Accelerators and Investors - Stop Telling Founders to do 100 User Interviews

Asking for 100 user interviews is an inefficient way to improve a product. Instead, investors should recommend that founders do two smaller rounds of user interviews and iterate based on each of those.

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Accelerators and investors, I think I know why you tell founders to go out and do 100 user interviews. You want the founder to 1. improve and show their ability to hit the pavement and do sales, and 2. find product-market fit. To be clear, telling founders to read The Mom Test and do user interviews is fantastic advice. User interviews help founders improve their sales skills, better define their target market, understand if there is a significant need for what they have, and get better at storytelling. The problem isn't that you are recommending that founders do user interviews. The problem is that you're asking founders to do 100 user interviews.

Today, user interview recruiting, especially when you don't have any customers, is either expensive or time-consuming. Chances are the founders you are rejecting are early on in their product and several iterations away from something customers need. Doing two rounds of eight formal user interviews, synthesizing the user stories into product requirements, and iterating the product (or a pivot of the product) is more time and cost-efficient than one big round of user interviews.

Here's what I think you should say instead:

1. Do eight user interviews and solve the biggest user concern in your product. Then do eight more and solve the most significant user concern from those. Then, please send me your notes from both rounds.

There are two essential parts of the recommendation above: 1. Product development is an eternal cycle. By recommending that founders do user eight interviews and iterate the product from those recommendations, founders embed user research into their processes on an ongoing basis rather than on a once-in-a-lifetime or once-a-year basis. 2. Asking founders to send you their notes is like when a teacher asks you to show your work on a test. Founders who think they will be sharing the notes will take more detailed notes and be more methodical in their approach and why they are doing the task. I can't tell you the number of times I've wanted to dig into my user interview notes only to find that I got the interview's ethos but neglected the details. When I do these for a superior or client, I always capture those details.

2. Spend two days making cold calls. Then, please write a blog on the experience and send it to me.

One of the reasons you're asking for 100 user interviews is to test founders' sales skills. But there is a better way. Cold calling sucks. As a technical founder, I'd rather stay up 24 hours straight coding a new feature than spend four hours cold calling. If you're testing the founder's sales determination, go right at it with this ask. For the same reasons above, ask for evidence, even if you never read it.

Finally, please keep recommending that founders read The Mom Test. When I ask people where they first heard that they needed to do user interviews, the number one answer is in an entrepreneurship, user experience, or product development course. The second is from The Mom Test. I believe in the power of user interviews, and from the sounds of it, you do too; but 100 is not nearly as helpful as two rounds of eight.

Authored by:
Mike Chirokas