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There isn’t a speed limit: Line up customers before you ship

Published: May 17, 2011 5:02 pm

After seeing a fantastic pitch from a startup I asked a simple question. “How many users do you have”? They replied with “We haven’t launched yet”. I reworded my question slightly and asked “How many customers have you talked to?” and they replied with the same line: “We haven’t launched yet.”

This startup was following a broken formula. It’s horribly inefficient and causes companies to fight a needless uphill battle building relationships with customers. The formula is done sequentially and it looks something like this:

1. Build a product.
2. Ship.
3. First contact with customers.
4. Convince customers to sign up.

Why the model is broken

The broken model I just described takes you a step away from your customer. By building your company in this way you’re essentially saying that you know the customer better than they know themself. If you’re not talking with your customers, how are you going to know the best way to position your product?

This is a better model

1. Build relationships with customers.
2. Build a product and convince customers to sign up
3. Ship.

Before you write a line of code, you should have a clear understanding of who your client is. It’s much better to build relationships asynchronously as you’re building your product. These early relationships are instrumental to your success. By talking to your customers early in development, you’re creating a fantastic feedback loop that you can easily leverage and bounce ideas off of.

There isn’t a speed limit, you can (and should) work asynchronously.

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Hi, I'm Paul Hontz.

I'm a YC alumn and I love startups. I created TSF to highlight companies I find interesting. You can learn more about me here.

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