Pivoting on Investor Feedback a.k.a Beware of Mentors

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Let me explain.

Investors, mentors, advisors, and other experts are great to talk to. They’ll offer valuable insight on market sizes, suggest great customer acquisition strategies, and sometimes offer you wads of cash to continue with your business.

But when I hear someone say,

Based on feedback from our investors we’ve pivoted our idea.

…I can’t help but cringe. (Update: This behavior has now been dubbed The Assisted Blind Pivot)

I’ve said it again and again

The only expert on your business is you. Click To Tweet

If you’re prepared to unconditionally and without investigation accept someone else’s opinion of what your customers want, there are only two possibilities:

  1. You’re not doing enough customer development.
  2. You are some form of invertebrate. Perhaps a mollusk. (Ok…I can’t think of a really clever way of saying you’re spineless.)

Similarly, if someone, including me, tells you something isn’t a great idea and there’s no market for it there are only two acceptable responses. Either:

That’s interesting. I’m going to take that thought out into the field and validate it with my customers.
You’re wrong. I’ve spoken to dozens of customers, I have a validated customer persona, built an MVP to test key behavioral hypotheses, and the data doesn’t back what you’re saying.

Even if it’s someone you respect and they’ve tried a similar business model before, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not doing the customer development yourself. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to go out and talk to five people, and you’ll only get better by engaging in the process.

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Discussion (2 comments)

  1. Juliana says:

    Hi Tristan,
    I loved this post. And I’m glad I found you through Twitter.

    Oh lord, I wish I’d been given this advice a couple of years back. Mostly what the various experts did was tell us stuff we already knew. Nobody was terribly unpleasant, but I’d heard our death knell rung a few times when what I was looking for was networking and roll-up-your-sleeves work. Never again would I advise a startup to pay scant cash to a consultant unless the consultant is taking *part* of their payment deferred, or invested. I could pretty much gauge the relative value of advice by how tied it was, or is, to “all cash now.” There are a plethora of erstwhile intelligent folks out there with consultancy shingles and lots of Fortune 500 experience who may understand parts of your ecosystem, but because they’ve been creatures of Fortune 500 – salaries, pay scales, work conditions, benefits etc. – simply cannot sympathize with, or understand the necessary mechanics of, a real honest to goodness up-by-the-bootstraps startup enterprise.

    Caveat emptor. 😉 I learned!

    Keep posting. Good stuff, indeed.

    Juliana Clegg
    Twitter: 3DHUD

    1. Tristan says:

      Yeah, definitely not on the strategy level. I do find consultants on tactical stuff often useful if it’s deliverable oriented. 🙂


  2. Pingback: How to Make Your Investor Pitch Lean | GrasshopperHerder.com

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