Friends and Family – Are they Startup’s Best Friends?

I keep meeting entrepreneurs and sometimes they sound too confident of their idea (which is why I love meeting them!) – the best part is that this confidence oozes from their ‘primary’ market research – i.e. discussing their idea with friends and family.

Here is how a typical discussion goes

Startup: “I am going to build this product. What’s your feedback?”

F&F : “Awesome! I have been looking for something like this. I will surely use it”.

While this sounds perfectly fine (extend Paul Graham’s statement: “Great products almost always come from someone scratching their own itch.” to include friends and family’s itch as well), what one needs to really consider is that many (or rather most?) of the times, your friends and family wants to encourage you in what (or whatever) you are doing and their feedback are quite biased in nature.

What really happens is that entrepreneurs goes around asking his friends/family, validates all his hypothesis, builds the product and eventually realizes that something went wrong during the entire validation process. Depending on which stage you are in, there is a ‘idea switching cost’ with every venture and that decides the fate of your business.

What really happens with F&F is that even though they may not understand the depth of your idea, what they really want to do (from the depth of their heart) is to say ‘Yes’ to what you are doing (they will even say, “Hire us”!).

And the result? First hand validation of your hypothesis.

And the final result? I won’t say, disaster, but if you continue too long to limit your hypothesis validation stage to F&F, it surely isn’t the most optimum way to build a business.

Infact, most of the pre-beta prototypes built by startups are first tested by friends and family – though there is nothing wrong in that, ensure that they belong to your product TG (i.e. target group).

And for god sake, do not believe in statements like ‘If your grandma can understand your product usability, you are surely gonna rock’ – this works only if your core TG profile matches your grandma profile (read: How Should Startups conduct Usability Testing?).

Having said that, the only three Fs who invests in early stage startups are – Friends, Family & Fools (i.e investors). So use your F&F for the right purpose – be it for raising angel fund or as evangelists (who  can really really evangelize your service), but do not (by default) take them as your best friend when it comes to building your business.

What’s your opinion?

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