You Can’t Delegate Customer Development

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Welcome to Camp, Jimmy

I’m noticing a trend where startups are delegating customer development activities to lower level employees, and in some circumstances, interns. I don’t think there’s a role for interns in a startup that hasn’t found product market fit.

Not only have authors like Blank explicitly said it’s a bad idea, it contradicts Customer Development on a lot of levels. I thought I needed to speak up, especially when Ries is giving it the thumbs up.

Consequences

But hey, I’m a busy founder — I have this cap table that needs to be filled up, one of my devs just quit, I’m flying to SF in two weeks and we’re a month out till launch. It’s no big deal if I get an intern to help me out with some interviews and some metrics.”

Wrong, mi amigo.

Customer Development was built to radically change your business model. Spending time with customers and analyzing your metrics should directly impact every aspect of your business - from positioning to feature prioritization to acquisition strategies.

So let me ask you this question - would you switch up your entire feature set based on the recommendation of a non-founder? I believe that if you’re not acting on the data being collected, you’re wasting time and making busy work. For what reason I simply cannot fathom. Like you said, you’re busy enough.

Stop the Waste

Look friends, do yourself a favour and don’t waste your time hiring anyone — let alone interns — unless you’ve found product market fit. They’ll only slow you down when you need to act fast. When you play the game of startups, you either ship or you die.

Footnotes:

  • Blank, 2007, pg 38: “Customer Development must have the authority to radically change the company direction, product or mission and the creative flexible mindset of an entrepreneur.”
  • Blank, 2012, pge 56: “This critical task can’t be assigned to junior staffers and must be driven by founders.”

- Max Cameron