A simple way to recruit users to validate startup ideas

Let's look at a technique you can use to find users in order to validate your startup idea...

First, identify the general topic that your startup idea is associated with. For example, if you have created a trendy pair of sunglasses that has special shade filters, the topic you want to start with is 'Sunglasses'

Start with 10

Do you know where does your target audience hang out, online and offline? This is the fastest and simplest method you can start with.

Think about your topic for a moment. What value does it offer, and who could benefit most from it? Think specifically of names in your immediate network. It could be your friends, or acquaintances who might most likely need it. Still can't think of 10? Stretch further to people you met at an event, and ex-colleague, or even a friend of a friend you might know.

Then write their names down:


Note: Listing these 10 names is super important. Do not skip it!

Once you've done this, the next thing to do is to ask where does each name on the list go to learn more about the topic. This information will be very important later on as you'll know where exactly to ask more people for testing your idea.

For example, "Where does Monica go to learn more about sunglasses?"

So I find that Monica lives in sunny Hawaii, and loves sunglasses. She often visits Elle.com, Zappos and reads Vogue for the latest sunglass fashions. When she buy sunglasses, she often makes a trip to the Nordstrom shopping outlet in the city.

Next steps...

So the next logical thing to do, is to email and reach out to every single one on your list, and ask them what they think about your idea right?

Actually no!.

Pause here for a moment. I'm about to show you something that is an oxymoron.

The golden rule in testing startup ideas: Do not talk about your startup idea!

The customer interview really isn't about your startup idea. It is about hearing your customers after all; their problems and pains. You don't want to waste your time and effort solving a problem that doesn't exist. Ultimately, your customers eventually pay you because you solve their real problems, not because your startup idea is cool!

Our brains have a natural bias to start looking for validation that is only good. I mean who likes to hear bad things about their own great ideas right? Plus, the person you're asking subconsciously knows what you're looking for, and because of a desire to not offend you, will want to help you.

What to ask then in the email?

Do not hint anything at all about the idea you have. Instead, write it in a way that's neutral, and as if you're on a fact-finding mission. Here's how:

Hey Monica,

I'm doing some research to understand how people use their sunglasses.

Since I know that’s a topic you are interested in, I would love to have a chat with you for just 20 minutes to hear your experiences - This Tues or Wed morning?

Could you also do two things for me?

1) Could you tell me which sites/magazines do you visit often to read up on sunglasses?

2) If you have any people you know who also wear sunglasses often, could you get us connected?

Thanks so much.


During the actual interview...

Ask these 5 questions.

  1. What’s the hardest part about the [the problem you are solving].
  2. Can you tell me about the last time that happened?
  3. Why was that hard?
  4. What, if anything, have you done to solve that problem?
  5. What don’t you love about the solutions you’ve tried?

I'll save the in detailed steps for these 5 questions in another blog post. But if you would like further reading, please check out this other article: How To Interview Customers Without Exposing Your Startup Idea


This might have been a longer process than you originally thought, but I guarantee it: you'll not only to learn about your customer’s problems, you’ll also learn if they’re worth solving.

Then you'll instinctively know if your startup idea works...or not.

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