50 Coffees

I read this terrific post today about the importance of getting input from others. The author basically says "before you make any big life decision, take 50 people out for coffee and get their thoughts".

The post resonated with me because not doing this is one of the biggest mistakes I've seen entrepreneurs make (to be honest, I've been guilty of it myself).

A few months ago, Tivix was contacted by a very successful private equity guy who had an idea for a new web/mobile application for a particular retail sector (I'll honor our NDA and not get too specific). He told me how much retailers in this particular sector were going to love his idea and that he was sure they would pay big money to sign up for it. We wrote him a proposal on building it, but he ended up hiring an offshore shop instead.

A couple weeks ago we reconnected and I asked him how his project was going. He said the idea was dead because it turned out that these retailers didn't want it after all. "After spending $50,000 on a prototype I went out and had some meetings with potential customers. It turns out the dynamics of these retailers' business are completely different than I thought. If I'd actually bothered to go out and meet with a few in advance I would have learned that immediately, without having to spend $50,000 on prototyping".

This is a really smart guy. A Harvard MBA, in fact. But he made the same mistake that many of us have made: building something without talking to real customers first (see Steve Blank 101).

So get out there and buy people coffee — you'll learn a lot.