Validation > Building

Make something people want.

November 22, 2022

“Life’s too short to build something nobody wants.” — Ash Maurya

When building your startup, it is a common pitfall for founders to fall in love with building the product or service they envision lacking in the market. These founders, including me, love to design, develop, and ship products above all else. It’s usually the technical people who fall in love with the craft for the sake of it and bring a high level of passion to this pursuit of crafting something that people will love. Although this sounds romantically in theory, reality looks much different. One of the biggest mistakes founders of early-stage companies make is building something nobody wants or needs. And I have done this mistake many times as well over the years. So is there a better way?

Luckily there is. It’s a magic word called validation. When starting out with any startup, you make a lot of assumptions about your customers, the market, your value proposition, the marketing channels, and the list goes on. The most critical assumption you are typically making, however, is the ones about the problems, needs, and wants of your customers. You always start out by assuming that your target customer must have the problem you are trying to solve and is willing to fix it with your offering. So we start to build. Spending a lot of time and financial resources of perfecting our product. Then we ship it. We announce it to the world, expecting customers to come to us and fall in love with our product to the same degree as we do. As you might suspect by now, this is nearly never the case. Where did we go wrong? Well, at the very start. Before starting to build your product, you need to validate the assumptions you are making first. This is what Steve Blank calls customer development and what Eric Ries means when talking about designing experiments to test your hypotheses. You need to validate your fundamental assumptions to ensure what you are building is actually something people want. And the only way to do this is by getting out of the building and speaking with real customers. There is no other way.

In hindsight, I have read about this many times before building my first products in the pursuit of launching something people want. However, learning something is one thing, but understanding is a whole other story. I believe you need to make these mistakes firsthand at some point to truly understand the importance of validation over building (in the initial stages). So when you start dreaming about all the fancy ways you can solve problems in the world, start out by talking to the people you are solving the problem for. And validate your idea before you start building. This will save you lots of time, money, and nerves over the course of your journey.