$100 Idea Validation

Jun 8, 2023
Suzanne Reeves & Kirk Clyne

$100 Idea Validation

As early stage founders, we deal with unrelenting uncertainty. Is this the right problem to focus on? Am I the right person to solve this problem? If I build it, will anyone pay money for my product or service?

While we typically have to bravely soldier on despite crippling lack of clarity, there is an easy way to solve this last question.

Rob Walling came up with a dynamite way to prove that people will buy your product. Better yet, he suggests it need only cost you $100.

Abstract illustration suggestive of a round indicator with a pink needle

Rob is a prominent serial entrepreneur, author, and speaker, best known for his successes in the SaaS space. He co-founded the email marketing platform Drip, which was acquired by Leadpages in 2016, and also started MicroConf, a conference series for self-funded startups.

Beyond his direct entrepreneurial ventures, Walling is well-regarded for his insights on bootstrapping businesses, as shared through his blog, books, and the popular podcast "Startups for the Rest of Us."

Following this approach can save you time, money and heartache.

Rob's Recipe

Here is Rob's step-by-step recipe for discovering whether, if given the chance, people will buy your product or service.

  1. Choose your most interesting business idea
  2. Set up a simple site with four main sections: landing page, features, pricing and sign up.
  3. Include screenshots of your product (simple mockups) on the landing page and on the features page, with a call to action to buy the product on every page.
  4. Create an Google Ads campaign (or Facebook ad campaign, etc) with a budget of $100 and send targeted traffic to your site.
  5. When someone clicks Buy button, track that with Google Ads (or other tracking tools) and notify the prospect that the product is still in development.
  6. Ask for their email address so you can notify them once you launch.
  7. Include a "Coming Soon" emblem on your site to not mislead prospects.
  8. If the prospect is interested and the product fits their needs, odds are they will still be interested in a few months when you launch.
  9. In the meantime, you get to obtain metrics and searches for your keywords, which of them convert, and what your expected conversion rate will be.

We think this approach is genius and have used it successfully ourselves.

Did you spot the catch though? You will need a website, some simple mockups, an ad, and a way to track your metrics.

Unless you are a design-savvy founder, then you're either on the hook to pay more than $100 to get this all set up, or you'll have to learn a lot of new skills very quickly.

Chances are, you're going to need some professional creative help.

But bear in mind, it can be tough to get a Big Agency interested in a small job, or trust a junior freelancer to deliver top-notch work on the cheap. So where's that happy middle ground?

Spoiler alert  

Unicorn Fuel is that happy middle ground.

After years of working alongside founders and helping them bring their ideas to market, we've come to learn what kinds of design services they typically need — and at which stages of their business. We also know they don't need us all the time. But wouldn't "on call" be ideal?

That's why we're developing a subscription-based, all-inclusive design service that you can pause or cancel at any time!

Keep an eye on the Unicorn Fuel website later in June 2023 for more info. (Or, if you want to snag a discounted Early Bird rate, book us for a 15-minute chat about how we can starting helping you right away.)

AI-Powered Mad Men (and Mad Women)

If you're wondering how we're going to keep our design services affordable for founders like you, part of our secret is AI. We're seizing the opportunity afforded by emerging technologies to produce faster, more effective work — and pass the savings along to you.

For example, Google and Meta have just announced some AI-driven advertising tools that promise to change how digital campaigns are created.

Read all about these new developments in our feature article, AI-Infused Ads Give New Options to Founders.


Suzanne has over two decades of design experience, a degree in Psychology from the University of Toronto and a BFA from Emily Carr University in Vancouver. Suzanne has led design & dev teams, worked on multi-million dollar projects, and spent 10 years running a 6-figure design firm as a solopreneur. She has been integrating cutting-edge technologies like AI and no code into her workflow for many years.

Kirk is a creative leader, design manager, and experience designer with a 20-year career that started in the dot com boom in San Francisco. Kirk previously co-founded Art & Science, a digital design agency that landed on the Globe & Mail’s Growth 400 list, and that is ranked as the #1 digital marketing agency worldwide on Clutch.co. He sits on the board of the Bachelor of Design and UXD Certificate programs at Humber University, regularly sites on design awards juries, and is ranked in the top 1% of design mentors on ADP.