Better Customer Discovery?

I caught up with a founder who updated me on his progress. His company recently launched its product and is now looking for customers. He has less than a year of runway left and understands that raising additional venture capital funds isn’t a sure bet.

During our conversation, he shared that he’s hyper-focused on getting to breakeven. He’s trying to convince customers to pay for the solution, which has him hyper-focused on creating real value for them that he can be paid for. He isn’t spending time with customers who can’t or won’t pay. He isn’t building nice-to-have features, only must-haves. He’s now open to introductions to different industries and customers that have the problem he’s solving (he used to be open only to a narrow industry and customer profile).

This founder has always been good about listening to customers and running a good customer discovery process, but it’s on steroids now. His focus on creating value, being paid for that value, and reaching breakeven has elevated his company’s customer discovery process to another level. The entire team is laser focused on iterating the solution quickly to turn it into something customers will happily pay for.

When capital was abundant, founders could always punt. They could raise another round to extend their runway if they didn’t find product–market fit. Now, with that option no longer readily available, the possibility of running out of runway and shutting down is very real. It has more founders focused on getting paying customers to extend their runway.

The current fundraising environment is tough for many founders, but an unexpected benefit of it could be a heightened focus on customer discovery. That would be a good thing because it would lead to more founders solving problems that people care about and are willing to pay for.