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Using Mad Libs to define startup ideas
S2-E8 (30 April 2023)
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During this period, I am working too much. Work commitments have prevented me from writing, and I had to skip an episode of the newsletter. But here I am again: today, I'm going to talk about how to focus a business idea, the new Paginemediche homepage, and a novel I really enjoyed.
How to focus a business idea
What does it take to understand whether a new product or feature idea produces value for a customer segment and can be monetized? Before venturing into prototyping or even implementing the idea, it is necessary to focus the attention on the business opportunity.
In my teaching activities, I always ask my students to develop a startup idea from a theme. Generally, the first formulation of the entrepreneurial project is very vague and imprecise, so I always ask them to express the idea using this Mad Lib:
We want to help content creators
to increase the number of likes
through a ChatGPT-based text content generation SaaS.
This approach allows us to turn a vague idea («Hey, professor. It would be cool to make an app that generates content automatically») into a project. In fact, in addition to the how (we will use generative AI), we have defined a target market (content creators) and a goal that we can measure (increase the number of likes). I prefer to talk about goals to be achieved instead of problems to be solved. I explained why in a previous episode of the newsletter: Why do we buy products and services: the Experience to Goal Map.
I learned how to use this Mad Lib from Adeo Ressi, founder of the Founder Institute. His original version is a bit more structured. I simplified it to force my students to focus on the target market and the goal to be solved.
The secret to using Mad Lib lies in the ability to be specific in defining the target and the goal to reach (or the problem to solve). Going back to the example before, without changing the solution, I can change the target and goal at will. I can also create a spreadsheet to brainstorm and create a list of increasingly specific targets and objectives.
In this example, the spreadsheet also contains scores. For each of the target markets, I assigned a value from 1 to 3 to indicate the confidence level: how well do I know the people I want to sell the service to?
I did the same with the goals: in this case, the number indicates how important I think the goal is to that specific target market.
Finally, the Solution Fit score refers to the degree of belief that the solution I am envisioning can actually help my potential customers achieve the goal.
By multiplying the three numbers, I get a ranking. In our example, it looks like:
I have an in-depth knowledge of social media managers. This know-how helps me understand their motivations, work processes, habits, and so on;
I believe that increasing comments to content posted on social media by 30 percent is a very relevant goal for a social media manager;
I think that my solution based on generative AI can actually help the target audience achieve the goal.
The result is a high score (27). Conversely, I have little knowledge of the restaurant owner market and little confidence that my solution can help them increase the number of bookings. If I wanted to go in this direction, before proceeding, I would have to include a robust target audience analysis activity with interviews and other surveys.
The new homepage of Paginemediche
I am thrilled to see Paginemediche expanding. It is, by far, one of the most intricate and ambitious projects I have ever had the pleasure of working on. The project comprises three components:
an educational health content portal,
a network of healthcare professionals managed by a medical call center,
a digital medicine platform.
Throughout April, the team made multiple updates to the mobile application, which is specifically designed for patients. One notable addition was the introduction of Clinics. Our first online Clinic, named 1000 Days, offers valuable guidance and support to families during the crucial period of pregnancy up to a child's second birthday. This stage lays the groundwork for all the days that come after (more information available here).
Within the 1000 Days Clinic, we published the beta version of the first Care Program (Programma Salute) dedicated to nutrition developed in collaboration with the Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital. Care Programs are built upon the Digital Care Program framework that I designed and have several modules: self-assessment tests (or Patient Reported Outcome), scientifically validate recommendations, tools to monitor vital parameters, and reminders.
The team has also initiated a website redesign process, which is being handled by Giulia Pelos, a talented young designer who recently joined Paginemediche.
Additionally, the IT team is in the final stages of upgrading the physician application with various telemedicine services. The new version will be launched in the upcoming weeks, and I will discuss it further in the next newsletter.
I believe in the magic of discovering new books through serendipity. Whenever I enter a bookstore, I enjoy asking the bookseller to recommend a random book.
Serendipity is how I stumbled upon Stoner (affiliate link). I discovered it through a tattoo on a colleague's arm. When I asked her who William Stoner was, she answered that he was a character in a John Williams romance. I bought the book and read it over the weekend. I was enraptured by the minimal story of this college professor from Missouri who lived at the turn of the two world wars: page after page, year after year, the protagonist resignedly endures anguishes of all kinds without ever fighting back. Except once! A story at times surreal. Yet, the author managed to keep me glued to it until the end.
Thanks for taking the time to read this episode of my newsletter: I hope I’ve been helpful. If you think my sketchbook might interest someone else, I’d be glad if you shared it on social media and forwarded it to your friends and colleagues.
See you in a couple of weeks 😊