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Searching for a Solution: Empathy and Validation – Luke Yianni

I hope to cover one of the most important questions you should be asking yourself at inception of your business and throughout: ‘What you solve and for whom?

What do you solve?

A pain point is a specific problem that your prospective customers experience, it can be a small nagging pain they feel often, or maybe a big one they experience infrequently. Your business should prioritise solving that niche, and it doesn’t necessarily need to do anything more than that.

Another way to think of it that I think sometimes helps is: how do you add value to your customer


Jephson Gardens has never looked more exotic 

Animals Move — a social enterprise based here at Warwick — sell T-Shirts embroidered with an endangered species on them, with a portion of their profits going towards a project helping that species. You can argue this isn’t a new idea, charities already manufacture their own clothing. But these tend to be associated with some problems:

  • They aren’t fashionable — in terms of branding nor the quality of materials
  • The donation dissipates into the charity without you knowing where exactly your contribution is going.

While there’s not necessarily a burning desire for this business, they offer clear benefits that differentiate them from similar products. I think it’s an awesome idea and I wish them the best (I also really want to buy their turtle t-shirt).

Who do you solve it for?

You’re going to need to get in the head of your customer if you want to fully understand their pain point and tailor your design to be as powerful as possible. Figure out exactly who your customer is, the more specific the better.

A useful exercise is to create a character who best represents your ideal customer — start with specifics. Their name, gender, age. Look beyond the interaction with your business and start thinking about other aspects of their life: what they do on a daily basis, who and what’s important to them, and what stresses them out? Jot it down until you have generated a biography of this person; when you make a decision consult this person, and decide whether it’d matter to them at all.

You’ve just spent a long time determining exactly who your customer is and what they want.

That’s great but it’s also probably quite wrong.

You Don’t Know Jack

It’s important to validate your idea while you’re still in this early stage, rather than six months down the line when you’ve spent time and money. Go out in the real world, find your target customer and spitball your idea to them.

More importantly, ask them all the questions you had to ask yourself when you came up with your idea and iterate. Avoid exerting your bias on them, just go with an open mind and ask for honest advice, gauging what they like and where their skepticism lies.

Improvise. Adapt. Overcome

By this point you’ll hopefully have a range of feedback from a breadth of people; if the response was overwhelmingly negative, you might consider rectifying any pervasive issues. Try to understand the context of that person while listening to their opinion, you can usually draw some correlation between their position and perspective.

Perhaps you realise your target audience is actually someone completely different to who you expected, if that’s the case try to find out what they want. This process isn’t linear, and is repeated as ideas adapt. Document as you go, if you’re like us you’ll have a billion different scrawls of inspiration that become very confusing when you look back.

Thanks for reading

I wanted to talk about my experience with this, but once I started it formed a much longer article than this one. I’ve split them up and given it it’s own article; it was quite cathartic putting the ideas we’ve been having down in this reflective form and I hope it turns out alright.


Author: Luke Yianni