How to prove your business idea will work

GoCarShare.com's Drummond Gilbert set up his car sharing website in early 2010. It was a completely new industry for Gilbert, and he broke into this unknown market with a very small budget - thus a narrow margin for error. Here's how he proved his business concept and validated his business idea.

When you're first starting-up, some people believe if you reveal anything about your business idea it'll be copied and you'll end up being exploited. I take the view you are actually better off talking to people, bouncing ideas off them and benefiting from their expertise.

I'll happily bore anyone who will listen about GoCarShare.com. With any good idea you need to accept there are plenty of people thinking about it. Your ability to succeed lies in how you choose to implement the idea and your persistence to actually do it.  

I ask people for feedback at every opportunity: I setup an online questionnaire at surveymonkey.com and posted the link on my Facebook page. As a result I realised not enough people would pay to use car sharing and the website must be free for individual users - a costly mistake averted.

I've also asked for feedback on a competition I'm running to design a logo for GoCarShare.com on 99designs.com, where friends and contacts have been able to comment on the entries to help me decide which is best.

Facebook and Twitter are great for instantaneous feedback on ideas, but I think to really benefit from social media you need to start looking further afield. I am setting up a group on Xing that will allow the potential users of my site to have their say on how the website is built. This provides a double benefit, the website will be well designed as it will incorporate customers' needs and it builds up demand for the service before we've launched.

Once we're live I believe it is key people are still able to easily and openly voice their opinion. Why? 'Reputation capital'. People in online communities are driven in part by the respect for their peers; they love to impart knowledge and demonstrate they are an expert in a certain field.

This is proved all the more so by the success of the recent Secret London website where people share lesser known, exciting places they have discovered in London. In my mind, secrets are all well and good but sometime sharing ideas and collaborating is better.

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