Identify early adopters and validate before building

Pando just published a great post about the lean startup process. I like it for the way it explains the emotional challenge facing entrepreneurs as they validate their ideas, namely that the idea might not pass and the entrepreneur might be left thinking that the problem is the test rather than the idea. If you can see that in yourself a) be careful, and b) take the extra time to design tests that you believe in.

The other challenge that we see entrepreneurs wrestling with is a feeling that tests are a waste of time. Some of them are so confident of their idea that anything other than going straight to building an MVP seems pointless. Again I would say be careful, this time of over confidence, but I would also say that a good validation process, such as those we help design here at Forward Partners, involves talking to customers and will yield a lot of great information beyond a straight answer to the validation question. We recently went through a process with one entrepreneur who fed back at the end that he found the validation process very valuable, not because he had learned anything that dramatically changed his view of the opportunity, but because he had learned lots of small things that impacted how he would design the product and target early adopters.

I also like the way the Pando post calls out the importance of identifying early adopters:

There’s a pervasive, logical fallacy out there in startup land. Propagated by a Steve Jobs quote and entrepreneurs in denial, it is the fallacy that customers don’t know what they want until you show it to them. Of course, the mass market doesn’t know what it wants until you show them, but early adopters do. Logically, they must know.

In other words, if you can’t find early adopters, keep iterating and searching until you do. They won’t come out of the woodwork simply because you have made the product better. Eric Reis made a similar point when he said “If you add a great user experience to a product no one wants — they will just realize faster that they don’t want it.”.