Matt Robinson co-founded GoCardless in 2012, a leading FinTech company, which offers a simple way for online businesses to set up and accept direct debit payments. GoCardless has raised $24.8M in funding, and is processing around £3 billion in transaction volume per year.

Matt remains on the board at GoCardless but he stepped back from day-to-day in 2016 to launch a new venture, Nested.

He accepted to give a Talk for Le Wagon students last April, sharing his experience and advice on starting and managing a tech business. One of the subjects we discussed during our Q&A session with him is how to assess business ideas and opportunities: here is Matt’s framework to do so, which he kindly agreed to let us publish on our blog! Feel free to use it and to put it to good use ;)

Matt Robinson talk for Le Wagon

To assess a business opportunity or idea, ask yourself the following questions about it:

Are you truly passionate about this opportunity?

Do you get genuinely excited when you think or talk about the idea? Would you want to talk to friends about it on a night out?

If not, you have a problem.

How many years would you be 100% willing to work on this?

It must be more than 5 years.

How would you feel if you spent the next 3 years on it and failed?

You should be glad that you did it irrespective of success.

What is the essence of the business and do you genuinely care about it?

Can you pin down the one to three things that the business is ‘about’ and do you really care about them?

Is it something you would use?

Would you buy your own product?

The answer must be yes, so much so that even if you spent a year on the business with the only outcome that the product now exists for you, it should be worth it.

Is it a product that you would like or love?

It has to be something that you and other people love.

Have I ever tried to buy it before?

It needs to be something that you have wished existed many times.

Does the idea have strong fundamentals?

You should be clear on your hypotheses for (i) what you’re making, (ii) who would use it, (iii) what they’re using today and why they’ll use you instead, (iv) how you’ll get those customers and (v) how many customers you need to succeed

Can you explain your idea at dinner to a stranger in less than 10 seconds?

If not, you have a problem.

How many customers do you need for your business to be worth £100m/£1b?

Your numbers need to be believable.

Can you give compelling answers to (i) to (v)?

Hint: If you can’t identify your first customer(s) from these hypotheses and have them confirm them, your answers probably aren’t as good as you think they are.

Are you especially well-placed to execute this idea? (Ideally capable of being the best in the world.)

Why are you the right person to start this?

You must have a compelling answer.

What makes you think you can be better than anyone else in the world?

You must have a compelling answer.

What is it that you get that no-one else does?

You must have a compelling answer.

What would the ideal founding team look like? Why can you still win even though you don’t have this team? How can you make this dream team a reality?

You must have a compelling answer.

Extra food for thoughts

Here are some other things Matt learned from chatting with serial entrepreneurs & successful VCs whilst he was figuring out what was next:

It’s important to distinguish between your desire to start a company full-stop and a particular company. Many people let the former take over and end up stuck doing something they’re not that passionate about. Not only is this less fun but it also reduced your probability of success. You should therefore be adamant that the company you start passes your tests for passion, business fundamentals and your being especially well-placed to do it. Without these your degree of difficulty goes up dramatically.

Take your time (1 of 3) Every time you start a company you’re committing yourself for years. As a result, the risk here is doing the wrong thing, not taking too long.

Take your time (2 of 3) Before you make that commitment you have an opportunity to do all the things you may not be able to do once you launch into the next thing. You should take it.

Take your time (3 of 3) It sounds cheesy but big ideas need space and time to grow. Don’t rush into an idea, get it down on paper and let your mind wander. If you don’t go back to it or come up with something better it probably wasn’t that good. If you do go back to it, great ideas are often the combination of multiple different ideas and you’ll probably have figured out something that enhances it.

Think about the balance between inspiration and perspiration. Too much of the latter can stifle the former at the ideation phase. Best things for opening your mind to ideas are reading and travel - learning about new things & meeting new people.

Widen your experience. Spend a few days shadowing founders / executives of businesses you like / are interested in to get to know how they and their businesses work. Look for people and things that give you energy, not people and things that use it.

We absolutely loved Matt’s tips and wanted to share them with our community. We hope they’ll be useful to you as well in your entrepreneurial journey!

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