Talking to users is so critical that at the core of kind of YC 's teachings, there are only two things that you must do in order to search your company. You need to code or build your product and talk to users. So, this is easier said than done. I want to provide today some tactical advice on how to plan your strategy for talking to users, as well as some questions and strategies that you can use to conduct your own user interviews at the beginning of your company. A lot of the advice that I'll present today is actually synthesized fantastically in this book actually written by a YC founder called, "The Mom Test."
Thanks largely to Paul, there's so much help. I hope that YCStartup School has been transformational for you guys, for your companies, and for your future. I hope you've learned enough, focused enough, launched enough to make a difference, to make a difference that will put your startup on a path to success. That path will be different for everyone. When I finally gave up my job, gave up working for the man, and began to search for my futurestartup, I came to build web-based email. Later, that was purchased by Yahoo and that's where I met PG and his co-founder, Trevor, at their company Viaweb. Before starting YC, Paul spent tons of time doing other things, he wrote, he painted before he found his next path. Trevor moved out to California, funded his own hardware startup to build robots.
Talking to users usually yields a long, complicated list of features to build. One piece of advice that YC partner Paul Buchheit (PB) always gives in this case is to look for the “90/10 solution”. That is, look for a way in which you can accomplish 90% of what you want with only 10% of the work/effort/time. If you search hard for it, there is almost always a 90/10 solution available. Most importantly, a 90% solution to a real customer problem which is available right away, is much better than a 100% solution that takes ages to build.
Last one, one you're all familiar with, "Organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." Again, no mention of the product, it doesn't say, "We're building a kickass search engine." All right. So once you're able to come up with kind of an inspiring vision to attract the right people to your company, the next thing you should do is have a conversation with your co-founder about the types of values and behaviors you wanna cultivate inside of your company, right? Ultimately, the purpose of this at this stage in your company is to use as a filter for the hiring process, right? It should be a short list. And at this stage, it's fine that it's informal. If you're lucky enough to move on and grow, like ultimately, maybe this list becomes a more polished corporate values list, this is probably the seed of that, but at this stage, it doesn't need to be polished, right? You don't need to publish a blog post on it. It's just a short list, less than five things.
A couple of batches back, we had a YC alum come and tell his story. He went through the YC program a few years back. He applied with four other guys with the idea of helping retailers liquidate their excess inventory. That was the idea they started with. And they did all the right things, talk to customers, iterated, experimented, and he raised some money and he got to search for product-market fit. And he continued to search for product-market fit. Ultimately, they ended up, had a good business for a little while, but they also ultimately ended up in the business of makeup for teenage girls, right? They didn't identify with the problem. And when times got tough, they just didn't wanna be there, right? They didn't identify with their customers. And he told the story of where the employees around him actually came up to him and said, "Hey, like, it doesn't look like you're enjoying what you're doing." And ultimately they ended up shutting down the company.