Customer development is hard.
There is a question that makes it easier.
A better question than the one I have been asking.
The question that I and every investor I know have been asking is
“What are your customers doing now?”
Often this question is phrased as
“What is the competitive landscape — who are your competitors and how are you better for some particular segment of the market than each of them.”
The many startups that can’t answer that question even as well as a two-minute google search do not have a bright future. It’s a good and important question.
But there is a better even more important question:
“What are your customers doing right now to try to find a better solution?”
Because the ones that are trying to find a better solution are the ones that will most quickly and easily find us. The ones who will put up with the most problems in our early solution. The ones who will pay the biggest premium. The ones we can most easily target. The ones we can most easily interview and otherwise have to help us.
If there isn’t anyone actively trying to find a better solution for their problem, we are going to need a heck of a customer acquisition plan; and, that plan might take a heck of a lot of money and entail a heck of a lot of risks.