Startup founders always want to show me their product and have me give them feedback. I ask them to turn their phone away (it’s almost always an app) and answer the following questions without mentioning the product at all:
- What problem are you solving?
- Why is this a problem?
- Who has this problem?
- How much do they care about this problem?
- How confident are you about your answers to questions 1–4 above?
- How did you validate your market and problem assumptions? A problem assumption is a description of a gap between current and desired state from the perpective of users or potential users. A market assumption deals with the size of the market. Are there enough people in this world who have this problem?
- What decision are you currently trying to make that would mostly benefit from insights from users or potential users?
At this point I allow them to talk about the product as they answer these questions:
- Give me the elevator pitch for your idea/product.
- Where did the idea come from?
- How did you validate your product assumption? A product assumption is an answer to the question — does this product solve that problem for this market? (this assumption model was created by the awesome Laura Klein)
- How did you know what features are important to develop?
After I get answers to all of these, I am in a better position to give feedback, which almost always involves a recommendation to conduct user research to uncover user needs, problems, and behavior.
My book, Validating product Ideas, is helpful in answering key questions startup founders ask themselves in valid and reliable ways with lean user research methods. It’s like The Lean Startup, only this one actually tells you what to do…
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