My junior year, I took some time off Stanford to work on a consumer startup with my girlfriend.
It started out AMAZING, but ended in a SHIT SHOW.
Here’s what happened. So we interviewed users, built the MVP, and shipped the product — a chrome extension for co-studying with friends (over video call!).
As more and more users joined, we collected more and more feedback.
We asked people what they wanted. They said:
And so for the next few months, we coded in all these features and more. Statuses, messaging, badges, updates, search by school, onboarding redesign, etc. etc.
6 months after launch, we noticed retention started to decrease and I FREAKED OUT!
Like holy shit! I just spent these last 6 months adding all these features, and I have no idea if they were helpful or not. I did what people wanted, but did I actually make the app worse?
It was insidious. Feeling like I wasted the last 6 months, or made the product worse.
This time around, I wanted to know how to actually validate assumptions.
NOT fall in the product death/feature trap.
So I took a 1 month break and talked to Stanford product professors, read product books, and watched a LOAD of product youtube videos.
That should be the GOAL, pre-PMF.
Not increasing engagement by 20%
Not increasing users by 20%
When I pivoted, this was the first thing I made:
It shows you the riskiest assumptions in top right.
After I found what my riskiest assumptions were, I made it my goal to derisk the top 3 riskiest assumptions as fast as I could.
To derisk this, I talked to 40 founders. Asked them about their biggest painpoint, and if they’ve tried anything to solve it. People told me they paid for
But were still unsatisfied. They craved intimacy, and what they got were loose ties.
✅ Problem validated.
I invited YC + Harvard + ex-Berkeley founder to co-work on a custom video call. They retained for over a month!
✅ Solution validated.
I 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!
✅ Willingness to pay validated.
Instead of spending time getting signups, adding features, or coding products…
I spent all my time derisking GAME CHANGING assumptions:
✅ Does the problem exist? (40 interviews) — took 2 weeks
✅ Validating solution (1 month playtest) — took 1 month
✅ Validating payment (10/12 people paid up) — took 1 day
After that, I just interviewed more founders and got another 30 paying customers.
Result: 40 paying customers in 2 months!
I don’t run into this feature trap stuff anymore
I hope this helps you design better products :)
Please let me know if you have any questions!
Riskiest assumption video (really good, like 30 seconds long 😉)
Figma Assumption Board (Duplicate it 😜)
Founders Cafe (this is the community I run 😃)