Product designer for 10 years. Chief Product Officer for 4. Validated many MVPs and product concepts pre and post funding raise, with current customers and without.
In almost all cases, you can validate the product idea through non-technical means. The notion that you must raise before you can build anything is a classic "never done this before" misconception. And it will signal to an investor that you don't know what you're doing. Sorry if that sounds harsh – but its a true read on the situation and the times we live in.
Investors simply expect you to have an MVP, users / customers, and traction metrics before they give you a cent. The investment will be to amplify something that, to some degree, already works – not to fund a greenfield, exploratory build.
Back to non-technical: Its possible to scrap together an MVP for most products using existing products. Especially the marketing and acquisition funnel stuff (more important than most people think).
The actual app is more difficult, but can be done. Either through shaving off features to a very small subset. Or by "wizard of oz" approach. Where the front end of the software exists (made from a wordpress template, webflow, etc) and the backend is manually curated by the founder – meaning a human plays the role of the software.
Really slow. Kind of lame UX. But you can acquire customers and test your idea this way. I know because I'm personally using / paying for a service like this right now.
Happy to look at your exact case and develop a plan.
The basic answer is no. Any designer you hire for $500 will just give your deck a cosmetic lift – but this is trivial. A great designer will re-think the communication of your idea, traction, market size, etc – both a the pitch level, and at the per-slide or talking point level.
Design is communication – visual, verbal, conceptual, emotional – great pitches deliver on all these areas and are also dead simple. You're really paying for the thinking, not pixels. And great thinking is expensive.
Happy to get on a call and tell you more.
Product designer for 10 years. Chief Product Officer for 4 years. I've tested many, many product ideas.
What does "pursue" mean to you. If you mean incorporate, raise money, grow the business, etc – that won't work.
If you mean "validate" – then sure. Treat all 3 ideas as experiments. Figure out the leanest, most efficient, way to test the base assumptions of your ideas – and test all 3 at once. Better yet, do all 3 tests in the next 3 weeks. Then revaluate and further test.
You really want to put your ideas through a battery of tests to see where they are strong and weak. Through this process a winner will emerge.
Product designer for 10 years. Chief Product Officer for 4. I've done lots of MVPs and market tests.
Read the book "Lean Startup"
You want to get your idea in front of customers with as little sunk cost (usually hours of dev) as possible. So mock it up, make a presentation, maybe create static UI pages, create a landing page, etc. Whatever you need to convince a potential customer that it is real.
Then go meet with potential customers. Pitch them the product and the price and ask them to buy or switch. You can ask for several "real" things with a fake product:
• Time to meet / discuss (time is valuable)
• Money (position it as a pre-order to be top of the list).
• Reputation (ask them to refer you to another customer).
They'll probably say no, but through that process you'll learn more about your customers, their priorities, their perceptions around pricing and competitors.
Related – $1/computer is dead cheap. If this is in-fact a beachhead for your consulting service – consider giving it away for free. Or raise the price :)
Product designer for 10 years. Chief product officer for 4 years. I've launched many successful and unsuccessful products over the years.
The quick answer is Revenue or Active Users – everything else is noise.
A more qualitative answer that I like is – talk to your initial users / potential customers. They should be willing to give you their:
1. Time – the problem you're solving is real, its painful to them, they are willing to take time away from other stuff to discuss it with you, you're promising a solution and they want that solution (ask them for a meeting to discuss).
2. Money – again, problem is real, real pain, worth their money to make that pain go away (ask them for $$$ / pre-order).
3. Reputation – problem is real, other people also have this problem, they believe in your solution and are willing to risk their reputation (ask them to refer you to one friend / colleague who would also like your product).
If you get "yes" on all 3 – party time.
If you get "no" on all 3 – start over.
Been a designer and hired them for 10 years.
Design co-founder – very smart move.
Dribbble is also a good place to look. Startup weekends. Related meetups. http://founderdating.com/ and similar networks.
Designers are in high demand now – this is not to be underestimated – even the best cos with sexy design and tons of $$$ find it near-impossible to compete right now. Its a design startup bubble.
I mention this because, assuming you don't meet the above criteria, you'll have to present the opportunity the right way. You want communicate that your problem space is really innovative / greenfield and how important design / ux thinking is to your success. And how much influence, control, autonomy the designer will have on the product and business.
Happy to answer more questions.
You want to have the foundation solidly covered, by people you feel have a broad awareness / intelligence, but deep expertise in core startup skills (for most tech startups its hustler, hacker, designer) and the industry vertical.
In my experience working with amazing, quality people eventually eclipses all other concerns – so "passion for your concept" is less important than it appears.
My personal yardstick is if I can disagree with someone but still feel that their opinion is really wise, informed, considerate, teaches me something, etc.