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12 Ways to Get Brutally Honest Feedback on Your Startup Idea

04/28/2016 10:48 am ET

Talking to friends is a start, but they're more inclined to nod in support of your idea (even if it's not great). Here's how to put it to a blind test and get the feedback you need.

A. Actually Sell It

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Everyone wants to be nice and get excited, but there's a big difference between someone saying it sounds amazing and actually giving you their money. Once they're paying for it, they'll be happy to share their opinions and the feedback will be more useful, too. - Vishu Ramanathan, Buildout Inc

A. Try Google Consumer Surveys

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Spend a little bit of money, and have people who don't know you or care about your feelings give you feedback. If you're able to put together a working prototype that folks can pay for, even better. The best feedback comes from paying customers. - Adam Steele, The Magistrate

A. Talk to Potential Customers

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Business is ultimately about providing a product or service that solve's somebody's problem. How you solve the problem is what makes you valuable in business. Ask potential customers to narrow down the exact features and benefits they are looking for to solve their problem. Ask different types of potential customers to discover an ideal customer type. Ask good questions to get good answers. - Andy Karuza, FenSens

A. Organize Focus Groups

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Get together industry or consumer segments that would be interested in your product or service and do a presentation where you could then receive immediate feedback as part of a group discussion. The individual responses and the reactions to those responses could help you determine if it's a viable idea. - Peter Daisyme, Invoicing

A. Find a Smart Accountant

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It's customary -- even logical -- to get your business on its feet, and then find a tax accountant to help do your books. However, you shouldn't wait until that long to get input from these guys. Accountants see dozens of businesses, many of them very similar to yours. They see the same mistakes made again and again. Go to one of these accountants first, and you'll be glad you did. - Brandon Stapper, 858 Graphics

A. Ask an Incubator, Investor or Mentor

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An investor or incubator is always looking for something good to take under their wing while mentors are happy to also guide entrepreneurs. Typically, they have the experience and knowledge to know what will work and what won't. That's why these types of people are good sounding boards for your startup idea. They will be more than happy to provide an objective opinion. - Cynthia Johnson, American Addiction Centers

A. Ask Someone Totally Different From You

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Make sure the people you talk to don't think just like you. For example, getting an outside perspective from a "stranger" at your gym, where the demographic is similar would not be diverse. Make sure you are targeting the exact opposite of you in terms of age, race and location. - Kim Kaupe, ZinePak

A. Run Facebook Ads

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Set up a $100 campaign and run 10 ads with different titles (same graphic) and see which gets the highest click rate. This will help you decide your best value proposition and, inevitably, market demand. - Carter Thomas, Bluecloud Solutions

A. Crowdfund

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When we launched our crowdfunding campaign for our video doorbell, I received over 1,000 emails directly from people who backed the project or were interested. We shaped our product definition and user experiences directly from this list, essentially giving the people what they wanted. The specific feedback was priceless. Also, the project's success validated a strong need for our idea. - Andrew Thomas, SkyBell Video Doorbell

A. Validate Your Market and Ask Specific Questions

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With a little bit of research, you can easily find real pain points in your target market. Make sure you have an idea of what's going to solve them. Then, when you're asking for feedback, be as specific as you possibly can. Otherwise, you won't get objective answers. - Ismael Wrixen, FE International

A. Participate in Pitch Competitions

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Pitch competitions are often considered to be a waste of time -- building a two-minute story instead of actually building your business. But if you're just starting out, they provide an incredible way to make progress. The constraints of the competition will force you to clarify your business, and once you put your best foot forward, you'll get direct feedback on your idea's viability from experts. - Aaron Schwartz, Modify

A. Ask, Observe, Engage

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Try "The Human Centered Design" method, which solicits client insight and feedback through a three-step process: ask, observe and engage. Ask your clients for feedback directly. Observe them in the context of their typical environment. Engage them with your product to see how they use it, what works and what doesn't. - Christopher Kelly, Convene

These answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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