“Be a user of your own product. Make it better based on your own desires. But don’t trick yourself into thinking you are your user.”
Evan Williams, Co -founder Twitter
The above statement by Evan Williams is neither new or rocket science. Startup Gurus have long been driving home the importance of ensuring that other people will BUY your product before you commit a significant portion of your time, capital, sanity and life, to building and launching the greatest X the world has ever seen.
Steve Blank has consistently preached the importance of getting out of the building and Eric Ries, of the Lean Startup, movement stresses the need for ‘validated learning’. YET time and time again, entrepreneurs pitch and launch without even having spoken to a potential customer, let alone getting confirmation that they will actually PAY for your product if you build it.
Why Entrepreneurs Know, Agree but Rarely Do
1. Fear – Although many explanations are put forward as to why it is not possible, reasonable or practicable to investigate what potential customers think and say they will do; there can be little doubt that a fear of hearing ‘What a dumb idea. You’d have to pay me to use it’ is a major factor.
It takes a lot of guts and at times, tunnel vision, to launch a new product and there will always be people who are risk averse and don’t have your vision, who will try to deter you from going down the entrepreneurs’ path (there will also be those people who care about you and believe they have yours and possibly their best interests at heart).
As Mark Twain said
“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”
Having self-belief while remaining focused and determined is not the same, however, as saying that you should avoid validating your product with your target customers. Ignorance is pain not bliss.
2. My wife/ husband, mother / father thinks it’s a great idea. Sure they do. And sure they love you. Trying seeing what people who don’t love you or give a rat’s ass about you, think. When those people like what you’re doing and say they would buy, then you might actually be on to something.
3. Customers need to see the real thing, not a PowerPoint or demo. But you have no problem in trying to raise $250,000 from an angel investor with only 10 slide pitch deck? Customers buy into a product on the basis of an ad in a magazine or on the TV, so they will have no problem forming a view on your product before it’s built.
4. I am solving a problem that drives me nuts. While this is a great motivator for building a product, it must not be the only factor. It’s the spark plug not the engine or road map. Find a bunch of people who are also frustrated by the same problem and are willing to PAY to solve it.