004: De-risking a startup idea

OzHarvest for 2nd hand toys - small.jpg


To practice sketchnoting, and help a startup founder either envision, problem solve or explain a part of their startup.

This week’s startup

We’ll de-risk Jacky Lo’s idea of “the OzHarvest for 2nd hand toys” in 1 hour.

Jacky wants to salvage toys children no longer play with, and then delight families who can’t afford toys or who have poor access to them. Jacky hasn’t started this project yet. So we’ll accelerate his idea

Learning goals this week

How to de-risk a startup with sketchnoting in 3 steps:

  1. Interviewing techniques that capture stories about who wants our service and why

  2. Identify the biggest risks that need testing first, to avert the startup failing.

    1. Sketching our hypothetical risks will help us explore them faster together.

  3. How to sketch a real prototype of a service, and how this sketch alone can be used to prove the service will either survive the risk or force us to pivot in a better direction.


Always sketch with a real user and their real problem in mind.

backpain -app user flow.jpg


Interview techniques

  • Concentration

    • Eye contact and observe body language at the same time

    • Stay neutral, don’t agree or sympathise or fill in their words

  • Get them to tell stories.

  • The 5 why’s

  • Take notes & record audio

  • Have one learning outcome / research question in mind when you begin your first interviews.

Interview exercise: 20 min

Use the 5 why’s to interview each other in pairs for 5 min each. Get them to tell stories.

Learning goal: What are the barriers and motivators for receiving / donating 2nd and toys?

Record: the barriers and motivators

1st round: 2 x 5 min

How would you feel about receiving 2nd hand toys?

Tell me a story about a time you received a pre-loved toy?

What did you like / not like about the experience of receiving it?

Why, why, why,..?

2nd round: 2 x 5 min

How would you feel about donating 2nd hand toys?

Tell me a story about a time you donated a pre-loved toy or item?

What did you like / not like about the experience of donating it?

Why, why, why,..?

Riskiest Assumptions

What needs to be true for Jacky’s idea to succeed?

Make assumptions: 5 min

Knowing the donator’s and receiver’s barriers and motivators, what would Jacky’s service look like?

Sketch your assumed solution about Jacky’s business on posit-it notes:

  1. Barriers: what would help customers overcome what’s holding them back / what’s unpleasant?

  2. Motivators: what would amplify the delights into a great service?

Prioritise assumptions based on risk: 5 min

004 Riskiest Assumptions.jpg

Sketch a user journey of the riskiest assumption: 10 min

  1. Sketch a prototype of Jacky’s service that would help him test the riskiest assumption.

  2. Test it on each other. Was it true or did you learn something?

checkout user flow.jpeg


  • Interviewing

    • concentration

    • 5 whys

    • stories

    • capture motivators and barrier

  • Use barriers and motivators as inspiration to design concepts

  • Pick the riskiest assumptions to test first.