How to Talk to Your Startup Users

Sean Knight
6 min readAug 17, 2021

Aspiring Startup Founder Notes #LearnInPublic

I recently watched this talk by Eric Migicovsky at Y-Combinator on how to talk to users.

Here are my notes.

👾 Initial thoughts from Sean

  • Talking to users is an interesting topic because it seems like something that should happen at a later stage. I worked at a startup where we had regular discussions with our most active users about our SAAS platform, the features we were building, and what was and wasn’t working well for them. To me it seemed like something that happens later on in the startup’s lifecycle when you…y’know, have users.
  • Thus, I almost didn’t watch this video because I haven’t even incorporated my startup yet, let alone built the platform. But “Talk to users” is a bit of a misnomer because it actually includes talking to people who are not yet your users. It’s critically important to talk to prospective users and even just advisors in the industry you are targeting when you are still evaluating whether your idea is viable. This is how you prove out the concept before you’ve built anything.

📕 Now, the notes:

  • It is the job of the CEO to talk to customers. This cannot be passed down the chain.
  • If the engineers don’t have the skills to talk to users, they need to also develop those skills. There should’t be a go between.
  • Y-C’s core teaching is that you mainly need to do two things: build your product and talk to users.
  • A lot of the info from this talk is also synthesized nicely in the book “The Mom Test”. The general idea is that you need to be able to explain your idea to someone’s mom.

😳 3 common errors founders commit when talking to users

1. We talk about our idea

  • During a user interview the goal is to listen, not to talk about your idea.
  • When you talk about your idea you are moving the conversation into a social discussion where they will try to support you rather than give you useful feedback.

2. We talk about hypotheticals

Sean Knight

Physicist doing non-physics things