Silicon Valley Review S3, Ep7: Search For Naysayers

Episode 7 of Silicon Valley (yes, I skipped a few, but it was hard to write anything meaningful and startup-related after the romances of Episodes 5 and 6) is setting up Richard and the Pied Piper team for massive customer rejection.

Every beta tester not named Monica is thrilled with the product. Something has to go wrong. My thought is that Pied Piper should have some non-engineers testing the product, i.e. people who may actually be customers. Look out for this.

I see something similar all the time with startups around town. Let me explain.

I’ve never had a new founder come into my office and say, “So, I’ve got this awful idea. No one likes it, but I’d like to move forward with it.” Quite the contrary. All founders who come in tell me that their mom, spouse, roommate, buddy, aunt, etc. LOVE the idea. These people can’t believe that it doesn’t already exist and agree with the founder that the idea should be pursued immediately. Or the founder is networking with a lot of other very early-stage founders, and they are all backslapping each other on how great everyone’s idea is.

What’s happening is that the people giving feedback love the founder, not necessarily the idea. The people giving feedback probably don’t deeply understand the product or idea. They simply love the founder and want to support him or her. They are just being nice.

This is not a healthy environment for a founder. You need feedback. Honest feedback. You need to learn how to deal with objections and negativity. How to convert naysayers into advocates. In Silicon Valley, Richard has experienced a host of operational and team issues, but he really hasn’t had to deal with any pushback regarding his product. He needs more people telling him that they don’t like it.

As a founder, use criticism as an opportunity to improve. And get used to it. Starting a company is excruciatingly difficult. Any experienced founder will tell you that. But the payoff is worth it. Good luck.