What is the most important factor in building a successful startup?

According to speakers Matt Spielmann, Ain center senior program manager, and entrepreneur Max Sims, a graduate student at Simon, customer discovery is the most important way to know if an invention is worth pursuing.

They defined customer discovery as determining what products the customer really wants through data from real customers before launching the product.

Spielmann and Sims gave their presentation, “Voice of a Customer: Shut Up and Listen,” in iZone this past Monday. In it, they claimed the vital criterion for success in today’s market is a focus on one aspect: the customer.

The presentation began with examples of poor-selling items on the market. One of these was a  juice-pod presser. According to them, this item failed due to poor customer discovery.

Next in the presentation, Spielmann and Sims discussed hypothesis-based testing. In this process of an entrepreneur’s startup, conversations, interviews, and interactions can help investigate what customers want out of and think about their product.

In order to be successful in hypothesis testing, according to the speakers, entrepreneurs cannot give broad statements. They should hear and let people disprove their hypothesis. By interviewing and having conversations with any group of people, Spielmann and Sims said entrepreneurs will gain the confidence for a product-market fit.

The main type of customer discovery is to “pollinate publicity.” According to Spielmann and Sims, this means it is imperative to explore hypothesis testing with complete and utter strangers.

Reaching out to a total stranger may be awkward, but it can adjust a hypothesis based on no-bias factors and reasonings from strangers. Spielmann and Sims said any close relatives will not be reliable sources because of the bias behind family connections and relationships.

The speakers ended their presentation with suggestions for the interview and open-ended conversations. They suggested that open-ended questions are the best way for a stranger to talk about their stories. Furthermore, they emphasized that the most important part of an interview is to get the interviewee talking as much as possible.

Attendees left the event with knowledge they could apply to their own startup companies.

“I know now how to get interviews with the customer, especially not asking leading questions, [and] instead finding broad, general questions,’ Simon graduate student Zhuomeng Gao said.

Tagged: business

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