A startup is like a hypothesis inside an entrepreneur’s head and the entire point of the startup journey is to know whether it’s true or false (besides being able to make money).
Entrepreneurs thrive on feedback from users. Every bit of feedback – even if it is negative – gives them an orientation. In fact, negative feedback is a clear indicator that the entrepreneur has identified the right problem, but perhaps the specific solution that she came up with is lacking.
As an entrepreneur, you should embrace negative feedback because it shows that customers are at least paying attention. What you should fear is silence. If no feedback is coming your way, prospects are not replying to emails, or users are dropping off from the product without telling you why then there’s simply no way for you to iterate.
It isn’t just that radio silence makes it difficult to iterate. There’s a psychological impact of working in the dark too. It’s extremely demotivating to keep putting effort without getting any feedback. At least with negative feedback, there’s a feeling of the right struggle. But if there’s no reaction from the market, an entrepreneur may just give up in frustration.
Radio silence from the market often happens when the entrepreneur is asking too much from the customer before delivering value. Or that the entrepreneur is solving a problem that doesn’t exist or is unimportant. If nobody cares about what you’re doing, consider whether the issue is in the identified problem or your approach in the market.
Since success depends on knowing the direction that leads to success, it is important to maximize the rate of feedback in the early days. Many entrepreneurs tend to keep their idea secret and spend a ton of time building the perfect product which gets no reaction from the market when it is launched.
Instead of keeping secrets, an entrepreneur should share what she’s building openly and engage with potential customers from day 1 so that she gets tiny doses of feedback every day. This will enable her to identify a clear direction for progress, creating a positive feedback cycle of motivation to progress even further.
Remember: nothing succeeds like the feeling that you’re succeeding.
This essay is part of my book on mental models for startup founders.
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