Customer discovery is not enough

Paul Freet posted on Twitter this morning his thoughts on, a new startup from ATDC & Flashpoint.

Paul followed up with some really big words and stuff, because he’s all GT smart and what not, but I completely agree with him that is based on something new.

By now you’ve heard of “customer discovery“, but if you haven’t (and you really should have) I’ll sum up.  Customer discovery is just that: discovering who your customers are and what product or service they need. I’m choosing my words carefully here because words matter.  Customer discovery is not going out and selling the crap out of the idea you’ve come up with. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  In its most simple form, customer discovery is talking to lots of people in a market space and finding out what pain they all have in their daily lives.  Find a big, gnarly, painful problem, and solve it.  Sounds simple, and the concept really is quite simple. The process, however, is long, painful drudgery, especially if you enter ATDC or another incubator type place thinking you have the next Twitter. Why? Because you’re wrong. You’re always wrong, until you talk to 100 (or maybe many, many more) potential customers and find out what they really need. Then you’ve discovered your customers’ pain, and have the knowledge to solve it.
Enter FlashPoint.  OK, maybe not “enter”, but “apply for” would be more appropriate. Why? Because you’re still wrong, and Merrick Furst will be the first one to tell you that you are wrong. Just ask Mike Marian. You’re wrong. You’re wrong. You’re STILL wrong.
And it’s not just because startups are hard or you’re not that smart or your idea is in a tough space, either. It’s because you’re still thinking about “what your customer needs.” That’s good, but it’s not good enough, because even though your customer needs your solution and they’ve told you that they gotta have it and they’ll pay for it, blah blah blah yada yada yada, they can still and they are still avoiding it.  Wait, what?
So you have to build what your customer cannot avoid.  Build the product or service that your customer cannot not buy. Yes, that’s a double negative, and as an English major who regularly and publicly assaults the incorrect use of grammar, it’s just plain wrong; however, it’s right.
When you build that thing that your customer cannot not buy, then you’ve built that thing that your customer must buy.  This thinking is how Mr. Marian and Co. gleefully arrived at their first, ahem, “crisis”, which is one of those problems any startup would kill to have: too much demand.
Remember, their customers cannot not buy their product.


What do you think about that?