Business Idea Evaluation with The Innovator’s Scorecard

Need another way to evaluate your business idea? Thomas McKnight, author of Will It Fly? How to Know if Your New Business Idea Has Wings…Before You Take the Leap, has a robust method he calls the Innovator’s Scorecard. This scorecard rates various factors of your business idea to tell you if it is worth pursuing. Each factor is discussed in detail in the book, so if you would like to learn more about this method, check out the book.

An Excel version of the Scorecard is available. I’ve also created this online version of it.

To use this scorecard, type in a score for each feature into the Raw Score column. This score can range from -10 to +10, with -10 being the worst and +10 being the best. McKnight discusses each factor in great detail in his book. Purchase a copy if you would like to know more about any of them.

Criteria Raw Score
(-10 to +10)
Weight Total
Compelling unserved need

Does your product fulfill a lack of something required, desirable, or useful?

Explainable uniqueness

How unique is your product?

Sustainable differentiation

Can you sustain your uniqueness, or regain it if lost?

Demonstrable now

Can the customer touch, feel, taste, see, sense, or use your product right now?

Good competition

Are there weak competitors that validate your market, yet can be beaten easily?

Bad competition

Are there strong competitors that pose a real threat?

Compelling pricing possible

Could you offer your product at a good price?

Closable customers

Do you have any actual customers right now you could sell to, even before you have a product?

Quality of evidence of demand

Do you have good proof that there is a demand for your product?

Ahead of market

Can you deliver your product at the right time to capture substantial market share?

Ambush exposure

How likely are you to be ambushed by an unknown competitor? How defensible is your product?

“Hot Market”

Is there a wild, almost irrational demand for your product right now?

Attitude: confidence and fearlessness

Do you & your team have enough confidence in yourselves & your product to push no matter what?


Can you & your team realistically commit yourselves to this product?

Staying Power

Do you & your team have long staying power, even if your product isn’t profitable at first?


Do you & your team have true, deep passion for your product?

Management Competence

How competent are you & your team in building and marketing your product?

Honesty and Integrity

Are you & your team known to have high honesty and integrity?

Success Ethic

Do you & your team have a record of achieving significant successes? Are you all capable of doing so?

Looking Good in the Lobby

Are you & your team presentable in fromt of investors?

Cash Flowing Now

Can you earn a cash flow now or very soon?

Revenue Model Swamps Costs

Will your business model allow you to earn real profits (revenues minus expenses)?

Delivery Advantages

Do you have any special relationships or privileges within your intended distribution channels?

Resources available

Do you have access to the resources you’ll need to launch your product?

Preemption & Domination

Would you be able to preempt your competitors and dominate some aspect of your market, value chain, distribution channels, etc?

Strategy to Penetrate Market

Do you have a strong strategy with which to enter into the market?

Strategy for Breaching the Chasm

After you’ve released your product, do you have a strong strategy with which to reach a general audience?

Proprietary Ownership

Can you attach enough value to your product that those who wish to own or use it think of you first?

Partnering Candidates

Are there good partnership opportunities that will give you an advantage without hindering you as well?

Appropriateness of Location

Does your company’s location give you any advantages in resources or customers?

Quality of back-up plan

Do you have a good, realistic back-up plan in case things go wrong?

Unfair Advantages

Do you have any significant advantages in your favor that competitors don’t have?

Manageable Capital Requirements

Do you need to raise an unrealistically large amount of funding? Or is it a manageable amount?

Low Cash Required Prelaunch

In the days & weeks immediately before the launch, do you need a large, or manageable amount of cash?

Visible Capital

Is your funding proven? Is it in the bank, or at least accessible to you with a good degree of certainty?

High Potential Value

Will your business have a high valuation after about five years of existence?

Foreseeable Harvest

How likely will a return on investment be possible for an outside investor?


Does your product violate any ethical, societal, cultural, politcal, or environmental taboos?

Lack of Showstoppers

Do any foreseeable showstoppers exist to block your success?

Pretending not to Know

Are you or your team in denial about any threats to your success? Be honest.

High Profile Persons Available

Can you attract any high profile individuals as team members, customers, or evangelists?

Punchy, compelling story

Do you have a solid, interesting, and catchy elevator pitch?

Government Relevance

Can you gain any political standing or supporters in the government?

Low-Hanging Fruit

Do you have any easy wins you can make, such as prospective customers, rock star employees, low-cost resources, etc?



After you’ve finished scoring your business idea, your final Grade will indicate the viability of your idea. If your grade is:

  • 80% or higher – You have a good chance of success, and your grade is high enough to potentially seek outside funding.
  • 70% – 79% – You have a decent chance of success. Examine each factor to see if you can improve its score.
  • 60% – 69% – You have a low chance of success. Examine each factor to see if you can improve its score.
  • 50% or lower – You should move on to another idea.

This scorecard isn’t only designed to give you a one-shot assessment of your business idea. As mentioned above, it also reveals the various factors that can significantly improve the success of your business. If you have a low score on any of these elements, consider revisiting each one and thinking of ways to raise that score.

Author: Mike Lee

An idealistic realist, humanistic technologist & constant student.

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