Startups: Building, Pitching, Buyers and Fear


“Be a user of your own product.  Make it better based on your own desires.  But don’t trick yourself into thinking you are your user.”


– Evan Williams, Co-Founder of Twitter



The above statement by Evan Williams is neither new nor rocket science.  Startup gurus have long been driving home the importance of ensuring that other people will buy your product before you commit a significant portion of your time, capital, sanity and life to building and launching the greatest X the world has ever seen.

Steve Blank, who developed the Customer Development methodology, has consistently preached the importance of getting out of the building, and Eric Ries of the Lean Startup stresses the need for “validated learning.”  Yet time and time again, entrepreneurs pitch and launch without even having spoken to a potential customer, which is far from getting confirmation that they will actually pay for your product if you build it.

Why Entrepreneurs Know, Agree, but Rarely Do

1. Fear

Although many explanations are put forward as to why it is not possible, reasonable or practicable to investigate what potential customers think and say they will do, there can be little doubt that a fear of hearing, “What a dumb idea.  You’d have to pay me to use it,” is a major factor.

It takes a lot of guts and, at times, tunnel vision to launch a new product, and there will always be people who are risk averse and don’t have your vision, who will try to deter you from going down the entrepreneur’s path (there will also be those people who care about you and believe they have your, and possibly their, best interests at heart).

As Mark Twain once said, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.  Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

However, having self-belief while remaining focused and determined is not the same as saying that you should avoid validating your product with your target customers.  Ignorance is pain, not bliss.

2. My wife/husband/mother/father thinks it’s a great idea.

Sure they do; they love you.  Try to see what people who don’t love you or give a rat’s ass about you think.  When those people like what you’re doing and say they would buy your product, then you might actually be onto something.

3. Customers need to see the real thing, not a PowerPoint or demo.

Customers buy into a product on the basis of an ad in a magazine or on the TV, so they will have no problem forming a view on your product before it’s built.

4. I am solving a problem that drives me nuts. 

While this is a great motivator for building a product, it must not be the only factor.  It’s the spark plug, not the engine or roadmap.  Find a bunch of people who are also frustrated by the same problem and are willing to pay to solve it

Reprinted by permission.

About the author: Martin Soorjoo

Founder of The Pitch Clinic, Martin Soorjoo is a pitch strategist. He coaches entrepreneurs world-wide, helping them launch and raise funding. Prior to founding The Pitch Clinic, Martin spent 15 years as a former award winning attorney. He has worked with start-ups and investors, including senior investment bankers, venture capitalists and angel investors. During this period Martin raised several million dollars, including negotiating one deal worth $75 Million. This experience has equipped him with unique insights into the challenges start-ups face and how investors make decisions. He is a Certified Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and an expert in body language.

Martin is the author of ‘Here’s the Pitch‘.

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