Validation of the problem: the client-problem pair


Table of Contents

The validation of the problem is a fundamental phase of the process that the aspiring startup founder carries out starting from an idea and having the goal of setting-up a startup.

In this phase, you need to get to know potential customers until you get to define a real identikit of the buyer persona. You need to understand if your product really meets a need and, if so, understand what problems it faces from the moment she starts looking for a product like yours until the moment of purchase.

To make the validation of the problem, you can use different tools that we will now see in detail:

  • Javelin Board
  • Buyer Personas, questionnaires, and interviews
  • Problem Solution Fit Canvas

The Javelin Board for the validation of the problem

The first tool that we are going to analyse is the Javelin Board that allows you to validate a business idea through experimentation, to understand which customers could be more in line with the problem to be solved and the solution that you intend to offer.
Graphically, the Javelin Board is divided into two parts: the left part is dedicated to brainstorming, i.e., the various hypotheses to be tested, and the right part is dedicated to execution, i.e., the actual experiments. You will start from the left by listing the hypotheses and then move on to the right and start experimenting by combining the previous various hypotheses and validating the experiments through the collection and interpretation of the data. In this way, you will be able to understand if you are proceeding in the right way, if changes are needed or if it would be better to abandon the project.
In the Javelin Board you need to insert considerations on the following aspects:

  • customers
  • problem
  • critical assumptions
  • solution
  • success criteria
  • results / decision
  • teachings

The customer is who will pay to buy your product or service to solve a certain problem. The more detailed and scrupulous you can be in defining the customer, the easier it will be to identify and truly offer an effective solution.
The problem is a need that the customer expresses. It will be your task to find a solution for your startup to be successful.
Critical assumptions represent everything that could go wrong along the way and that, if you are able to define in advance, it will be easier to solve.
The solution is the answer to the problem and must be built with precision, identifying with the customer, and really wondering if the solution found could completely satisfy the customer.
The success criteria are the metrics that will have to be defined and monitored over time to understand if the initial assumptions are validated.
The results or the decision are a consequence of the previous point, i.e., based on the success criteria, it must be decided whether or not to validate the hypothesis.
The teachings will be what you have learned during the experimentation and that will allow you, from time to time, to refine the idea.

The Buyer Persona, questionnaires, and validation interviews

To continue with the validation of the problem it is necessary to use other tools.

Buyer Personas

Start with the study of your buyer personas, i.e., a representation as faithful as possible of the client types based on data. Knowing these characteristics will allow you not only to create a product with which the buyer persona can identify, but also to acquire new customers over time by attracting them through the knowledge of their interests and preferences.
The best way to identify buyer personas is to start from the problem and imagine who might be the people who have this problem. To help you with this, you can resort to questionnaires and validation interviews, which are particularly useful for collecting data on your target. In particular, the data to be collected are the following:

  • Demographic data
  • Behavioural habits
  • Negative aspects and fears
  • Needs
  • Positive aspects, dreams and hopes

The most important demographic data are age, gender and geolocation and will serve to set up a marketing strategy based on the channels most used by buyer personas.
Behavioural habits are essential data to be analysed to understand how buyer personas experience the problem, how they face it and how often.
The negative aspects and fears are important elements to know to identify what to avoid doing and not scare the buyer personas or drive them away.
The needs, unlike the previous point, must help you to know what the buyer personas need, which often does not coincide with what you imagine.
The positive aspects, dreams and hopes are additional information that are useful to know what makes buyer personas happy and what their goals are, to be able not only to meet their expectations but also to exceed them.

There are various templates that can be used for the visual representation of buyer personas, let’s see some of them below:

  • Tourtools template: it is a very intuitive template with numbered boxes and clear and simple descriptions.
  • Hubspot tool: it is a digital template to be created following a guided path.
  • Xtensio template: it is a template that, graphically, resembles a curriculum vitae.
  • Digital Marketer template: it is a simple and schematic template with the main information.
  • ApplyLab template: it is a schematic template that focuses above all on the emotional sphere of the buyer persona.

Questionnaires and validation interviews

Two other useful tools are questionnaires and validation interviews. The data to be collected with these tools are those we talked about in the buyer personas study.

While questionnaires should be the first tool to be used between the two because they are more suitable to be submitted to a larger sample, with interviews, instead, we narrow the field, and we can deepen doubts and problems with a smaller sample.

It is essential to choose the right sample that can be considered large enough to validate our problem for the reference population with a good confidence level. There are many online tools that help to calculate the right sample to submit questionnaires.
But how to structure them?

The guidelines to follow are, in principle, the same for both instruments:

  • explain who you are and why you are doing this questionnaire or this interview.
  • do not give incentives to give certain answers so as not to influence the results.
  • compose the questionnaire with about 10-15 questions.
  • do not ask many open questions because they reduce the completion rate.
  • insert filter/profiling questions.
  • always ask questions in the present and not in the conditional or future.
  • do not talk about the solution you want to offer before the questionnaire/interview is finished.
  • set as a goal to collect data.
  • ask for a commitment, at least with an e-mail, specifying that it is optional.

For more hints about interviews, we recommend also reading this article on our blog: The Mom Test book: how to interview your target and Interviews with customers: tips to validate your startup idea.

There are several tools to create questionnaires, but the most used ones are:

Google Form is a free and very intuitive tool, whose only limitations are the reduced graphic customization and the impossibility of integrating the questionnaire with other tools.

Instead, Typeform is a more complete tool without limits, except in terms of cost, because you can choose between a free plan with reduced functions or several paid plans with all the functions.

Problem Solution Fit Canvas

Finally, the last tool is the Problem-Solution Fit Canva, and it is perhaps the most complete of all because, in addition to identifying the characteristics of the customer and the problem, it also allows you to start defining the solution to be proposed.
It looks like a framework divided into four parts, each one marked by a different colour:

  • Customer State Fit,
  • Problem Behaviour Fit,
  • Communication Channel Fit,
  • Solution Guess.

The Customer State Fit (pink square): it contains all the characteristics of the target audience, including the problems they may face and the solutions to those problems.
The Problem Behaviour Fit (orange square): it focuses only on the problem by analysing the frequency and behaviour that buyer personas assume to cope with it.
The Communication Channel Fit (green square): it focuses on the emotional sphere of customers, i.e., the feelings they face during the customer journey, and on the communication channels to be used to reach them.
The Solution Guess (purple square): it is based on the study of the solution, taking into consideration all the data of the other sections.


If you have been able to successfully complete the phase of the validation of the problem through the recommended tools, then you can move on to the next phase, i.e., validating the solution until you get to the construction of your MVP (Minimum Viable Product).

Good luck with your work!

If you are interested in startup validation, find out more on Validate your startup idea page. You will discover more interesting content and videos to watch!

Please also read the following articles on our blog: Validation: a key process to move from an idea to a startupMarket and competitors’ analysis for market validation and Validation of the solution and construction of the MVP

problem validation