I noticed a problem some time ago and decided to dive into it to understand it better. I emailed a bunch of people and asked others to introduce me to people who’d lived the problem. So far, a high percentage of these people have agreed to chat. The calls have all started off the same, followed a consistent path, and ended well.
People are a bit suspicious when they first hop on the call. I introduce myself and share some info on my background. I then share the problem (I frame it in a way that’s unique to my background) that I’m trying to learn more about from people who’ve lived it. That’s when the conversation changes. They warm up and start telling me all about their experience with the problem. They love talking about how the problem affected them. By the time the call ends, we’ve built the beginnings of a relationship and I’ve learned a ton. If it’s gone really well, they’ve agreed to intro me to someone else.
The most important thing I’ve learned from these conversations is that people love talking about their problems and feeling heard. If you’re a founder, take the time to talk to people—and, especially, to listen to them—to understand the problem you’re solving. The time and energy you put into this will pay you back many times over.