Andy SmithGM and Co-Founder of Center Electric (VC)

Seed-Stage IoT VC, Author of The Dragonfly Effect. Mentor to The Lean Launchpad at Berkeley and Columbia.
Marketer, brand guy, geek, and metaphor mixologist.
Advising, investing in useful enterprises. Past: Intel, Dolby, PwC,

Recent Answers

Problems fall into two broad areas:

1) compared to my phone or my car, my house is not very smart, so forgetfulness on my part (not locking a door or turning off an oven) can be a problem - particularly when I'm away for a day or a week.

2) it's a complex place and it takes a village to keep it running and properly maintained. It would be great to have the equivalent of a building superintendent that could very regularly check to make sure everything is working and up do date and get things done as needed (painting, gardening, sprinkler repair, lightbulb changes, etc.)

Lots of great guidance so far. Here's what I will add/reinforce:

1) There's no substitute for talking to folks in-person. Their eyes dilate when they talk about what matters to them. You need to be there to see it happen.

2) When you're first talking to people, make sure you focus on them, not on your product. Understand their problems first before you even try to tell them about what you think might solve them.

3) Numbers are your friend. Talk to as many people as possible. Be methodical about it, test hypotheses systematically (see Steve Blank's stuff on this) and avoid leading questions.

4) Make sure you close every interview with an open-ended question like "What's the question I should have asked you, but didn't?"

5) As for finding ways to talk to people, personal connections are gold. Be shameless in asking friends through Facebook, Twitter and email for introductions to people that you want to talk to. Everyone wants to help a friend or a friend of a friend. No one wants to be pitched. Be clear and concise and clearly listening and always ask interviewees "Who else should I speak with to understand this problem?" If any person you talk to doesn't give you at least one new name and hopefully a handful, you messed something up (target market, interview style, interview length, or they felt it was a pitch).

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