Market validation: are you avoiding reality?

The biggest mistake that early career entrepreneurs make is to avoid market validation.

The importance of getting a MVP live in the market ASAP is widely known (it’s the first point in Y Combinator’s Essential Startup Advice), yet I still see it time after time with my clients (especially those who have yet to be burned by this mistake).

All ambitious entrepreneurs know the importance of market validation. They’ve all read about it. This means that any who don’t pursue market validation are – consciously or unconsciously – choosing to ignore this advice.


Why do entrepreneurs avoid market validation? (ordered from least -> most concerning)

  • They think their product needs to be perfect before they launch: this reflects a lack of understanding of how “perfect” products are built (via iteration with customers)
  • They think it’s difficult to get validation: the skills required to get customer validation can only be learned by doing, and new entrepreneurs have never done it before
  • They enjoy building stuff: it’s often more fun and easier to build a product than to try to find customers
  • They are afraid of what they’ll learn: that no one is interested in what they’re building, or that they’ve no idea how to sell it
  • Their ego cannot handle that they might fail: many people bolster their ego with the fantasy of themselves as a successful entrepreneur. They’ve yet to learn to live with the realistic yet emotionally difficult possibility of failure that’s inherent in any uncertain venture
  • Hubris: they think they know better than everyone else, even their prospective customers

People avoid market validation because at some level they believe they can get away with it. Get it into your head once and for all: you can’t! The market will win. Only when you accept this will it become possible to do the (often difficult and painful) work of customer development required to build a successful business.

Intuition is a major part of entrepreneurship. Successful businesses have been built by entrepreneurs who relied wholly on intuition to get a sense for their customer’s needs. Many more entrepreneurs have failed by following this same approach. Why would you take that risk if you don’t have to? No matter what you’re building, I’m sure that there are available steps you can take to derisk your business by getting more market validation. The real question is why are you not taking those steps?

If you’re an amateur, who wants to be an entrepreneur because you like to “build stuff”, then by all means, continue having fun. But, if you’re a serious entrepreneur, who wants to make money (you know, to live on) and build a real business, then you cannot afford to live in this denial. You need to challenge yourself to face up to reality, or you need someone you can trust to challenge you to do so.

Q: What reality are you avoiding?