Keep Your Hypothesis Close but Customers Closer

Today I listened to a founder describe his first start-up failure. His key takeaway: what matters most is what customers think, not what he thinks. He had a hypothesis, and he built a product around it without much input from customers. When the product launched, customers wouldn’t pay for it. He shuttered the company.

The founder started another company. He’s staying close to the customer this time—focusing, laser-like, on building what they want. Feedback from early customers uncovered key insights he didn’t anticipate. They led to changes that accelerated the company’s early traction and have become a core part of its strategy.

Companies exist to solve problems for their customers. The only way to know if you’re doing that is to talk to customers. They may not always tell you want you want to hear, but if you listen hard enough, they’ll tell you what they want you to build.