Lately, I’ve been engaged in so many conversations around customer conversations and scale that I have decided to let you all in on the secrets. For nearly 6 years, I have recommended to Founders and Funders alike to leverage The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick for their exploratory conversations to validate their business. Well, the secret is out. There is an ongoing fallacy that customers want and desire what you are creating. But, they lie. I will reference one of the best and most accurate processes I have ever experienced as an Entrepreneur. This process is easy, simple to follow, and you will kick yourself for not engaging it earlier in your growth stage. It requires effective planning and time to spend with these potentials but is incredibly relative to salvaging cash flow for something that no one wants. Or, something that everyone wants.
My personal story is that nearly 5 years ago I began a $10M journey to create a huge, new Human Resources platform. It was the “in” thing in tech – it had all the buzzwords and it was set to disrupt legacy platform technologies. I was so enthusiastic about meeting with venture capitalists, investing my own cash flow, building the team, and readying myself for my Unicorn. I found The Mom Test on happenstance and my entire team [4 people wide] began reading it with enthusiasm until…we didn’t. We discovered all of our startup warts. Those bells and whistles I mentioned earlier, lead us to discover that no one cared at all. Those old systems worked for our customers and they didn’t care if we were utilizing blockchain, daisy chain, insane chain, or even what the heck our tech was. In fact, the customers didn’t see their old legacy systems as a problem at all – these systems worked so why change them? What we found was wasting any more time and money building this would be in vain. This saved our relationships with venture capital as well and lead us to a great lesson – don’t burn money and time.
As a multi-time founder, Coach, Mentor, Venture Capital investor – when I am receiving “the pitch” from Founders – I lean very deeply into the problem they are solving. In fact, I have them often roleplay how they solve that problem. The pitch is always important. I currently lead the Startup Accelerator for Emory University and the lessons our Founders are learning are in the phase of ‘make or break’ of their business decisions. We aren’t out doing 100 interviews in the “customer discovery” process – we are spending valuable hours across a small footprint to determine if there is an existing problem. The approach? It takes some time to get used to.
So how does your Mom play into this? Well, my story is my Mom calls me often to ask me for help with her computer. Those of you that read this or know me across the industry KNOW that I have not been able to solder a motherboard or change a port in nearly 2 decades since leaving Georgia Tech. But, that being said, I often use Mom as my testbed. Something so SIMPLE such as “Hey Mom, can you tell me how you handle that new dog on its leash?” can most certainly guide me to building the next most important dog leash ever – but understanding her problem with the current leash, how it works, how it does not work and why it is or is not a problem.
What we teach at Launchpad2X around maintaining burn rate, cash flow, and doing the early work to lead to a $20M company is why I am consistently challenging our Founders and their business models.
Now, for my Mom, she will eventually learn I am a CEO and not a hardware engineer but I’m okay with her thinking I’m on the next shuttle mission to Mars changing hardware and exploring the next galaxy.
Live Long and Prosper,