*The art picture provided by Zenaviv project. The artist - Lee Jaworek, the art title - 'Shooting Star'.

A quick guide for entrepreneurs exploring a new venture.

I am fortunate enough to have friends, colleagues, and clients present business ideas to me often enough to see certain trends and patterns. My entrepreneurial portfolio contains both failures and successes. Generally speaking, I’m an "optimistic realist." I try to offer my sincere feedback and, if I like what I'm hearing, will quickly jump into the tactics and details.

I find myself giving a similar answer to the question "What do you think our likelihood of success is?"

I've summarized my answers to these questions in a small chart that could be used to help understand where entrepreneurs might be in the journey of taking ideas to market.

The Chart

I know this probably looks like something from an MBA class, or the "Conjoined Triangles of Success" from Silicon Valley, but the objective here is to help the entrepreneur understand where they are and what general steps are ahead of them to take the idea to market. The steps I outline are meant to tread carefully and make analytical decisions and be ready to pivot when necessary.

Let's assume that you have an idea to create a new B2B service of some sort that you are certain that you, or your company, would pay for. See where you are in the chart below.

Industry Validation 0-30% likelihood of success

You understand the industry/market and see a niche. You've heard things from clients, vendors, or co-workers or you're seeing it yourself. You are pretty certain that there's a "market opening" for something new. You've done preliminary research and see that there isn't a direct competitor, or the existing competition is weak.

Market and Competitor Discovery 30%-55% likelihood of success

You run some market surveys using Mechanical Turk, Google Surveys or by first-hand data gathering. You want to validate that there is a demand and that you can "tell a story" that resonates. Once you figure out how to message your offering, you run additional surveys to see which competitors your prospects are familiar with, or even what search queries they would use to research solutions.

The Execution 55%-90% likelihood of success

This is, without a doubt, the most important part of the journey and is where most fail. All the stars could align, and all the technology could work great, but if you don't go all-in, you're likely to fail. You need to have the right team, outsource everything outside of your core competencies, maintain discipline, define your internal processes well, find talent, selector vendors, manage your sales pipeline and try not to run out of cash!

Wait, What is "Success"? 90-99% likelihood of success

I leave some "gray area" at the top to account for the likely fact that your definition of success will change. Let's say you build a B2B SaaS product and get it to 1,500 paying users. Perhaps that's enough to break even and generate some cash. Or perhaps you decide that your new goal is 30,000 users, based on your CACs (Customer Acquisition Cost). Or perhaps your definition of success changes to that of being acquired by AirBnb, CoreLogic or Google. As you grow and the markets change, your definition of success will likely change.

Use this tool to get a general understanding of where you and your team are and to start planning the next steps. Of course, this is very subjective and everything in business depends on the given situation, and that is never static.

Useful Tools

Even if you find my likelihood of success out there, here's a less subjective list of useful technologies and resources I use for evaluating ideas, keeping track of competitors and staying organized during the never-ending process of measuring traction.

  • AWS Mechanical Turk and Google Surveys. You can use this to run surveys that target "microworkers" based on demographics. With Mechanical Turk, for instance, you could run a survey targeting all home-owning veterans who make over $120k per year, asking them if they have recently refinanced and how they chose the mortgage company to work with.
  • Crunchbase. Use this to research competitors and market trends in general. You can set up alerts for funding rounds to keep track of Series A rounds and keep an eye on new market entrants.
  • SEMRush and SpyFY. Once you identify your competitors, you can use these tools to do an analysis to quantify how strong your competitor's web marketing game is. Where do they spend money? What kind of ads do they run?
  • BuiltWith. I usually use this to quantify the technology spend of competitors, as well as to do some competitor research from a technical perspective. Knowing what technologies they use (e.g., HubSpot vs. Intercom) can help you understand the type of sales model competitors use.
  • Hunter.io. This usually comes in during the execution phase and is a great tool for building lead lists from companies that may fit your target market. Hunter extracts email addresses from website URLs and can pipe the discovered leads into your CRM, or into a spreadsheet.
  • Google Apps. You will end up having made spreadsheets for the data you gather and documents to organize your notes. Since you are likely to work with multiple people, including your team, contractors, and others, Google Drive is a great place to keep track of your research. You could also use Google Forms to collect the surveys that you run on Mechanical Turk.
  • Google Alerts. Setup saved Google searches for certain keywords to be alerted when something happens that requires your attention.
  • ChangeTower. This service will monitor a list of websites you provide for changes. I often use this to monitor competitors and be alerted when they change something significant on their product or pricing pages.


Henry Ford's famous quote, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” is great, but perhaps he wasn't asking the right questions. Remember to test early, test often and test smartly by asking the right questions. Always be ready to accept that your notions could be wrong and try to quantify what is important.

Your venture will most likely pivot. In fact, the pivoting never stops and your venture will evolve as you learn more and your teams' capabilities grow. Now, back to it.

Or, go down the rabbit hole with some reads that are relevant:

  • Get A Grip: An Entrepreneurial Fable
  • Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth
  • Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level
  • The Lean Startup