Why Customer Interviews Are Critical to Startup Success

Sep 10, 2019

Building a startup comes with a lot of risks. There are a number of mistakes that entrepreneurs are prone to making when launching a new company. In Steve Blank’s ‘9 Deadliest Startup Sins’, the Silicon Valley legend explains that the #1 Startup Sin is assuming you already know what your customer wants. In addition, #1 reason why startups fail is lack of product/market fit… which can be traced back to (the lack of) customer interviews.

So, in order to truly understand what your customer wants, conducting customer interviews is critical.



Conducting interviews are the best way to validate a business model for it will be the customers themselves validating/invalidating the product based on their experience and needs. Instead of wasting time on products that will fail to reach its intended market, interviews help businesses forge a deeper understanding of their prospective customers. Furthermore, interviews can potentially point out any flaws in a product and/or service before it’s too late. First, use the Business Model Canvas to validate your product-market fit and the Value Prop Canvas to validate model-market fit. We have a guide for the Business Model Canvas here and Value Prop Canvas here.

Customer interviews will help validate assumptions for almost half of your business model

The business model assumptions that interviews don’t validate directly will be validated indirectly because everything is derived from the top right corner of the business model canvas.

Startups can gain insights on the problem, the emotions associated with these problems, and the solutions the mother already tried. All three insights were crucial to moving the business model forward and providing specific solutions to the problems their customer faced. Conducting customer interviews should be utilized by all startups to leverage the findings to better cater their product or service to their target market.


It is important that customers being interviewed must feel comfortable, like having a casual conversation rather than an interview. One of the most common mistakes when conducting interviews is asking leading questions like, ‘Would you be interested in a service that sells X?’ Try using a Customer Interview Script. Questions like these often yield unreliable answers that rarely provide any real insight. Instead, ask questions open-end questions about their the problem they are experiencing and how they’ve gone about solving it. From there, bits of information will come out that reveal what your customers are really looking for. Check out our Top 10 Tips for Conducting Interviews.

Overall, customer interviews present the best way for startups to get to heart of what their customers want.

This means that the first step to any startup’s success could, and even does, in fact hinge on a thorough customer interview.

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