I wrote the book after becoming hugely frustrated as an introverted technical founder trying to "talk to customers" but finding zero books about sales/interviews/etc that spoke to my context. That first company (yc s07) failed just as I started to figure it all out, but the casual approach proved useful (and comfortable) in my future businesses, so I wanted to document it for other folks like me.
If it's helpful for anyone, I've been answering reader questions with little youtube videos that touch on some of the common misunderstanding and sticking points.
Also, back when covid started, I also did a short series (5x 5min videos) about adapting the approach to remote interviews.
 Q&A: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLvHabB7atz2uWPZN5m7z3...
 Remote: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLvHabB7atz2tOjQs1OMzj...
I tried getting my co-founder (a serious old-skool sales guy) to read it, but he refused because he didn't need to be told anything about sales. Then he made exactly all the mistakes you talk about in the book when talking to our prospects. It was my first clue that maybe having a good salesperson as co-founder wasn't going to be the great experience I was anticipating. 2 years later the project died because we didn't get any customers.
I recommend the book to everyone now. If they don't immediately go "this is awesome!" then I'm suspicious ;)
Plus you lose half your equity right off the bat and you are dependent on someone and you aren't really sure what they're going to do for you.
VCs and investors are the only ones who like co-founders because then they can fire one of you that will later on if you're not doing what they want.
In particular, stuff like digging beneath requirements & feature requests to understand the root cause and their current behavior. And probably also the general idea of opening up a safe space for open learning at the beginning of each conversation (which is also a common idea in other sales approaches like SPIN Selling).
Also, it would be more useful while scoping out a new product/market, and less useful for products that are already mature/defined.
So my guess is that you'd get a couple useful ideas, but not a book's worth.
Just a small technical issue: I just tried to buy the book on http://momtestbook.com/ via Gumroad, and Chrome refuses to autofill the credit card number in the Gumroad widget because the site is http-only. I circumvented that by copying the link from the "Buy on Gumroad" button, but it might be hurting your sales. Consider adding SSL certificate or just make the button click open the Gumroad site.
(If anyone else needs it, the direct/secure gumroad PDF link is https://gum.co/momtest, and the paperback/ebook are on Amazon.)
So with that caveat out of the way, my top-of-mind career advice for entrepreneurial introverts is:
1 // Learning how to talk to (and listen to) people is probably the highest-leverage career skill you'll ever learn, even if you only go from "terrible" to "functional." There's a tremendous amount of discomfort while learning it, but that discomfort is temporary. I'll never "like" talking to strangers, and I'll always need to manage my energy levels, context, and recovery time. That being said, the ability to do so when useful to my career (like custdev or sales or fundraising) or life (like making friends in a new city or negotiating with an angry plumber) has been transformational. The pain is temporary and the benefit is profound.
2 // Journal each morning. Braindump your frustrations/goals/fears onto paper. Your brain likely works differently from most "successful" people, which means that the common advice won't fully resonate with you, and you'll need to chart more of your own path. This requires thinking, and for a lot of introverts, writing is the clearest way to think (but if you're different, use what works for you). Similarly, run every piece of advice you hear (well, the compelling bits anyway) through a personality filter, normalize it for personality/context, and then decide whether it's likely to be right you. Common example: "Go to that conference and meet some customers!" Maybe that works for other people, but it has a 0% chance of working for me. But there's a valuable core concept to that advice (go engage with new customers) that can perhaps be adjusted to a context I'm comfortable in.
3 // Cultivate relationships with strong potential cofounders long before you need them. You'll never be as quick on the draw in conversation as others, so you need the important relationships built ahead of time. For potential cofounders (the most important network available), the way to do that is by collaborating on small, time-constrained side projects. Allows both parties to evaluate what each other bring to table outside of an "urgent" situation, and without relying on quick talking.
4 // Don't let anyone press you into "right now" negotiations or decisions. Use live conversations to gather data, and then use your time alone to process it and come to a decision about next steps. Repeat if necessary. Nobody will give you this time by default, but nobody will deny it to you once you ask (and if they do, you probably shouldn't work with them anyway).
There's probably more, that's just top of mind, but it's what feels important to my brain right now.
My feeling has always been that if a book can be sufficiently summarized in a blog post, then it should be a blog post ;). And if someone reads the summary and fully "gets it," they probably would have been frustrated by the full book, since they probably already had a lot of the foundational knowledge in place. So it's better if they don't buy it in the first place. And different people will read the summary, want the extra detail, and grab the full book, which is great too.
Even with piracy of the full book (which is currently #1 on google for various fairly guessable searches), I still feel that it ends up coming back to me via word of mouth. Piracy probably hurts "bad" books that are propped up by PR, but it definitely helps books that people find useful, since they end up recommending it to other folks who may pay.
I revisit it often
1. You can still do full "discovery" (i.e., understanding what they're already doing and why, decision-making, current workarounds, etc.), which gives you a better foundation of understanding from which to come up with product ideas
2. But it's MUCH harder to do conversation-only "validation" (i.e., getting confirmation that they're going to buy and use your specific thing before it exists)
So in B2C (and also if building something deep into the future, like 3D Printing), you basically do your discovery as normal and then skip the commitments/validation, jump straight to a quick prototype, and follow the normal iterative product-first learning approach.
A couple Q&A videos (<5min each) that might be relevant:
- You can't learn everything, but can learn more than nothing: https://youtu.be/O16IefIu1zc
- Situations where you need a prototype to keep learning: https://youtu.be/EZGiaIxB0HA
- Traps and solutions to 'nice-to-have' validation: https://youtu.be/yxQoRp01HuQ
Thank you for writing the book, I recommended it many times.
Too many authors seem to forget that readers pay for every book twice: once with the cover price and then again with their time.
(And for most business/tech books, the second price is orders of magnitude more costly than the first.)
Anyway, happy it has proven useful and many thanks for the support.
Couldn't agree more.
The idea is great. Lean books should be a thing.
Just a tiny recommendation: Could you sync the Kindle book with the audible book? I love buying both and read the book while I am listening to it. That would be awesome!
I used its guidance at my big tech job when trying to build a new tool for researchers, and it helped me better understand how to understand what they need, iterate, and better tailor the sales pitch afterwards. Who would have thought that talking to customers is the single most valuable thing you can do!
But if the problem is undefined/unknown (like much future tech), or if the product is a nice-to-have or "10x improvement" (like many B2C apps or UX improvements), then you basically have to validate via a prototype (or some other sort of creative v1).
(You can still do your discovery/understanding via conversation in either case, of course.)
Please release that book on dating. Not that I'm interested in the topic, but I'm more interested in reading something entertaining.
I doubt I'll ever release it as a book (since it needs a full rewrite and my enthusiasm for it was very tied to that moment in my life), but maybe a couple of the ideas will slip out eventually.
My favorite quote from it:
“Someone should definitely make an X!”
“Have you looked for an X?”
“There are like 10 different kinds of X.”
“Well I didn't really need it anyway.”
Long story short, that person is a complainer, not a customer. They’re stuck in the la-la-land of imagining they’re the sort of person who finds clever ways to solve the petty annoyances of their day.
A: What the world really needs is a native Java compiler. That would be really great! You should write one.
W: I wrote one for Symantec. You can buy it today.
A: I don't want it.
It's possible to make good java compiler into native code and then sell it to a big corp, but I'm not a big corp, so it's good idea, but I'm not a target audience for it.
I've written many products over the years, some were successes, others were failures. A common thread has emerged: all the failures were pitched by others. All the successes were ones I wrote to please myself, and everyone told me I was a unique snowflake and nobody else would want it and I would fail.
This is highly quotable.
"You make apps? I have a great app idea that'll make you rich! All of us in [profession] would use it! You see... [explains idea].... It would save me hours every week and no one's done it yet, for some reason!"
Me: searches the App Store You mean like any of these first five results that are all literally the exact thing you're describing, are targeted at your profession, and that you want sooooo much that you've never even bothered to search for it and plunk down consults screen $14.99?"
We had an "innovative" name, so we got loads of "You should change your name to X" and "You're not getting elected because you're named Z not Y".
Lots of my team was really worried about it. But I always told them to ask these people if that's the reason why they are not voting for us.
There were only two answers:
(1) "Nah, I'm still voting for you, but OTHER people MIGHT not."
(2) "Nah, i would not vote for you even if you were named X or Y"
It really taught me to stop assuming things.
In other words, "would you not buy/not vote because of this problem" is a bad method of analysis, and will tell you that it had no effect when it actually did.
1 - https://www.amazon.com/Traction-Startup-Achieve-Explosive-Cu...
2 - https://www.wax.run
 looks interesting
The thing with separating complainers from customer is a great learning as well. If you just see complainers maybe the problem isn't that important ;)
> If you just see complainers maybe the problem isn't that important ;)
I'd like to quote this and add kudos for that. There's a lot of books that could be a blog post, needlessly padded out. 100 pages sounds a lot more manageable.
Books are usually padded with needless repetition and anecdotes.
There aren't many non-fiction books that are 150p and less. Hmmm
Reminds me of the classic line and omition from the dating world:
"He's a great guy, he'd make a great husband." ... for somebody else.
"Have you completed the task?"
"Yes!" -- no matter what
If instead you ask for a project completion sign-off document, you're forcing them to provide the answer you were actually looking for.
Has it been regularly serviced?
Where do you take it for service? What date was it’s last major service?
As you and others pointed at out, this is a very general principle. It comes from the fact that close-ended questions sort of puts words in someone's mouth (the trick is sometimes used when you want a poll to yield a specific result).
A lot of people are also too afraid to say they don't understand or hear you, and will just go "yeah yeah". It's aggravating, but it's both real and no real ill intent behind it.
Case in point: https://youtube.com/watch?v=n3AGpvV7KLI
If they can’t get their accessibility shit right, no way they’re going to have working snow plows in winter. Also the underground canals are gonna be so clogged that a mildly heavy rain will create fucking lakes and rivers on the streets.
There's a great book about the latter called "The Right It" by Alberto Savoia (a guy who used to work at Google to test business ideas). There he describes 8 different ways to test a biz idea:
- The Mechanical Turk – Replace complex and expensive computers or machines with human beings.
- The Pinocchio – Build a non-functional, “lifeless”, version of the
- The Minimum Viable Product (or Stripped Tease) – Create a
functional version of it, but stripped down to its most basic functionality.
- The Provincial – Before launching world-wide, run a test on a
very small sample.
- The Fake Door – Create a fake “entry” for a product that doesn’t
yet exist in any form
- The Pretend-to-Own – Before investing in buying whatever you
need for your it, rent or borrow it first.
- The Re-label – Put a different label on an existing product that
looks like the product you want to create.
A ques to the author (I saw he commented here). What do you think are the pros and cons of interviewing people using the MOM framework vs. just putting something out there and getting feedback? Often people give very different feedback when you ask them questions vs. present something and ask for skin in the game.
I gave a fuller answer elsewhere in the thread (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28669204), but it's highly reliant on the specifics of your idea/industry/bizmodel.
B2C and '10x improvement' style ideas tend to need to lead with a prototype (although you ideally first do enough discovery conversations to understand what they're already doing and why). The early product iteration is what Uber got right and Segway got wrong, and it's why the best videogame studios (like Blizzard 10+ years ago) always begin with prototypes of isolated core game mechanics, iterating those ruthlessly until they feel "crunchy" (the game industry term for immediately rewarding interactions).
Whereas ideas that are solving a well-defined, unsolved problem (which is way more common in niche B2B and the sorts of ideas that you'd bootstrap toward) can be pretty fully validated with ONLY conversation, which is obviously extremely quick and quite advantageous.
Apart from those two big categories, there are a million edge cases where the whole suite of approaches you mention can feel like a (somewhat situational) superpower.
Another great new book on the same topic is Deploy Empathy by Michele Hansen. Michele goes even deeper with lots of practical tips, scripts, and templates. I highly recommend it, especially if you liked The Mom Test - https://deployempathy.com.
It would be great imho to replace the venerable but probably overpriced and ineffective MBA with a modern equivalent that takes on board the sort of training and experience you would get from places like YC, some of the well known investors etc. so that we would end up with something that we could say, "if you want to start a business, you really need to go on this course".
It could be distance/part-time/whatever but it would ensure that business people have the correct skills and tools for the job so that they give themselves the biggest chance of success.
In the same vein of gathering good data and finding the resonating solution to customers problems, Small Data by Martin Lindstrom is another great read with a sociological approach, focused on branding but nonetheless on entrepreneurship also.
They also present you with alternative takes which can sometimes help in seeing the information from an alternative viewpoint which can also be really valuable.
So from that perspective even though there's some ground covered by a summary, I don't think of them as a replacement for a well written book.
-: It's a good book, if you've not done so read it! http://momtestbook.com/
If you understand what the customer needs, the customer has money, and you know how to sell then you are going to make money. If you have no sales skills then no amount of assurance will result in sales.
I met a young founder who had an obviously bad business plan. I asked if she had customers. She said “no, but businesses said they’d buy it”. I told her to go get a check from those customers, refundable if she didn’t deliver. Not one gave her money. I’m sorry that wake up call came so late in development for her.
Well more like highlights that I found interesting. It is definitely on my top list of books for entrepreneurship. You should get a copy and read at least once a year, very insightful.
Huge appreciation - thank you!
Joe (cofounder of Budibase)
The reference is your own mom, who will tell you that your idea is great, even if it's not. You're swinging at shadows.
Hard disagree. That title doesn’t capture the reader’s attention and it’s also less descriptive of the main point of the book.
I hope this comment will be seen as constructive rather than hostile: Personally while I was initially sympathizing to the cause of inclusiveness, I have now developed hostile feelings simply because this constant presence has made me tired. There is no place on the internet or IRL (at least where I live) where you won't stumble on these things. I am not interested about any of the gender stuff, I have been sure of what I am and what I am not since I can remember myself, so all this constant presence makes me tired, and it frankly feels like propaganda trying to forcefully change me into something I'm not. So pushing so agressivly an agenda that to the majority of people is irrelevant (and I believe this is true otherwise we wouldn't exist as a species), I am actually surprised of how little hostility is received.
I'm explicitly not commenting on what the author intended to mean by this title choice (yes, a "person who is uncritically affirmative"). (I have absolutely no axe to grind with the author either, just for the record!)
But generally speaking, it's fair to comment on the unintended side effects of someone's use of language, because there are always side effects when we use language. That's how language is -- it exceeds our intentions, because it's a legacy tool with generations of unexplored cultural baggage, to put it in an idiom that software folks might appreciate.
At any rate, at first I was worried that this was a sexist-agist reference, but in fact it's not at all. "Mom" is just used to represent someone who doesn't want to hurt your feelings.
The non biased version would use "parent" not "mom".
There are many options.
Seriously, intelligent people who want to find fault with something can usually do it, given a flexible-enough fault-finding toolset. Which we have.
1. Someone hasn't read the book and only glanced at the title.
2. That someone assumes the book says "test things on your mom, because there's nobody less tech-savvy than an older woman, yo momma so dumb she thinks a hamburger menu is something you get at McDonalds"
3. That someone, hoping to be an ally in the fight against gender and age discrimination in tech, takes offence at what they imagine the book says.
4. A mob of people who also haven't read the book destroy your career.
Of course, we've got like 4 levels of hypothetical here - you're reading me, putting words into hbeckpdx's mouth, who is imagining an easily offended third party, who is imagining the contents of the book, which they imagine is offensive to a hypothetical mom. Whether you agree with hbeckpdx that this is a reasonable thing to fear is another question....
I think this says more about the intelligence of the person who decided that Ξ is obviously a picture of a hamburger.
It literally means 'regular person test'...
The whole point is that it doesn't mean "regular person test'...
It means "person who isn't the target customer and who probably cares about you too much to give unbiased feedback" test.
If somebody wants to be offended by combinations of words, no combination of words will deter them.
That's not incorrect though.