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Ask HN: Your best advice when scouting customer dev interviewees.
4 points by blizkreeg on July 6, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 2 comments
I'm working on something new and unlike in the past when I'd dive in straight into product development, I really want to take the time to validate the problem and hear why it wouldn't work (if that's the case!). I'm determined not to repeat mistakes of the past.

I'm realizing that the ideal person who I'd like to interview/validate pain-point with is CEO/COO/someone in a similar capacity. The reason is that my idea falls in a space (more effective collaboration in companies) that concerns them the most - ensuring knowledge is being shared and discussions are taking place across-the-company.

Reaching out to CEOs of well-known mid-stage startups on LinkedIn though seems daunting - not because they may ignore the email but because I wonder if this may just be too cold and ineffective a way.

What has worked for you when starting cold and prospecting interviewees (at the highest levels) for your customer interviews (pre-product)?

Great question! I'm looking forward to hearing the answers. I think this is the hardest problem in entrepreneurship and why social capital and access are actually way more valuable than capital, technology, intelligence etc.

I'm in a similar situation, and my experience has been that there are three things that get you a busy person's time:

1. Provide immediate value. I run a cybersecurity consulting firm (www.tailriskconsulting.com) and execs like to learn a bit about the space, so the more I can do to offer actual knowledge right off the bat, the more likely they are to pick up the phone and let down their guard.

2. A personal connection. This could be a school you both attended, a personal hobby or activity you are both passionate about or another social bond. Join clubs, play sports, be open and try to learn from everybody you meet. Also, don't be afraid to self promote a bit. You have a brand whether you like it or not, it's up to you to shape it. Become the cybersecurity gal at your Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gym. Be the big data guy at your art classes. Talk about your stuff and be genuinely excited!

3. Warm intros. Your friends are likely to have more contacts than you do (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friendship_paradox). There are likely a few super connectors in your social circle. Find out who they are and try to tap in to that.

Finally, and this applies to all three approaches, work up the chain. Don't turn down coffee or a call with lower level folks; They can pass you up the chain. Don't give up! Rejection blows. We're all too self conscious too much of the time. If you believe what you're doing is important for the world, keep on plugging.

Best of luck! Let me know if there's anything I can do.

Thank you for that advice! Self-promotion doesn't come easy but it's imperative, it seems.

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