When first starting out, at the idea-picking stage, I try to advise people to pick at least three ideas to run validation tests on to see if customers are willing to pay.

Here’s a little example of why that is an optimal strategy:

Let’s say you were drilling for oil. You didn’t know exactly “where” it was. But you knew it was in a specific quadrant of land. You had picked 3 possible starting points to start drilling and investigating.

Unknown to you, one of those starting points was directly on top of the oil. The other two were not on top, but with work and some sideways drilling, you would be able to get there.

The starting point directly on top of the oil would take 2 days to discover the oil. The other two starting points would take anywhere from 4-12 weeks to discover the oil.

So, would your optimal strategy be to pick one random starting point and keep working it?

Or, would your optimal strategy be to investigate all three starting points and spend a day or two on each?

By picking more than one starting point, you increase your luck surface area and give yourself better odds.

Keep in mind, once you start working on an idea it’s much harder to back out due to sunk cost fallacy. That’s why it’s so important to run these experiments at the very start before you build anything.

If you’re zeroed in on one concept, you could be missing the bigger picture close by. Sure, some people get lucky and strike oil right away. But it’s more likely that you’ll run dry and need to move camp. Or, you might discover there are landmines and you need to get the hell out of there! The more methodically you explore your landscape and validate your options, the more likely you are to survive, and even succeed, in this crazy startup world.

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Note: Validation tests = Talk to potential customers within a specific market segment and see if they have the pain point you hypothesis. Then see how willing/hungry they are to pay for your proposed solution. No need to build anything. Mockups and conversation should suffice.

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I’m creator of Nugget, an online incubator & community. We help founders start and grow profitable side projects.