The Month

The Next Big Thing

Talking to Customers

In December and Janurary I tried using a market-first approach - talk to people about a problem instead of just building stuff - to evaluate one of my ideas.

I went through a long process of decisions and research.

I picked a problem to focus on, then found a group of people who I thought had the problem. I found places where the group had conversations and finally set up in-person conversations.

The first group I picked was product managers. I thought I might be able to help them with market research. I had built a tool that I use for market research and I thought product managers might find it useful. I had several conversations with product managers and learned a ton. There’s a lot of nuance to how product managers do market research. B2C research is different from B2B research. Companies with existing customers are very different from companies without.

There’s an art to doing 1:1 market research and just going through the steps from finding people to setting up interviews taught me a lot.

I ultimately decided that I needed to go back to the drawing board. My product didn’t really fit with what PMs were trying to do and I have some doubts about my ability to sell into largish companies as a solo dev living in Taiwan.

A Problem I’m Passionate About?

I hope I can get better and faster at this ‘discovery’ approach. Interviews are eye-opening. You learn a ton. But a lot of stuff can go wrong too.

Right now I’m a bit stuck because I’m wondering how passion fits with discovery. When you talk to people you hear a lot of ideas for problems that you could fix. But these problems are fairly random - there’s not much ‘founder fit’. As a founder I think you have to work on problems you care about.

I’m starting to think that discovery comes after problem selection ~ pick a problem first and then get more details with conversations.

Think less.. Do more

I’m trying spend more time doing and less time thinking. For example I suspect I’d make more progress by having conversations, instead of worrying about whether I should have conversations… of whether I’m having conversations correctly.

All this ‘am I doing this right’ stuff might just be procrastination in disguise.

It might be that I just need to pick a rough problem, start having conversations and those conversations will lead me to something I’m passionate about.

If I have conversations and they aren’t useful I’ll know as soon as I have them… so… just have those conversations!

We’ll see how things go next month.

How I’m Building a Shipping Habit

I’ve gotten quite good at building habits this year.

If you want to build a habit you need systems and tools that encourage, support and track the habit.

In my personal life I build habits with 30 Day Challenges. I built an app that I use to track challenges and it’s been very effective.

Tracking ‘what got done’ is a little bit different from tracking daily habits like exercise and study.

I’d like this blog and other tools to become my ‘what got done’ habit building system. I wrote a blog post about my plan. Check it out if you’re interested.

Dec / Jan Wrap Up

What got done

The Next Big Thing

  • Did market research around tools for product managers and UX researchers to discover market opportunities
  • Talked to product managers and UX researchers about pain points
  • Ran experiments around talking with social media managers and digital marketing consultants
  • Tried several different idea evaluation frameworks
  • Read several books on customer development approaches

  • Moved blog to Hugo from Next.js for a more consistent development experience
  • Wrote 1 blog post


  • Began iPad in the box 30 Day Challenge
  • Began Symmetry fitness challenge
  • Completed daily Mandarin reading challenge

Lessons learned

  • You need an idea before you do customer development ~ the idea helps keep the conversation focused.
  • It’s helpful to write down your hypotheses before you take a course of action and then compare afterwards. You learn much more this way. Writing things out as an experiment also speeds up the pace of work.
  • It’s worth asking screener questions ~ “Are you currently in role XYZ? (don’t interview people who used to be in the role but aren’t currently in the role), is HYPOTHESIZED PROBLEM a problem for you?”
  • Customer interviews beat raw research because customers will tell you what doesn’t exist that should very quickly. Market research is a bit de-motivating because you only discover what already exists.
  • Good market beats good marketing beats good design beats good product… you could have the best product in the world but if you can’t market it so nobody knows who cares? That’s why talking to customers matters. You need to start with some project (product) you’re excited about but then you need to make sure the market is good and that you can compete against the existing competition.
  • Jason Cohen has a great article about how to make multi-parameter decisions.
  • It’s better to focus on ‘getting things done –> shipping’ than ‘doing things right’. Doing stuff teaches you how to do while reading stuff makes you think you’ve made progress but you really haven’t.

Goals for next month

The Next Big Thing

  • Use the customer development approach to validate a business idea

  • Build tools for tracking my work progress -> retrospectives
  • Share details about my projects on the blog
  • Improve visual identity

The business

  • We have to move to a new office in April so I need to begin exploring new offices
  • Connect with more of my fellow makers
  • I want to begin building systems that track and reward shipping -> getting stuff done
  • Keep working on my experiment work process


  • Continue the ‘creation not consumption’ challenge