In my role as advisor and coach to a number of early stage companies, I see quite a few great ideas and technologies being developed. Many of them feel exciting even to a tech veteran like me. And they look like perfectly plausible solutions to a perceived or assumed customer problem.
So potential market sizes are being researched, revenue potentials and margins calculated, business plans drafted and funding is being sought.
Conditionals, beliefs, and assumptions dominate my conversations with these founders. While that’s OK for a really early stage, I am less happy with that type of conversation a few months into a project. Because by then the founders should be able to provide at least some data points instead of pure hypotheses.
My view is that if someone assumes he is able to solve somebody else’s problem (and all successful innovations are ultimately solutions to somebody’s problem) he better know who that somebody is. And have a chat with her (or at least a real good proxy of hers) on the problem he intends to solve for her, acquiring some feedback on his proposed solution in the process. While these conversations can often be painful, they help to improve problem-solution fit or at least adjust business hypotheses. They provide data and reduce conditionals.
This is rarely achieved from the cozy vantage point of an office chair. So I can only repeat Steve Blank’s rallying cry for budding entrepreneurs: “Get the h… out of the building – there are no facts inside!”