As a serial start up founder, M&A practitioner, and pro bono coach and mentor to early stage start up founders, I have had the privilege of working with some amazingly bright and talented individuals. There is nothing as exciting as working with passionate and determine people to achieve their goals. The energy can be electrifying, and the passion downright contagious.
Truly, all these courageous startup founders and their teams believe they already have, or know how to build, a one-size-fits-all solution to a targeted problem which, if it doesn’t change the entire world, will at least change millions of people’s lives for the better. They are idealists, hardworking professionals who are driven by tenacity to succeed.
The Questions Entrepreneurs Most Commonly Ask
As entrepreneurs navigate the pathway set before them, they tend to ask a myriad of questions, most of which have some form of validity but end up being innocuously irrelevant to the immediate task at hand. Here are a few of the most common occurring questions that I encounter amongst start up founders:
- What is the pain in the marketplace that we, as a team, are seeking to eliminate?
- What is the solution to this pain?
- Who are our customers?
- How big is the market?
- Who are our competitors?
I am not saying that these are not good questions. They most certainly are. I would also suggest that if you do not have the answers to these questions, you won’t get very far in your seed stage funding, much less your “A” round.
The Question Every Entrepreneur Should Be Asking
However, there is a far more fundamental question which needs to be addressed long before you commence your MVP build out. And that question is,
“Will anybody buy the darn thing?”
I’ve seen the most interesting gadgets produced on the planet, yet watched as the companies who built and launched these soon-to-be shiny objects of derision came plummeting to earth and scorched in the atmosphere of the market like Lucifer himself being violently thrown out of the pearly gates and falling to earth in a flaming blaze of destruction.
These entrepreneurs failed simply because they did not realize the customers didn’t want their product. That is not to say customers didn’t NEED their product. It is not to say that the customers wouldn’t have BENEFITED. No, the customer (who is King, as we all know) just didn’t WANT it.
For example, if you are looking to disrupt the widget industry, the question is NOT, “What is the market for widgets?” Neither is it, “Who are the customers for widgets?” Rather, the question is, “WHO will buy OUR widget?” “Who will buy our unique variation of the many widgets out there?” “Who will find this widget we have produced with our distinctives worth buying?”
In my opinion, this is the most fundamental question every entrepreneur should be asking – asking him/herself, asking his/her team, and asking his/her mentor.
If you can answer that question correctly, it will cover a multitude of company sins. Your business plan may not be the best, your launch may be a little sloppy, and your initial deliveries a little slow. But if your product is what the customer wants, and it is built in the manner in which he wants it, your company has a real shot at success.
However, if that question is answered incorrectly, the best laid plans of mice and men will not carry you to success. You’re going down, baby…and all of your dreams are going down with you.