I have been continuously hearing the same defensive pushback from founders when hearing critical feedback for about a decade. When a user/investor/stranger says “hey what about X” they are met with the same retort:
“It’s fixed in the next build — here let me show you”
I called this the TestFlight Reality problem. The issue is that the majority of people are not on your app, nor are they in the TestFlight builds. The pushback is not only unreasonable but shows a lack of empathy for real feedback and new users.
The constant sprints and release candidates make it seems like problems are being addressed and there is always a narrative that “people just don’t understand yet”. The reality is that the founder distortion field that is so key to building a startup in the first place gets in the way of the reality that real people are living in today.
I am guilty of this myself while at Foursquare. People would always ask questions or give feedback after learning where I worked and I would rebut them right away. “It’s fixed in this build, look!” “We don’t even have that feature anymore!” “That’s not what we want to be known for!” Which makes it “their problem” vs. “my problem”. When I realized that they were actually right, I was able to get a lot more done and see messaging in a whole new light.
I love saying the phrase hope is not a strategy. Wishing your narrative or product alpha matches the real world is a hope. Embracing what people know or say is a much better and empathetic strategy.
Whenever I see a founder touting their TestFlight build or password protected site that is launching in a few months, I try to remind them that all anyone knows is the story that is out there now. You are only as good as the last blog post or announcement that people actually remember. Just because the media kit that has been downloaded 7 times has the new language, doesn’t mean the rest of the world knows about it.
Finally, if the point isn’t clear enough, I always ask how much time is spent on onboarding and signup. Given the majority of people will always be on the other side, it doesn’t matter how many cool features happen once you take 1,000+ actions in your app if you can’t get people to take 1.
Originally published at EricGFriedman.com