We're huge advocates of listening and gathering feedback from users early in the process of developing products. We believe that if a product team understands the customers' motivations, then they're able to use that knowledge to work toward balancing the business goals and user needs. This is the way great products happen.
We built Verify to help people collect feedback from users before they implement anything. We ate our own dog food when we built Verify—we solicited feedback every step of the way from sketches to final launch. We were able to stay in tune with the pain users were experiencing and helped us solve real problems.
A recent quote talking about the lack of listening in the entrepreneur community from Charlie O'Donnell's newsletter caught our eye today. He gives some great words of wisdom here—don't get caught trying to create a product for the big press release, create a product to improve people's lives in some way. Don't wait until the last minute to ask for feedback from end users, do so before you make all your key decisions.
What I find most disappointing about many of the ideas I see is that they appear to be more about solving for what will get funded or what's a derivative of a product they saw on Techcrunch that they don't even use themselves versus understanding and improving the lives of the population at large. Entrepreneurs ...too often extrapolate non-existent trends or false perceived needs from their very homogeneous social circles.
If you're going to design a product, it's so incredibly important to not only diversify the kinds of people you interact with socially, but spend a fair bit of analysis and contemplation to really understand trends in their behavior. Why does someone use or not use Service A? Entrepreneurs are, to their own disadvantage, punting on the understanding of human behavior they need to design products for the masses. Perhaps if you spend a little less time pitching and more time listening--figuring out why people use the products they do and observing how they interact with others, you'd have more users. Before you get confident that you've got something, get curious about why people are doing what they're doing.