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Are you an early-stage entrepreneur looking to avoid the pitfalls of false positives? In this podcast episode, we discuss the dangers of excessive optimism based on a strong response from a startup’s first customers. Entrepreneurs create false positives in startups when they assume that mainstream customers will behave like early adopters. This flawed assumption can lead to pursuing a faulty opportunity and depleting cash reserves.
We examine two patterns in which false positives unfold, both of which result in building a product that meets the needs of the wrong customers. This can lead to premature scaling, inadequate resources, and a cash-constrained startup that lacks the wherewithal to replace them.
To avoid false positives, entrepreneurs should take two steps to obtain more reliable market feedback. First, they should conduct early customer research that exposes any differences between likely early adopters and mainstream customers. Secondly, when early adopters respond positively and surprise entrepreneurs, they should consider the possibility that the broader market may not have the same reaction.
However, spotting and avoiding false positives can be challenging because our psychological wiring tends to make us see what we want and hope to see. This tendency makes it easy to misinterpret research results and early performance.
To stay alert to this possibility, a startup team should pause and ask, “What might be unusual about these early adopters?” They should also avoid convenience sampling and instead test a concept with both early adopters and mainstream customers.
Overall, false positives can be as harmful for startups as they are for patients in medical testing. By being aware of the dangers and taking the necessary steps to obtain reliable market feedback, entrepreneurs can avoid the pitfalls of false positives and set their startups on the path to success.
Previous episode: False Start in Startups: The Importance of Customer Research and MVP Testing