My idea is leveraging a person's social/professional network for warm leads. Basically if you're looking to do business abroad and you need a local to connect you with qualified, vetted people/agencies/clients/leads/distributors/factories on the ground, you can hire a local agent in your selected industry and request x number of leads in certain industry or just ask them to do on the ground tasks for you instead of flying there or sending an employee. You can choose to pay per lead or per deal closed. How can I validate if there's demand for this service? Does this already exist? Direct or indirect competitors?
First of all, the fact that you are talking about market validation is great. I've seen so many startups invest time and money, only to find that no one wants/needs their product, or that they only want a certain aspect of it (whilst the startup spent money developing a whole bunch of other features), or that the clients aren't willing to pay the requested price - making the business not profitable. So you're already one step ahead.
Also, the sooner you validate your product, the better! That said, the version you are validating needs to be representative of the end product, or else the validation isn't reliable.
So, how should you validate it? The best way, is to see whether people are willing to pay for your product/service.
This is how you find that out:
1. Create a business model canvas (which is what all startups should start with before creating a business plan),
2. Setup a Wix or Wordpress website (this can be done for free / very low costs) or if your venture is a mobile app, then create what’s called a Clickable Prototype (“CP”) (a visual of the app in which the images change when you click – you can do so using the Apple Keynote tool or Microsoft PowerPoint). On the website, or the download page for the ‘app’, don't forget to include the price of the product/service, and enable people to order it (YES, even if it doesn't really exist yet!). I am happy to explain how this can be done whilst still being fair to your potential customers (the people who click the "buy/download” button).
3. Determine your target market/customers.
4. Spend a small amount marketing what you created.
This way, after only spending a very small amount, you will be able to know (assuming that you did it correctly):
a. Do people like your product.
b. Do people want/need your product (not the same as 'a').
c. Are people willing to pay for your product? (this being the most important stage)
d. How much are they willing to pay? (you can check this by having 2-3 landing pages with different prices on each).
2 last important points:
a) In order to rule out external factors like an unattractive landing page or advertising campaign, and assuming you have the time, create multiple landing pages / advertising campaigns, with different designs.
b) During the above process, don't forget to check how much it costs you to get each user/customer to click the "buy" button. If for example each click on your promotion/advertisement costs you $2, and only every 10 people who click go on to the "buy" page - that means each sale is costing you $20. Then check what your average profit per sale is, and then you'll know if your service/product is worth pursuing (obviously there are additional factors like return customers, referrals etc, but you will get a good estimated/validation of the idea/business).
Does something like this exist? Many people would use LinkedIn for some of the features you mentioned. For example, when flying to city X, I would ask: "Does anyone know any people in Y industry in city X" - and in most cases people get connections.
I've successfully helped over 350 entrepreneurs, startups and businesses, and I would be happy to help you. After scheduling a call, please send me some background information so that I can prepare in advance - thus giving you maximum value for your money. Take a look at the great reviews I’ve received: https://clarity.fm/assafben-david