Helping people with their hair on fire

Early on, you might invest time trying to fix problems that your users complain about. It feels like the right thing to do.

So the dev team starts squashing bugs, improving the UI, and generally cleaning up the place.

But sometimes, you can fix all of the problems and still not retain users.

They quit complaining, but they don’t use the product any more than before.

When this happens, it might be that they don’t really care that much about the core problem you’re trying to solve.

I love the metaphor that Michael Seibel uses:

If your friend was standing next to you and their hair was on fire, that fire would be the only thing they really cared about in this world.

It wouldn’t matter if they were hungry, just suffered a bad breakup, or were running late to a meeting—they’d prioritize putting the fire out.

If you handed them a hose—the perfect product/solution—they would put the fire out immediately and go on their way.

If you handed them a brick they would still grab it and try to hit themselves on the head to put out the fire.

Michael Seibel, YCombinator

Don’t get me wrong, you should aim to build a stable, usable product. Eventually.

But right at the start, you should worry more about identifying a big, painful, and urgent problem.

Watch and see which users bash themselves on the head with your product.

If they keep swinging, you’re on the right track.

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