2. Wait!!…you’ve been lying to me?

…And it turns out it’s all my fault! Each week at the Founder Institute the course pushes us through the next step in a 14 week cycle to help us establish our start-up business:

The syllabus requires that you complete a demanding set of weekly deliverables in order to be allowed to continue so that means a race to get the 12-15 tasks completed before the 5pm deadline and enjoy a whole hour off before the next week’s lectures start that evening. It’s pretty intense. Each week there’s a balance of absorbing all the mandatory reading and available resources against getting the ball rolling on your set activities before there’s not enough time left to complete them. Inevitably this means you might occasionally get the cart coming before the horse.

Last week the focus was Customer Development. One of my requirements was to complete 10 different 30-minute interviews, analyse my results and write up my synopsis of what I’d found out. Thanks to those of you who kindly spared me your time, I smugly completed this one task in good time. This left me time to catch up on the remaining reading and discover…I’d been doing my questioning all wrong.Let me explain: if the task is to meet with potential customers and understand whether your product is going to help them, how many of the following list do you think are good questions*?

· Do you think it’s a good idea?· Would you buy a product which did X?· How much would you pay for X?· What would your dream product do?

It turns out, none of them are. All of these questions drive you to either feel sympathy for the needy entrepreneur who is seeking validation that they’re not wasting their time and money (definitely me!) or allow you to speculate on the market, which risks giving a false positive that there’s actually a need out there when there may not be.

Apparently a key giveaway of a bad customer question is anything not set in the present or past tense. Questions including ‘would’ or ‘should’ just invite speculation about the solution whereas right now, the priority is for me to find out whether you actually have a problem in the area my idea sits. If there’s not sufficient pain there, if it’s not something you’ve either searched for a solution for or, better yet, paid for a solution for, then it’s unlikely to be something that really needs fixing.
So, bad questions, leading to the wrong data. And it’s all my fault. But we’re all learning. So what should I have been asking?
Most importantly right now I need to keep away from solutions. I just need to know how often this issue occurs, your process for dealing with it, and how painful is it for you to solve.

So, thank you to all those who have sent me emails so far. If you can think of any examples of when you’ve had to organise a night out, a stag/hen do, a weekend away or any organised activity with other people, I’d be really interested to hear about any frustration you had and what you did to solve it. Please do send any stories my way. And if you know any other regular organisers (or at least from pre-COVID days) that might be able to help with examples or would be interested in hearing how it’s going please do pass this mail on. That way I can start ensuring a great solution, if we agree there’s enough of a problem to solve.

As for feedback when you do finally get to present your solution, what would you make of the following responses*?
– “That’s so cool. I love it!”- “Looks great. Let me know when it launches.”- “I would definitely buy that.”
It turns out, those all count as bad feedback! But I’ll explain that more another time.



*For further information on customer development questioning, I can highly recommend ‘The Mom Test’ by Rob Fitzpatrick, from which I took the examples above.


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