Since 2012, I have offered more than 10,000 hours of volunteer mentoring sessions to early-stage founders. In the coming weeks, I will be sharing with you some of the reflections and insights about what I have learned and discovered so far.
Here is my first interesting insight:
45% of the entrepreneurs requesting a mentoring session indicated that they had reached the problem-solution fit Phase and that customers didn’t appreciate the value they were offering.
This revelation prompted a deeper exploration during mentoring sessions, revealing striking patterns that shed light on a pervasive misunderstanding: the confusion of a product with its inherent value.
The Customer Segment Conundrum: During these sessions, entrepreneurs consistently referred to their customer segments as Class A, B, C, or D. However, the focus often leaned towards the solution, with scant attention paid to articulating the underlying problem. This discrepancy highlighted a crucial oversight—a disproportionate emphasis on the product over understanding the customer's perspective.
The Unanimous Unsupported Consensus: A unanimous but unsupported consensus emerged—a belief that targeting Class A or B was inherently easier than other segments. Equally pervasive was the conviction that venturing into the realm of corporate customers (B2B) was more convenient and profitable compared to engaging with retail customers (B2C). This consensus, while prevalent, lacked a foundation in validated insights.
The Minimal Interaction Paradox: An intriguing revelation surfaced: entrepreneurs admitted to minimal interaction with their customers. This revelation paints a picture of founders who, inadvertently or not, overlook the importance of understanding their customers' viewpoints. This oversight often results in the creation of products that fail to address genuine needs.
The Co-Founder Dynamics: In an attempt to unravel the roots of this phenomenon, entrepreneurs were encouraged to share more details about their co-founders and founding teams. The results yielded a mosaic of varied and interesting profiles. The key takeaway was clear—many entrepreneurs invest substantial time in crafting products they "think" will fill a need, guided by what they believe is a good idea. However, without validation, the intrinsic value remains elusive.
The journey from problem-solution fit to customer appreciation is a labyrinth where entrepreneurs risk losing their way. The conundrum lies in the tendency to prioritize products over understanding the genuine needs of the customer. To truly succeed, founders must shift focus, engage in meaningful interactions, validate their assumptions, and weave a narrative that resonates with the customers they aim to serve.