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How to do customer discovery as a startup?

“Teams that build continuous customer discovery into their DNA will become smarter than their investors, and build more successful companies.”


If you’ve been around entrepreneurial circles for a little while, you’ve probably heard the phrase “customer discovery” thrown around from time to time. It’s one piece of startup jargon that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if you haven’t heard it before.


1.   Define a Hypothesis



The first step is to form a hypothesis that defines both the problem and the solution you are proposing. A simple way to frame this is to fill in the following sentence:

My idea solves [insert problem] by [insert solution].

A word of warning: pay very close attention to your assessment of your problem. Be as specific as possible. A good hypothesis addresses a single problem with a single solution.


2.    Define Your Assumptions



In detailing your hypothesis, you will be forced to make some assumptions about your idea. These will include assumptions that:

  • The problem you addressed is actually a problem

  • The solution you propose will actually solve the problem

  • The market you plan to target has this problem

  • The market you plan to target will be willing to pay for your solution

A good way to lay out a number of these assumptions is to create a hypothetical customer persona (that is, a profile of who you think is the ideal customer for your business). Be specific–give this person a name, an age, a career, hobbies, interests, perspectives, and even quotes regarding your industry.


3.   Ask (Good) Questions



The next step is to “get out of the building” and ask some questions. You’re going to start by targeting people who you believe could be potential customers.

Example questions might include:

  • Tell me how you currently do _____________________.

  • How is that process working for you?

  • If you could do anything to improve your experience with ___________________, what would it be?

  • What’s the hardest part about ______________?

  • What do you like/dislike about ______________?

4.   Evaluate and Refine



If you perform the customer discovery process correctly, chances are you’ll discover some things that you had not originally considered. At this point, you have the opportunity to return to the drawing board, incorporate what you’ve learned, and repeat the process. Once your customers’ responses match your hypothesis, then you can move on confidently, knowing that you are about to build something that your customers will actually want.


About Devansh Lakhani


Director of Lakhani Financial Services, and a Chartered Accountant, he helps start-ups raise funds from his network of investors. He guides and advises start-ups to scale up by providing efficient sales, marketing, team building, and business management strategies. He has executed fundraising by block deals on the stock exchange and conducted IPOs and right issues on the SME platform to the tune of over Rs. 50 Crore. He is currently working with start-ups from various sectors to help them channelize their business models and investments

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