There are plenty of caveats to this post. I’m going to ignore them all.
I don’t believe in “customer validation” or “customer interviews” anymore.
We’ve tried to “validate” ideas many times and have never been able to truly validate something without building it first.
Here’s how I see it:
- People spend too long building products before trying to sell them.
- Lean comes in and teaches customer validation, but “validation” is misunderstood by almost everyone as a separate business activity which should exist before you build or sell a product.
- However, the original problem was not a lack of validation, but that companies spent too much time and money building their product.
- Therefore, the true solution is not to add a new step called “validation”, but to cut down the time and money it takes to build something.
We’ve come to the conclusion that the only true validation is sales. The rest is a waste of time. And very few people will buy a product they haven’t seen or tested, so at the end of the day, you have to build the product. The trick is figuring out how to do it very quickly.
People misunderstand this, though, and tend to think that they can start a company by doing customer interviews and surveys and then they never actually build a product or they take forever to do so, meaning they still have the same problem people did before “lean” became popular.
Good examples: Facebook: Zuckerberg built the first full version in two weeks. Basecamp: built in a few months; even Eric Ries’ IMVU was built and shipped very quickly. In all cases, the founders first build a product then started talking to customers, but they built their first products really quickly.
People just don’t get this. They discount the “build a product” part and we’re trying to get them to understand that it cannot be bypassed.