Startup Advice from Youngstown Business Incubator & Huntington Bank Entrepreneur in Residence Jim Cossler

Tips from the Chief Evangelist

Startup advice from Youngstown Business Incubator & Huntington Bank Entrepreneur in Residence Jim Cossler


One of the biggest problems we see with entrepreneurs – especially first-time entrepreneurs – is that they invest a lot of time and money in building a new product or new solution without really doing any market validation whatsoever.


That’s a huge, huge mistake.


Before you even build the product, before you even begin to think about the service, validate that there is a market for it – that people will be willing to pay for it.


Now, when we challenge people that they don’t have a verified market, one of the things they always say to us is, “No, Jim, I validated it, I verified it.”


Well, how did you do that? “Well, Jim, every single person I talked to loves my idea.”


What I can tell you absolutely is that you cannot get first-person validation of a market. It’s just human nature that everyone will “love” your idea, and without an outside perspective, you cannot be equipped to make informed business decisions.

So, there are some ways you can do that. One of the easiest ways to do it is to distance yourself from the product. When you’re talking about the product or service, take away your ownership of it. The conversation goes a little more like this:

“Hey! I’ve got this friend who’s got this idea. I don’t even know if it’s a great idea, I’m not even sure if I like it. But here’s what it is, and what do you think of it?” You are now getting third-party validation, and you will get a much more honest answer. Invite criticism – criticism is important to understand your product or service better and grow before you’ve even begun.

YBI itself conducts very scientific market validation studies for its startups. We can share with you the methodologies of how we do that – reach out to us at [email protected].


About the Author

Madeline Grimes is a Monus Entrepreneurship Fellow at the Youngstown Business Incubator and Junior student at Youngstown State University, where she studies Arts Administration and Marketing Management with a minor in Nonprofit Leadership.