Close Your Ears To These Startup Validation Noises

During your startup validation interactions with other people, you’ll hear a lot of noises—pleasant words about your idea that make you feel joyful. Although these words look like validation evidence, they actually pose a threat to your progress. They simply make you feel over-optimistic about your idea.

On the one hand, people will naturally feel compelled to please you. Even if you tell them you’re open to feedback, they know this is something important to you. So, they tend to choose the words that please you the most.

On the other hand, because you’re excited about your idea, you’re affected by something called confirmation bias. That means your brain will focus on things that confirm your hypothesis (nice words), and ignore things that don’t (critical feedback).

In this post, you’ll find the words you should be careful about in your startup validation journey. Every time you hear them, I want you to tell this to yourself: “Stop. Get yourself together. This is NOT evidence of validation. Keep searching for real progress.”

“Wow, You’re A Genius!”

THE NOISE: Someone just called you a ‘genius’—or ‘brilliant’, ‘gifted’, or ‘talented’. This compliment about your brain power makes you think that everything coming out of your mind is equally powerful. A brilliant mind couldn’t come up with a flawed idea. Right?

THE TRUTH: Some people will be impressed by the unexpected elements of your idea. They would never come up with such a solution and, once they consider themselves smart people, they label you as a ‘genius’. However, that tells you more about them than about your idea. Creatively gathering elements doesn’t guarantee a great final result. Hence, a creative idea doesn’t make necessarily a successful startup.

“How Come No One Has Thought About It Before?”

THE NOISE: They say your idea is so obviously good that it’s odd it doesn’t exist yet. Now, not only do you consider yourself smart, but actually smarter than anyone else. You were the only human being in the world’s history to create it. Wow… A brilliant mind and an essential product idea. How could it not work?

THE TRUTH: The reason why it doesn’t exist yet is not necessarily related to your wisdom. Some people may have tried it in the past, but—since failures don’t sell as much as successes—they were not published. Or maybe you’re missing an obvious element that makes your idea invalid. Finally, the right timing (technology, regulations, etc) might have come just now, and several different attempts are happening in other parts of the world.

“This Will Change The World”

THE NOISE: They express their vision about how people’s lives will be disrupted by your product. You’ve envisioned this future scenario many times before. Hence, since people understood your vision, it indicates your idea must be valid. Doesn’t it?

THE TRUTH: The mere visualization of how your product can change the world doesn’t tell you anything about its acceptance and adoption. Imagining how the product will be successful after validation doesn’t prove anything about validation. For instance, you can visualize yourself winning a marathon—and its impact on your life (prestige, respect, interviews, and all the glory). Although these things could probably happen if you won, simply knowing how the future could be doesn’t make it achievable.

“You’ll Become A Millionaire”

THE NOISE: They play the fortune teller and show you an abundant future. You can see yourself driving that expensive car, wearing fancy clothes, and buying everything you’ve ever wanted. If someone believes those things will happen, that means they believe you’ll make a lot of money from your idea. Your idea is powerful, and people already recognize its potential to generate a ton of revenue.

THE TRUTH: Again, this is pure visualization. Your brain will always be pleased by your desires. If someone tells you you’ll be a millionaire, it put more fuel in this desired future picture. But, nothing happened yet. Becoming a millionaire will depend on successful execution. And the person in front of you has no idea about how well you’ll execute it.

“I Would Definitely Buy It”

THE NOISE: Now, it’s official! If someone talks about their desire to buy the product it must indicate a signal of validation somehow. Right? Now, we’re talking about real customers… real business. Cha-ching!

THE TRUTH: Be really careful about the word ‘would‘. It precedes an action, but it really expresses a conditional wish or an opinion. “I would definitely buy it if it existed”. “I know many people who would be crazy about it”. However, when it comes to the real game, people start seriously considering their objections. Right now, since they probably want to please you, the ‘would‘ sentences are used as a strong compliment—without real commitment (unless they accept paying right now). Remember: words are not evidence; action is.


THE NOISE: Oh…. you hear this word every time you achieve something big. So, if your listener is uttering ‘congratulations’, it must be something serious about it. What they see is a recognizable achievement and definitely a strong signal of success.

THE TRUTH: This word makes you feel really satisfied. Not only does it seem you’re building something valid, but it also makes you feel as if you’ve already succeeded (notice how you feel compelled to say ‘thank you’). But, once again, it just ignores the fact that until and unless you validate it, there will be no achievement at all.

“It’s like Uber for…”

THE NOISE: Okay, now your idea is comparable to Uber (or Netflix). That means it’s running under the same patterns of success as the greatest startups. That definitely must indicate you’re going the right way.

THE TRUTH: Companies such as Uber and Netflix really performed their startup journeys based on strong fundamentals. But, have in mind that they were developed under different circumstances. It’s a different product, different context, different customers, different teams, etc. In summary: analogies are not validation evidence. Keep focused on the real elements of your own journey.

Blocking The Startup Validation Noises

Right. Now that you’re aware of all these startup validation noises you must close your ears to them. So, in order to prevent these noises from negatively influencing you, consider:

  1. Interviewing the right people: that means talking with potential customers of your solution (not your friends, not your parents).
  2. Separating problem investigation from the solution pitch: in practical terms, think about doing two interviews with each person. In the first interview, all you do is investigate the problem and the interviewee’s context. In the second interview, you present your idea to get feedback about it.

P.S.: Customer interviews are truly powerful to generate insights about your startup idea. But, in order to get the most out of it, you must prepare your mind and ears to ignore all these noises. Your preparation can start with these two posts:

7 Customer Interview Tips To Generate The Best Insights
Doing Customer Interviews? Be Sure To Cover These 7 Topics


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