By Arnold Kling
I asked, “If we had a product that allowed us to put questions and answers on your Web site, and this product wouold make all the e-mails go away, would you buy it?” Now here’s a good lesson in bootstrapping: I did all of this before I had a product. When I asked if they would buy it, they said no. Better to find that out early on! I then asked companies why they said no, wrote their answers down, and moved on to the next phone call. In just one month, which is how long it took me to make those 400 phone calls, I knew exactly what customers would buy. That’s when I went and built the initial product, in just 45 days, because I didn’t want to build a huge application, just the pieces I knew customer wanted.
This is Greg Gianforte, interviewed in the book Bootstrapping by Sramana Mitra. As a naive entrepreneur, your intuition might be, “Develop the product, then take it to market.” Your chance of success is much greater if you reverse the order of those two steps.