Since the very recent spread of the Lean Startup methodology of Eric Ries, Customer Development concept of Steve Blank, or of the refined lean concept of Ash Maurya, founders seem to understand the importance of validation at each step.
Despite the abundance of “get out of the building” advice (expression coined by Steve Blank in Four Steps to the Epiphany), founders seem to still not get it right in practice.
This is the reason why I decided to write Customer Seduction, a book for tech startups that is based on interviews with founders, investors and specialists from all over the world and see how things go in practice.
The advice that the 68 interviewees give inside the book are suitable especially for entrepreneurs in the beginning of their startup adventure.
Some of them started at Startup Weekends themselves and talk about the learning process they had afterwards, to get to the level they are at today. To give you an example, one of the interviewees whom is now my co-founder recently started his entrepreneurial journey at Startup Weekend Alexandria, in Egypt. This book comes very handy for all those who want to learn from other’s experiences and to see what is beyond working for a first weekend on your business idea.
“Startups don’t really apply the lean methodology, but they pray to a Lean Startup god,” Luiz Piovesana, Co-Founder and CEO at Empreendemia said. “A lot of people just stop after first experiments”
When I was a mentor at Startup Weekend Poznan and still writing the book, I noticed that many entrepreneurs admit nowadays that they should seek validation and be lean, but very few knew how to actually do it. They were trying to replace open discussions with questionnaires – too few in numbers and based on no previous learning to matter. They were asking closed questions and they were being satisfied with hearing that a few potential customers “yes, would buy” the product.
“It’s not easy to be passionate enough about your idea to convince investors and teammates to join you, and simultaneously be skeptical enough to test your idea,” LUXr Coach and GrassHopperHerder Tristan Kromer said.
When interviewing founders for this book, I noticed that one of the most important aspects to all of them was listening carefully to customers. In some cases, this attitude was adopted from the very beginning. In other cases, the founders realized the importance along the way, after learning from mistakes.
Here are 3 tips and tricks that might help you get your validation:
1) Not talking to customers to validate assumptions can be lethal for your
startup. And so can be asking the wrong questions or interpreting the answers in a wrong way.
2) Use the help of experts in the field. The professionals in this field are Qualitative Researchers and User Experience specialists. They can offer consultancy or work with you hands-on during a pilot research.
“The gap is that founders think of UX as design only, not research. UX specialists are used to going out of the building,” Martin Christensen,Agile User Experience Designer at Kaeru.se, said. “They are good at interviewing and understanding the target group quicker, because they have the experience. It is more the feeling they get, not recordings of data. It comes with experience.”
“I brought the founder with me when doing research,” he said. “He took notes, listened, and presented something. It was a good collaboration.”
3) Complementary to getting your understanding from customers, you can also get insights from experts in the industry or think of your previous experiences if you are one.
“Talk to customers directly, read extensively about your industry by well-known leaders, and of course aim to be an expert yourself,” Tiffany Bass Bukow,Serial Entrepreneur and Founder & CEO at MsMoney.com, said. “As an investor, I am much more likely to invest in a company where the CEO already had significant industry experience and knows the opportunities as well as the pitfalls. Be sure to add experts to your advisory board to provide valuable advice about things you don’t know.”
The best part of validating before you start building is that until you see customers loving your idea, you don’t have to leave your current job or struggle with hiring developers or an investor.
You can figure out if it is worth taking the leap before you actually take it.