So what’s next after coming up with an awesome minimum viable product (MVP)?

Once you have your MVP all set up, you’re ready to start talking to your potential customers. It’s time to float the idea of your exceptional new product or service. But you want to be able to validate the idea without spending a lot of money or investing time that you can’t afford. When you’re bootstrapping, every cent counts. This is where the Javelin Board – recently rebranded as the Validation Board – comes in. The Javelin Board is a brilliantly simple and economical way to test your startup idea.

What is the Javelin Board?

The Javelin Board is a concept developed by the Lean Startup Machine. The software is basically an interactive process board that you can use to track your MVP’s impact as you experiment with it. To get the best results throughout your testing period, you need to stay focused on your action steps. The Javelin Board helps you plot out each step so that you are on track all the time. The Javelin Board also helps you hone in and focus on the right customers for your business. By finding them early on, you can efficiently launch your startup and more quickly and successfully build out your business.

As a process board, the Javelin Board is a visual representation of your testing plan. By being able to visualize your current and future steps, you can make decisions regarding your product’s or service’s path faster. Speed is of course essential to any lean startup, but what about accuracy? The Javelin Board is structured in a way that helps you track accountability within your team at the same time. This way, you can make sure at a glance that everyone is on track with their targets.

As you take in the whole process on one board, you will be able to map out the success paths for the product or service and therefore build it better during your test run. The result is a product or service that meets consumer demands before its official launch. What better way to launch than to offer a product or service that consumers are already begging you to take their money for?

How Do I Use the Javelin Board?

Once you have your template, you can get it printed out or use it online. If you have an in-house team that loves to work with pen and paper, printing it out is a great way to encourage productivity. As a 2-foot by 3-foot poster on your conference room wall, imagine how it will work to stimulate action at every step. If you are working with a more tech-savvy team or a team of remote workers, the Javelin Board works just as well. Take advantage of the provided Google Docs template that you and your team can use for online collaboration.

Plus, when you’re ready to show off your findings to your co-founders or maybe make a pitch to gain a bit of outside funding, Javelin Board is ready, too. You can use the presentation templates to create a powerful PowerPoint or Keynote demo that will clearly show them each step taken during your test phase.

Running Your Validation Process

The process that the Javelin Board follows boils down to three basic areas.

First, you have your customers. This area focuses on discovering and understanding their needs as they relate to your product or service. The Javelin Board provides a simple way to record your interactions with consumers so that you can easily conduct analyses on them later on. You should start with at least four different types of potential customer groups to test out as you go through your assumptions later on.

Second, the Javelin Board provides you with a landing page feature. This is a very handy adjunct when the time comes to test out the demand-based solutions that your team has brainstormed. This is a great springboard for reaching out to your potential customer groups to tell them about your new product or service.

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Third, there is a survey tool that can help you to gauge and predict how and when you will achieve your product/market fit. After reaching out to your potential customer groups and creating hype for your proposed product or service, you will need to gather their feedback. Remember that this initial feedback is one of your best ways of judging viability.

Customer Focus

When you have the four different customer groups that you have identified, it’s time to start gathering their feedback. For each niche group, you should be aiming to learn valuable information about your product or service. As you proceed through the testing process, keep in mind that there are three sub-areas to the customer focus. These areas will help you stay on track to make the most out of your conversations with customers. This will not only help you to properly test the product or service, but also help you to map out next steps so that your product remains viable over the long term.

First, your tests should determine whether or not your MVP can successfully solve a real problem that has been identified within each customer niche. Second, you should be able to tell if your MVP is attractive enough so that each of these groups will be willing to pay money for the product or service. Third, and even though the answers to the first two question are positive, the testing phase should allow you to continue the learning process so that you can gather important information on how your product or service can be improved. Your target customers may be willing to pay money for the MVP that solves a problem, but the product or service should grow to be able to continually meet the growing needs of your customers beyond this initial test base.

Track Pivots

The portion at the very top of your Javelin Board is called “Track Pivots”. Use this section to note how many pivots your team has gone through from the time of the original product concept to its validation. This section also helps you to track your assigned teams based on the specific test areas: the Customer, the Problem, the Solution Hypotheses. As you populate this portion of your Javelin Board, you will see how your product or service has changed following each level of experimentation from the most to the least risky of assumptions. The Javelin Board provides for four pivots, but you may expand on it as needed, although you should really need only these four before finding whether the idea is feasible or not.

Design Experiments

Before moving on to actual experiments, you need to sit down with your team and thresh out your core assumptions. These are the elements that stand to make or break your business, depending on whether they are validated or fail to pass. Your core assumptions should be ranked from most to least risky and listed in the leftmost area.

Once your team has identified the riskiest assumption, you are ready to conduct your first round of experiments to test the validity of your idea. This lower section of your Javelin Board is dedicated to the validation process via the Exploration, Pitch, or Concierge methods. Don’t forget to define your Minimum Success Criterion before you proceed with validation! The rightmost area helps you track invalidated versus validated assumptions. For each of the former, you will go back to Track Pivots and pivot a core hypothesis or two. For the latter, you will simply go back to your assumptions and proceed to validate the next riskiest one.

Admire Your Viable Product or Service

At the end of these many rounds of testing and pivoting, you should come out with a viable product or service that you can be proud of. Your idea has been validated and is ready to face scrutiny from your mentors, peers, and most importantly, your customers. Take a moment here to appreciate your progress and make sure that everyone who worked hard to achieve these results gets a hearty pat on the back. Let yourself and your team know that you have all earned this time to sit back and feel good about your accomplishment.

A Real Life Example from Connor Gillivan

Hey everyone. Did you find that information to be useful in your startup journey? I know that I did when I was first starting my business, FreeeUp.

We had this idea to help other eCommerce business owners hire reliable freelancers that we had already vetted and worked with on our own eCommerce store, but we needed validation from our potential customer markets to see if it would be an idea that other business owners would be interested in.

Enter the Javelin Board. As a continuous learner, I had remembered reading about the Javelin Board and how it helped startups go from idea to validation with different customer markets. My co-founder and I hunkered down, came up with 4 ideas for potential customer markets, found people willing to have a quick phone call with us, and learned more about what people thought of our MVP.

At the time, the feedback was super helpful. Because we were in the early, early stages of building the company, we spread our wings wide and spoke with a handful of different business owners while also keeping a focus on the eCommerce owners that we thought the service would be most useful for.

At the end of the Javelin Board phone calls, we had learned a lot about our MVP and who it would be best for. We had validated through talking to different eCommerce business owners that this was indeed a service that they would be interested in using if it were everything we talked it up to be. We even had one person interested in hiring a freelancer from us from the initial Javelin Board phone call.

I can’t express how important this stage of building your startup is. You can spend hours and hours hunkered down in a room building your product or service, but you’ll never know if people will actually like it unless you get out of that room and talk to real potential customers. The Javelin Board guides you in that process and can be repeated time and time again as you go through the first year of growing your business.

Don’t fall into the trap of skipping this step. When you validate your business idea by talking to real customers, there is a good chance that you can get your first customer from those conversations. When you land your first customer, you can tap into their network to land your second. So on and so forth until you have an amazing first set of customers that truly believe in your product or service. When you have customers on your side, they will help you to grow by referring you to others. That is a powerful process that can unfold.