Using the Research Process to Guide Your Startup Solution Ideation

Researching the Challenge to Better Understand the Causes and Solutions

Written by Monica Garza | March 2024

Entrepreneurship undeniably brings forth the development of groundbreaking solutions to societal needs and challenges. These innovative ideas often spark and shape into more developed forms from research processes. The market research process is an excellent arsenal of tools to help pave the way for startup concepts to be put into action. According to an analysis of 101 Startup Post-Mortems, a whopping 42% of failed entrepreneurial endeavors are attributed to a lack of market need, highly asserting the significance of successfully identifying product-market fit before launching a business. By obtaining a comprehensive understanding of the central issue that your startup is addressing and its root causes, you can ensure optimal solution ideation. Ahead, we’ll walk you through the entrepreneurship research process and uncover its different methods through an expansive example to help you visualize the real-life application of these techniques.

Primary & Secondary Research

Conducting primary research or referencing secondary sources are both excellent opportunities to expand on many vital points of understanding. Secondary research can be conducted by obtaining previously published materials through mediums such as articles, journals, publications, podcasts, and websites. Conversely, primary research is research that you conduct yourself and is developed around your research questions and target market. Primary research provides the flexibility of data collection on topics and demographics more specific to your startup. For instance, it allows you to obtain the most relevant insights through conducting interviews directly with your beneficiary group, potential stakeholders, field experts, and other fellow businesses in your sector. Many other independent pursuit data collection methods and mediums can be utilized through primary research, such as surveys, observation studies, focus groups, and clinical trials.

Additionally, for effectiveness in the startup research process, it is noteworthy to establish an unbiased mindset to avoid creating preconceived notions and stereotypes about the issue you are looking to address. Both primary and secondary research, along with the quantitative and qualitative data collected through it, are necessary for obtaining a holistic and well-rounded understanding of your startup issue. Ahead, we will look at how an anecdotal startup is using primary research surveys to advance its development.

Validate It

The validation phase of the research process is a vital step in the journey of starting a business. As its name suggests, this phase ensures the validity of the first key assumptions you’re building your startup concept on. Validating that the issue you’re addressing is in fact a prominent pain point can be conducted through many research modalities. For instance, we can validate our issue by launching a research survey.

Your developed startup problem statement will come in handy when organizing the format of your research study. In this example, the startup problem statement, “How may we combat the issue of high levels of poverty for homeless children in Rio de Janeiro in unemployed families?” will be used to structure our implemented survey research questions. By identifying and breaking down all of the different components in the problem statement, we can develop the following research questions:

  1. Is my beneficiary group experiencing high levels of poverty and food insecurity?
  2. If so, are they experiencing that issue due to family unemployment?
  3. Do those issues affect their development and overall quality of life?

If we are successful in validating our startup issue research questions, we can be assured that a viable, innovative solution can create a significant impact in that space.

Understand It

After grasping the nature of the issue that your startup is striving to combat, the next step would be to gain a deeper and solidified understanding of it. It is important to research the distinct, nuanced characteristics of the issue. To gain a comprehensive understanding of the true nature of the problem, we must also ask questions that provide insight into when, where, and how beneficiaries are experiencing the issue, as well as its severity. This deeper analysis of the issue should follow a holistic approach that considers all of its possible underlying causes:

  1. How are my beneficiaries’ lives being shaped by the issue?
  2. What are the causes of the issue?
  3. Is there a specialized subtopic issue that I want to focus on solving with my startup?

To ensure that your research questions are effectively implemented into your survey, they should be presented in a condensed, palatable, and effective manner. After obtaining our full knowledge toolkit, which will help us construct a viable business idea, we can now proceed to the ideation phase.

Discover a Solution

The key step to identifying an innovative and effective solution is understanding your competitive market landscape, or currently available products or services operating in your business sector. The competitive landscape is primarily discovered and analyzed through secondary research. However, by also conducting primary research, you’ll be able to understand startups in your competitive matrix in a much more effective way. For instance, by interviewing the business director of a company in your sector, you can gain a deeper insight into their current business obstacles, their customers, and the overall sector. Such findings can enhance your holistic understanding of the current market landscape for more optimal idea generation.

During the ideation process, all of your findings and insights should be effectively considered for the creation of a distinct, efficient, and viable solution. As you brainstorm, all ideas, free of any self-critique or bias limitations, should be freely considered before later assessment. During the idea assessment phase, receiving feedback and collaborating with other diverse minds can vastly transform your startup concept development.

The Herb Kelleher Entrepreneurship Center, a resource center for students at The University of Texas at Austin, offers an excellent resource for obtaining feedback from experienced entrepreneurs. The Entrepreneur-In-Residence program advises students on their entrepreneurship goals with one-on-one mentorship session meetings. The monthly Startup Coffee Connect networking events also provide a space for student founders to collaborate, receive feedback, and engage with other innovative minds in the UT startup ecosystem.

Seeking out useful resources is highly beneficial in further expanding on the research process. It is also important to note that the research process is ever-continuing during the entrepreneurship journey as the market, issue, and other factors continue to change. As such, your business model will constantly be evolving and undergoing refinement. Being adaptable and open to any possible changes and pivots will help guide your startup toward long-term success.

The research process is certainly a highly dense process, yet it undeniably plays a fundamental role in establishing proper product-market-fit. By making sure to collect diverse research findings to effectively validate and understand the issue, you will have a solid base to launch an impactful, groundbreaking business from.

This article is from the Innovation Capsule series, a commentary article series published by the Herb Kelleher Entrepreneurship Center (HKEC) that focuses on analyzing and creating dialogue around startup culture, best practices, innovation in the industry, and more. The HKEC offers a variety of dynamic resources to UT Austin students, including competitive funding opportunities, networking events, informative article series, mentorship and more.

To learn more about the entrepreneurship resources that the HKEC has to offer, visit our website and subscribe to our newsletter to get involved with future opportunities!



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