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Who is NOT your customer?

August 04, 2021

I wanted to share some of the lessons learned working with 9 carbon removal startups on "customer discovery". Here's the video version.

The final two weeks of AirMiners Launchpad were focused on customer discovery. Customer discover is an interative process to figure out who your customer is -- or is not. It means doing market research and talking to potential customers to better understand what problems exist that your carbon removal startup can solve. Here's what I learned:

1. Good market research goes a long way

One Launchpad team started with a lot of market research to map out the value chain for their product. A value chain sounds like "we're going to make a material, sell it to suppliers, who then sell it to retailers, who sell it to final users. We think our main customer is the retailer since we solve a problem for them".

As they started to map out their value chain, they started to shift their thesis more towards suppliers. This was a good pivot for the team they could do from just doing market research.

2. Go talk to potential customers

Ultimately, you have to go talk to potential customers. Understand how their process works, ask open ended questions to discover problems you might be able to solve. Is what we're creating going to solve a big problem for them?

As an example of this customer discovery process, another Launchpad team started out thinking their customer was in industry X. They went out and interviewed someone in that industry, and learned it wouldn't work for that customer's process. They pivoted to a different industry, did another interview...and again didn't find a fit. I had thought the second idea was good, and found myself disappointed when they didn't get a hit.

But then I realized I think this team will be successful because they're diving into this iterative customer discovery process. Discovering who their customer is means along the way discovering who their customer is NOT and trying again.

3. Keep talking to potential customers

Picking the "right" customer for your first interview is like hitting a bullseye the first time you pick up a dart. The successful approach is to expect to talk to about 100 potential customers to get a solid idea who your customer is and is not. There's no way around it, it's scary and vulnerable. Being surrounded by other carbon removal founders struggling with similar challenges helps -- and that's a big part of what happens at AirMiners Launchpad.

If you're starting a carbon removal company, here's two hard questions to answer

1. What is the business problem that my company aims to solve?

2. Who would pay me to solve that problem and why?

AirMiners Launchpad is here to help 1,000 shots on goal for carbon removal. Applications for Batch #2 are now open until August 31st.

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