One of the most difficult decisions for a startup is determining when your product is good enough to drive sustainable, scalable customer growth.  Trying to scale too early can easily kill your startup. Given the emotional roller coaster of being a founder, the decision can easily be swayed by your mood on a given day., which was developed in collaboration with KISSmetrics, was designed to give you an objective metric that removes emotion from the scaling decision while also giving you other important qualitative information. The key question on the survey is:

How would you feel if you could no longer use [product]?

  1. Very disappointed
  2. Somewhat disappointed
  3. Not disappointed (it isn’t really that useful)
  4. N/A – I no longer use [product]

If you find that over 40% of your users are saying that they would be “very disappointed” without your product, there is a great chance you can build sustainable, scalable customer acquisition growth on this “must have” product.  This 40% benchmark was determined by comparing results across 100s startups.  Those that were above 40% are generally able to sustainably scale the businesses; those significantly below 40% always seem to struggle. More details on distributing the survey are below.

If you are above 40%

Congratulations! You’ve overcome the biggest challenge in any startup – creating a “must have” product.  But before aggressively trying to grow your customer base, you should work to understand your must have experience and then align the entire business around it.  This blog post provides the details on how to do uncover your “must have” experience.

If  you are below 40%

If you have not yet reached the 40% benchmark, the survey can help you focus your efforts getting there.  Most of the questions on the survey are open ended, providing actionable feedback to help you improve positioning and/or effectively iterate your product.  The key group you want to move into the “very disappointed without” segment are those people saying that they would only be “somewhat disappointed without” your product.   They are really telling you that it is only a “nice to have”.   I often find that these users are focused on commodity aspects of the product and they already know of a replacement product.  Therefore, repositioning your product around more unique attributes may be the fastest and easiest way to turn it into a “must have” for 40% of your users.  Occasionally you will need to make a pivot in your startup to become a “must have.”  Additional guidance for becoming a “must have” product can be found in Four Steps to the Epiphany, by Steve Blank.

How to Send the Survey

I recommend sending the survey to a random sample of people who have:

  • Experienced the core of your product offering
  • Used your product at least twice
  • Used your product in the last two weeks


I strongly encourage you to setup and run your own customer development survey via  It only takes a few minutes and it free.  Here’s the link again.

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