1. Assuming you know what the customer wants
First and deadliest of all is a founder’s unwavering belief that he or she understands who the customers will be, what they need, and how to sell it to them. Any dispassionate observer would recognize that on Day One, a start-up has no customers, and unless the founder is a true domain expert, he or she can only guess about the customer, problem, and business model. On Day One, a start-up is a faith-based initiative built on guesses.
To succeed, founders need to turn these guesses into facts as soon as possible by getting out of the building, asking customers if the hypotheses are correct, and quickly changing those that are wrong.
2. The “I know what features to build” flaw
The second flawed assumption is implicitly driven by the first. Founders, presuming they know their customers, assume they know all the features customers need.
These founders specify, design, and build a fully featured product using classic product development methods without ever leaving their building. Yet without direct and continuous customer contact, it’s unknown whether the features will hold any appeal to customers.
3. Focusing on the launch date
Traditionally, engineering, sales, and marketing have all focused on the immovable launch date. Marketing tries to pick an “event” (trade show, conference, blog, etc.) where they can “launch” the product. Executives look at that date and the calendar, working backward to ignite fireworks on the day the product is launched. Neither management nor investors tolerate “wrong turns” that result in delays.