Startup Library

1. Explore research-market fit

You are reading this because you have come up with an “innovation” that you think might be able to solve a problem for a specific group of customers. Wherever your “innovation” comes from, whether it is a scientific discovery in the lab, or a tech innovation, we consider that these innovations are your unique “super powers”. You have done something differently from the way things were done before and you think you might be able to help someone with your work.

But have you considered that your innovation might even be more important to a group of customers you have not even considered?

Before jumping into engineering your innovation into a solution for the first customer group that comes to mind, we think it’s a good idea to stop and think and see what other applications there might be for your innovation.

Unleashing your super powers to the market (and finding your “research-market fit”!) is a three step process:

Step 1: Start by understanding your “super powers”.

List and describe your technology’s unique abilities or core technological elements – independent of their application in a specific product for a specific customer segment.

Think about the main building blocks of your technology, such as:

  • Core technological elements
  • Important know-how about a specific process
  • A rare resource that you own
  • A special capability, etc.

Often in research, the unique abilities come from the way you do what you do differently. “Why did you do “that”, that way?”

List and describe what these elements or “super powers” can accomplish (their functions) and their main properties.

Specify each unique ability or “super power” separately. Don’t group them.

Step 2: Identify end-users who have problems that your “super powers” could help solve.

Identify as many end-users as you can who might benefit from each of your discrete “super powers” or technology innovations .

Brainstorm wide.

Include even the “crazy ideas” of end-users that you think are longshots, because these long shot ideas are helpful in expanding the boundaries of possibilities to where some of the most interesting opportunities might exist.

Step 3: Describe the application of your “super power” for each different end-user.

An application means the packaging of your unique abilities into a product or service that solves a problem. The same super power used by different end-users will likely be applied differently, and you will likely have to describe the application of your super power differently depending on the user.

Structured brainstorming can help your team work together to think broadly before narrowing your focus. The following videos provide a framework for brainstorming and take you through a real example of how a tech startup identified new markets for its technology innovation (super powers!) by first identifying who could beneft (the different end-users) and then next identifying the different applications of the technology for these potential customers.


Part 1

Part 2

A Brainstorming Framework to get to Research-Market fit

When you’re done doing your market segmentation you might end up with something that looks like this:

The Sensable Market Segmentation Chart

Here is a market discovery template that can help you easily do a brainstorming session with your team to explore your research-market fit.

This of course is just the first step in customer discovery. You can do this exercise with what you know today, but your collective confidence in the content will only improve as you learn more through primary market research (interviews!). Next, the challenge will be around refining your understanding of the different market segments and prioritizing who you will target first!

Author: Jane Somerville