#5 User Feedback & Naval's Almanack

I’m Ivan Landabaso, VC at JME.vc. I also love surfing and combat sports. Welcome to Startup Riders, your bi-weekly startup caffeine ☕


  • 📣 Talking to users: YC’s guide to user feedback collection.

  • 🧠 Naval’s Almanack: Clear thinking for entrepreneurs.

  • 🦄 Startup Jobs: A list of jobs from recently funded startups.

  • 💵 Recent Deals: Rosita, KokoroKids, Savana, MeThinks, and more!

  • 💭Thinking or Reading: How to teach anything (by a Quantum Scientist).

Check out the Community Group to meet fellow riders and share your experience 🤙

📣 Talking To Users

Backed by popular demand, here’s a summary of YC’s User Feedback Collection lecture (@bamarc for sharing notes!).

The best founders maintain a direct connection to their users. They need to extract information from them at all stages through the company’s lifecycle

3 Mistakes To Avoid

  1. Talk about their life, not your idea. Extract information and data that will make you improve your product. You aren’t pitching it!

  2. Talk specifics, not hypotheticals. Avoid questions like “If we built this, would you be interested…?”.

  3. Listen, don’t talk. Really listen, practice active listening. Don’t hold a thought in your mind while you wait for the user to finish their thought.

5 Great Questions To Ask

  1. What’s the hardest part about doing X? This question can help confirm if the problem you’re trying to solve is a real pain point for your customers.

  2. Tell me about the last time you encountered this problem. You want context, you want to understand the circumstances they’re in when they face difficulties.

  3. Why was that hard? You’re not just trying to identify the main problem, but also learn how to market the product to new users.

  4. What, if anything, have you done to try to solve this problem? If potential customers haven’t tried to solve the problem, it’s possible the problem you’re solving is not importan enough. Don’t be a SISP (solution in search of a problem).

  5. What don’t you love about the solutions you’ve tried? This will help your thinking around features and prioritisation.

The Idea Stage

  1. Find users: friends, coworkers, introductions.

  2. Take notes. You don’t know what key facts from the conversation will be useful.

  3. Keep it casual. You don’t need 100 interviews. Start with 1, 3, or 5.

  4. Respect their time. 10 to 15 minutes should be enough.

The Prototype Stage

  1. Identify your best customer.

  2. Find numerical answers to:

    • How much does this problem cost them?

    • How frequent is the problem?

    • How large is their budget?

The Post-Launch Stage

  • Iterate towards product-market fit. A few tips:

    • Ask for phone numbers during sign up. You may wonder why people responded a certain way to your survey, you want to call them.

    • Don’t design by committee. You shouldn’t ask users what features they like. Find out if those features would make your product more useful or sticky.

    • Discard bad data. Compliments like “I love the new design” or “This is very useful” aren’t specific. Discard hypotheticals and generic comments.

🧠 Naval’s Almanack

I’ve rarely highlighted a book as much as this one. There’s also a free podcast version of it narrated by Naval himself (the book is basically a transcript).

Although this book is the real deal, if you are a European reading this, you may find yourself rolling your 👀 from time to time, that’s ok. Yes, Europeans (generally) already know to work to live, and not to live to work. Philosophy tends to be more embedded into our collective cultural consciousness than in the USA (sweeping generalisation).

That being said, I believe we have a lot to learn from Americans when it comes to business. Here’s a selection of learnings worth internalising - particularly for startups:

  • ⚠️Become a clear thinker⚠️: clear thinking > smart. To develop clear thinking, understand basics at a very, very fundamental level (first principles). Collect mental models. Read the greats in math science and philosophy.

  • ⚠️Find and build YOUR specific knowledge⚠️: Specific knowledge = knowing how to do something society cannot easily train other people to do. Figure out what you were doing as a kid almost effortlessly. SK cannot be taught, only learnt. No one can compete with you on being you. Most of life is a search of who and what needs you most.

  • ⚠️Become a perpetual learner⚠️: Reading is the ultimate meta-skill and can be traded for anything else. It is the most important skill for getting rich.

  • Play long-term games, with long term people: compounding in business relationships is important. Compound interest also happens in your reputation.

  • Engage in positive-sum games: wealth creation is an evolutionarily recent positive-sum game. Status is an old zero-sum game. Those attacking wealth creation are often just seeking status.

  • 4 types of luck:

    • Blind luck: something completely out of your control happens.

    • Persistence luck: hustle, hard work, motion, eventually generating enough energy for luck to find you.

    • Spotting luck: you become good in a field, you develop luck sensitivity.

    • ⚠️Luck finds you⚠️: you develop a unique character, brand, mindset, trust, reputation, that causes luck to find you.

  • Trust, honesty and integrity are key: find those people and work with them. Watch out for excessive signalling - i.e. if someone is telling you how honest they are all the time, the opposite is likely the case.

  • Set up systems, not goals: figure out what kinds of environments you can thrive in, then create an environment around you so you are statistically likely to succeed.

  • The returns in life are being out of the herd: I will learn anything I think is interesting.

Some rapid fire gems:

  • Happiness = health + wealth + good relationships.

  • Income = Accountability + Leverage + Specific Knowledge

  • Be present above all else - watch every thought, ask “why am I having this thought?”. Enlightenment is the space between your thoughts.

  • Desire is suffering: not wanting something is the same as having it.

  • Praise specifically, criticise generally (Warren Buffet).

🦄 Startup Jobs

Recently funded startup jobs:

💵 Recent Deals

💭Thinking or Reading

Quantum Physics explained for 7 year olds

This guy provides 4 guiding principles for easy science communication and unravels the myth that quantum physics is difficult to understand. Super interesting. I highly recommend you subscribe to his Domain of Science channel.

A Community Digital Garden

This post about the concept of a Community Digital Garden is full of interesting insights, particularly for those building a startup that could benefit from using one as a moat. Source: Rosieland

Launching a B2B product as a solo entrepreneur

This blogpost by Alex West is pretty amazing. The story is about how he found a good B2B idea, how he launched it and how he found a good distribution channel and grew it. No BS and packed with actionable insights.

If you find this interesting, please consider sharing with your friends. I’d also love to get your thoughts and feedback on Twitter. Until the next one! 😃

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