After reading the The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development, David Beyer of Y-Combinator backed Chart.io has done a quick interview with me wherein we get a bit into the epistemology of startups. I think the interview raises a few interesting points that I will explore further in a forthcoming blog post.
David: So, just to get started, what do you think in general terms about the role data plays in customer development?
Patrick: I think data is paramount – but I think we should understand about what we mean when we use the word “data”. Many people, especially those handicapped with a graduate level education, like myself, think that data is only interesting and can only be acted upon if it is “statistically significant”. In the context of early stage Customer Development, I believe this is well-intentioned, but ultimately, misguided.
We should be informed by data, but we shouldn’t let it walk us around on a leash. Evidence comes in a diversity of forms. It can be anecdotal, it can be in aggregate or it can be a trend line. If you take an open-minded approach to the types of evidence you’ll accept, and adjust for their biases/problems/problems accordingly, you’ll likely fare better in the chaos of startup-land than just simply jettisoning what you feel is low-quality data.
I should add, this is what my friend, psychologist and blogger, Seth Roberts calls “evidence snobbery”.
Seth defines evidence snobs as:
“An evidence snob is not someone who “want[s] evidence that something works.” An evidence snob is someone who disregards evidence — evidence that doesn’t reach a sufficient level of quality.
Check out the entire interview.