Why you are never the customer when your startup solves a problem

I hear this a lot from the founders:

“I do not need to do more customer research because I am focused on solving the problem I myself experienced. I AM the customer! “

Except you’re not, not anymore.

You have not been a customer since you first started thinking about solving this problem for others as startup founders.

You may be familiar with the frustrations of solving the problem in the traditional way, every day, as a professional in your industry.

But how many thousands of other professionals are there in your industry right now? How many of them are content enough to continue to venture into inefficient, expensive, partially destroyed traditional tools and services?

What are they missing that you have? And what is it that you lack that they have in abundance?

You have chosen to risk your career to pursue a goal that any expert will tell you is most likely not to succeed. You will probably lose several years and hundreds of thousands of dollars of your savings or lost income chasing your startup idea.

They are either satisfied with their work, trapped in it, afraid of change or unaware of the possibility that there may be a better way to solve this problem. Or maybe they just don’t care as much as you.

You and they could not be more different

And yet, every time they describe their work day to you, it will all seem so obvious and related that it will be a real challenge for you to turn off the part of your brain that is already convinced that (a) you understand the problem; and (b) are sure you have a better solution that they will love.

First, you will be debating me and everyone else who is trying to tell you that it is necessary to turn that part of your brain off in customer interviews.

You’ll feel like rushing through it if I can force you to do it at all. You will only hear the things that you can interpret as validation of your current hypothesis. You will ask too many leading questions when you should be open.

You will not be able to resist introducing your startup solution and you will give me a knowing smile when the customer responds with: “Would I be interested in using this new solution? Of course I would be crazy by not . ”

Except they would be crazy.

“Oh, so it will not be free forever? Why take the risk of being first? What’s so wrong with the existing solution? How do I find time to learn to use something new? How will I persuade others in the team to “to use it too? How do they get purchase approval from the boss? Maybe I’m just waiting until some other people I know tell me they love it and that I should get on board.”

You can not wait to solve this problem for them and they can not wait for you to disappear. You will break the status quo and they will defend it; sometimes even when it does not make sense to do so.

You are not your customer and will never be again. You are a startup founder.