It's easy to get excited about a new business idea, especially when your family and friends are cheering you on, but it's wise to pump the brakes and slow down a bit.
The reality is that not all businesses can succeed. According to the Small Business Administration, roughly half of all small businesses started in the U.S. do not make it more than five years. It's important to test out the validity of your business idea before you invest your time and financial resources—and most definitely before you quit your day job.
You can't just rely on the enthusiastic support of your friends when it comes to business decisions. To seek out neutral, unbiased advice, consider these five sites to garner feedback on new business ideas.
Reddit hosts online discussions about virtually any topic imaginable. Redditors vote on which "stories" (potential business ideas) and discussions are important. The hottest stories rise to the top, while other stories sink.
It's relatively easy to start a Reddit thread, and you can certainly get some good, unbiased feedback on your ideas. There are quite a few sections, or "subreddits," so make sure you create your discussion in an appropriate area. Common subreddits for business ideas include Small Business or Entrepreneur. There's also SideProject, where you'll find constructive feedback on side projects and start-ups.
Upvotes are everything on Reddit, so to get the most out of this site, you need to phrase your story in a way that piques the interest of users.
GrowthHackers is a community that aims to share ethical online marketing techniques, driving effective, scalable, and sustainable growth. The focus here is skewed toward marketing-related products and technology start-ups, but it's an incredible forum for getting feedback and ideas on how to go about acquiring your first customers. It's a place where marketers share and discuss what matters most to them, in terms of driving sustainable customer growth.
Startups.com and Clarity
Startups.com is a startup launch platform designed to help new businesses find customers, funding, press, and mentors. The site is broken down into sections that assist new businesses in areas like creating websites (Launchrock), providing access to crowdfunding (Fundable), and drafting business plans (Bizplan).
Clarity is Startups.com's marketplace that connects entrepreneurs with top advisors and industry experts. The experts help new entrepreneurs conduct market research, get strategic business advice, and learn specialized skills that can help them grow their business. Clarity includes a Q&A section where members can ask specific questions. There are over 30,000 verified experts from top cities around the world who contribute to those answers.
If your niche is in marketing, or if you're seeking advice on bringing in your early customer base, GrowthHub is a forum specifically for you. Formerly known as Inbound, GrowthHub describes itself as “a place where growth professionals (marketing, sales, and service) connect, collaborate, and learn." They have over 100,000 members in the community that'll help you validate your business idea in the marketing or content space.
GrowthHub is all about sharing, so start by contributing to other people's conversations before you post your requests for idea validation. However, once you are seen as a valuable member of the community, you are likely to gain invaluable feedback from experienced and knowledgeable marketers.
PickFu is an online tool that you can set up to receive instant, unbiased, and insightful public opinion about any question you pose. Entrepreneurs use this tool to validate business ideas while they're still in their infancy. However, Pickfu isn't free. It'll run you $50 for around 50 poll responses.
These respondents are chosen and paid by Pickfu, so they might not necessarily match your targeted customer base. While they might not match your exact customer base, the respondents are neutral, and they genuinely want to help.
Get Your (General) Ideas Out There
The importance of seeking unbiased feedback on your business ideas before spending time on the creation phase cannot be overemphasized. A wrong assumption could easily become a costly mistake.
When you're sharing your ideas, be conscious of how much detail you include. The last thing you want to see is a copycat version of your business beat you to the market. There is a difference between pitching general concepts and ideas, versus posting intimate details that others could easily replicate. Keep your pitches general to protect your best ideas.
Finally, don't go into this process with thin skin. Be prepared to get some less-than-flattering comments.
Don't take it personally! If the criticism appears valid, accept it and either improve your business idea or move onto an entirely new one. Be relieved that you heard the criticism; you've been spared a potentially expensive learning experience.