We recently launched our first startup competition #GetStarted2014. We’re asking anyone and everyone to submit their ideas for web or mobile apps, no matter how big, small, disruptive or even how silly. The winner will get their idea developed into a working product as well as a hand with marketing and hosting.

I went to chat about #GetStarted2014 with BBC Radio Bristol recently, who asked me “what makes a good idea?”

It’s a difficult question to answer. There’s no sure fire way to know if an idea is good or bad. In most cases, it’s not even about how good an idea is, but rather, how well it’s been planned and executed.

I’ve been thinking it over for a while now and I’ve come up with these 5 questions to ask yourself to help you mature your startup idea and see if it’s worth pursuing.

NB: If your idea answers all 5 of these questions, you should definitely head over to #GetStarted2014 now and enter it!

1. Does my idea solve a problem?

Every successful business solves a problem.

“Successful entrepreneurs solve problems and in a way that we could not have imagined. When you look around you, every product and service you use were all created to solve a problem. You wanted to get from one place to another faster, you got a car. You wanted to get from one country to another faster, you got planes.” – Rahul Varshneya, Co-Founder of Arkenea

The first step to deciding if your startup idea is worth pursuing is to ask yourself “does my idea solve a problem?”

Varshneya points out that most successful companies were not the first to solve a certain problem. Before Google there was Altavista and Yahoo. Before Facebook there was MySpace.

Your startup idea doesn’t have to be original but it does need to have a Unique Selling Point…

2. How am I different from my competitors?

Your idea probably isn’t unique, so how are you going to differentiate yourself from your competitors? If you don’t know this, you need to head back to the drawing board. Without a Unique Selling Point, or USP, you’ll struggle to market your product to both customers and investors.

Take Zappos as an example. There are countless companies selling shoes on the internet. What made Zappos really stand out was their dedication to customer service.

Zach Bulygo warns budding entrepreneurs to consider the value of their USP before building their whole business around it in this article for Kissmetrics

“When you build your business and have your differentiating feature, you have to make sure it’s something people want. Too many businesses have failed because they built something for their needs but forgot to check if other people were having the same problems.”

3. Do I really care?

It may sound obvious but it can be easy to get carried away with how profitable your idea could be and forget about whether or not you actually care.

Starting your own business is never going to be easy. You’re almost definitely going to have to work long hours, for hardly any money, begging favours from friends, family and everyone else you’ve ever met. For most founders, the only thing that keeps them going is a passion for what they’re doing.

Angel investor Ben Yoskovitz must see passion in a startup before he’ll even consider investing…

“As an angel investor I’ve got to understand that. I’ve got to believe in your passion and dedication to the problem you’ve set out to solve, otherwise there’s a good chance that some future shiny object will catch your attention and you’ll move on.”

4. How obvious is it?

A lot of the best ideas are obvious in hindsight. Often, when I read about a new app or SaaS product I catch myself asking “how has no one ever thought of this before?”

Alistair Croll, author of Lean Analytics, believes that good ideas are obvious in hindsight…

“A successful business has to be so obvious, so blindingly stupid, that once it’s passed through the early adopter stage, the whole world will embrace it. This is the key to crossing the chasm into the mainstream.

The problem is that we have a kind of technology Stockholm Syndrome. We’re trapped by the way things are done today, and it’s really hard to see what could be, if we could only throw off the shackles of today. That’s why Blockbuster—which had customers, film licenses, and industry clout—collapsed under the weight of stores and employees while Netflix flourished, unfettered.”

5. Does anyone else actually want it?

One of the most common mistakes startups make is spending years developing a business for a market that doesn’t exist. We’ve seen it happen. Some founders get so caught up in adding new features, and tweaking existing ones, that they don’t actually end up releasing anything, or if they do, realising no one actually wants it.

Before you start developing anything, you need to test if there is a market for it. How do you do that? With a Minimum Viable Product, or MVP.

While it’s not a new idea, the MVP has become extremely popular with the rise of Eric Ries’ lean startup method. Ries defines an MVP as…

“The minimum viable product is that product which has just those [the basic] features and no more that allows you to ship a product that early adopters see and, at least some of whom resonate with, pay you money for, and start to give you feedback on.”

Learn more about developing a Minimum Viable Product here.

If you have good answers to all 5 of these questions, there’s a good chance you’re onto a cracking idea. Why not enter it in #GetStarted2014 now or get in touch to see how Simpleweb can help you turn your idea into a successful startup!

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