s the added cost to build a swing your way vs. the existing way?
  5. Does the assumed energy production cover the additional cost?

“But, if this works this could change the way communities power their houses.” one blurts out.

He was clearly high on his own supply.

And look, I don’t mind overly enthusiastic founders building something never before seen.

It’s what the world depends on for progress.

But what bugs me more is waste.

Waste of time, talent and energy focused on solving a problem that they haven’t de-risked.

When I work with founders building high-tech software, I teach them the “Riskiest Assumption” framework.

That’s what I want to teach you in this week’s video.

(Before you hit play, I want to apologize for my hair sticking out like that – it annoyed the crap out of me too. My bad. :).

At a high level, here’s how I work through the steps:

  1. Assume I’m wrong
  2. Make a list of all the assumptions
  3. Break em’ up into categories: Customers (Who), Marketing (Where), Costs (How Much?), Technology (How)
  4. Sort by riskiest assumption (Highs go first)
  5. Use a validation step to get feedback: 1) Expert (fastest), 2) Experiment

Now, the reason most people don’t reach out to experts to validate their ideas is because they’re worried someone will steal it.

Don’t worry about that.

The fastest way to move is to reach out to those who would know the science, the best practices or the model that you need to validate ASAP to move forward.

I’m sure over the years you’ve tested some of your own assumptions…

… got any funny stories?

Be sure to leave a comment with your best ones.

I’ll add a few more of my own as well.


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The SaaS Metrics Dashboard: Is Your Company Growing The Way It Should Be?