Get paying customers BEFORE building anything

August 3, 2022

HERE'S THE FASTEST & SURE FIRE WAY to validate startup ideas!

When I dropped out of Stanford, I wasted a year building a product NOBODY WOULD PAY FOR.

But today, I'm at 100k!

Here's what changed:

When I dropped out, I was building a consumer product.

I coded the MVP, got 1k users, and even got the YC interview!

Pretty great right?

WRONG!

12 months later, I was still coding & getting users...

But I hadn't even validated the riskiest assumption: WOULD PEOPLE EVEN PAY FOR IT?

When people asked me why I didn't validate the payment, I said,

"Product's not ready. People won't see the value now. I just need to improve the website. Add this feature. Get more users..."

Truthfully, I was just scared people would say no 😭

After 1 year of pushing it off, my team told me they were really worried about the Business Model. It was then I had the courage to ask my audience if they would pay for my product.

And then?

The overwhelming answer was no.

It was the most crushing feeling, feeling like I wasted a year building only to find I was building a product NO ONE would pay for.  

Then for Founders Cafe, I did it the other way around.

I asked people to pay FIRST before I built anything.

I interviewed 40 founders.

Then sent out an email to the top 12 founders from Stanford, YC, & more, asking them to pay to join our community.

BOOM! 10/12 of them PAID!

In 1 day, I had validated my startup idea's riskiest assumption without building anything. NOT 1 year

Asking people to pay is one of the scariest things.

l know how it feels.

I recently asked queer Stanford women to pay upfront before joining my Gay Sorority @ Stanford.

I was so scared I'd turn them off (appear transactional), or that no one would pay for it

However, the gay women, like those founders, experienced so much burning pain that they were willing to pay me UPFRONT to solve it.

I've since learned: You can ask for payment (before you build) to see if people TRULY have the burning pain. If so, THEY WILL ACTUALLY PAY!

Examples from Founders Cafe members:

😮 A college dropout made a fake landing page to test a product. People paid! Then he actually built it & MADE $3m!!!

😮 A YC solo founder made a fake demo on Powerpoint. Got 5 paid LOIs in Enterprise. Raised $1.5m, built it, and got in YC!!

😮 A Harvard founder said he can convert Figma -> React. Got 10 customers in 1 day. Fulfilled requests manually, then later, built a tool to actually automate Figma -> React. Raised 1m+

BAD EXAMPLE:

😭 Stanford Dropout spends 1 yr building product with NO VALIDATION ON PAYMENT

Of course, there exceptions where people build for 1 year, and poof, get paying customers.

What I'm sharing is my experience + What I've seen from Founders Cafe members on what's the FASTEST & SURE FIRE WAY to validate startup ideas.

I don't anyone to waste a year as I did.

Truthfully, after my first startup failed, I was gonna re-enroll @ Stanford/work at FB

But after I asked people to pay AND IT WORKED, I dropped out for good!

TODAY I HIT $100k!

Hope this will inspire you to ask people to pay upfront! It actually works and will change your life

Maddie Wang founders of founders cafe solo founder
Maddie Wang
Gay / Solo-Founder / Stanford Dropout

I'm building Founders Cafe because as a solo founder, it can be very isolating. Last year, I lost 4 co-founders and a best friend on a previous startup.

Previously built a Minecraft Server ($61k), Amazon Store ($120k), and Queer Chart, where I met my girlfriend & close friends.

If you're interested in joining the Founders Cafe, let's talk and if it's a good fit, down to invite you!
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