When Cool Doesn’t Cut It

I’ve pitched a lot of crappy start-up ideas. Ideas for products that people didn’t want and were unwilling to pay for. Here’s the problem: the people I pitched to didn’t tell me that my ideas sucked.

Especially in the world of student start-ups, people (myself included) have a natural fear of giving negative feedback. We want to be nice and never hurt someone’s feelings. As a result, when someone pitches us a crappy idea, we might respond with “Cool!” or “Sounds pretty neat” instead of saying what we actually think: “That makes no sense, why would you build that?”

As entrepreneurs, we need people to tell us that what we are building makes no sense. Those that tell us it is “cool” and “neat” are doing us a big disservice by sparing our feelings but letting us continue down a potentially wrong path. We need people to challenge our ideas and make us answer tough questions. That is precisely how we learn and get better.

Here is a good rule of thumb: if you ask someone for feedback, see if they do one of these things:

A) Buy your product (if they are in the target market as a customer)

B) Use your product (if they are in the target market as a user)

C) Introduce you to one of their friends that is in the target market

If the person doesn’t do any of those things, your product doesn’t appeal to them. It doesn’t solve problems or add value to them, and they will not buy or use it. Figure out why and pivot.

I challenge you and myself that next time we hear an idea that doesn’t make sense or doesn’t solve a problem / add value to us, tell the truth. Give the entrepreneur genuine feedback that they can use to iterate and eventually build something we will buy.

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