Frederik Van Lierde

Y Combinator Question 13: How Will the Customer Know If Your Product Has Solved the Problem?

This question from Y Combinator digs into the effectiveness of your solution from the customer’s perspective. It’s important for start-ups to not only develop solutions but also ensure that these solutions are visibly and tangibly effective in the eyes of those using them. Y Combinator Question 13: How Will the Customer Know If Your Product Has Solved the Problem?

1. Why Y Combinator Asks This Question

Y Combinator asks this question to understand if the start-up has a clear feedback loop or success metrics that directly relate to customer satisfaction and product efficacy.

Startup should know if their product actually makes a difference as perceived by the users, which is vital for repeat business, customer loyalty, and word-of-mouth recommendations.

This question also checks if the start-up has planned for customer feedback mechanisms and how proactive they are in ensuring their product meets the market needs.

2. How to Answer the Question

Your answer should clearly articulate the measurable outcomes or improvements the customer will experience after using your product.

Specify any measurable benefits, such as time saved, cost reduction, increased efficiency, or other relevant metrics.

Describe how these outcomes are communicated to the customer, whether through the product interface, follow-up surveys, or external validations.

For instance, if your start-up offers a software tool that automates payroll, you might explain that customers will know the product has solved their problem when their processing time is reduced from several hours to a few minutes and error rates drop significantly.

3. How NOT to Answer the Question

Avoid vague or unmeasurable success indicators that don’t offer a clear sense of whether the problem has been solved.

Do not assume that all customers will automatically recognize the value without any communication or proof.

Avoid responses that suggest a lack of planning for ongoing customer engagement and feedback collection.

4. An Example, Based on a Tech Start-up

Imagine a tech start-up, ClearView Analytics, that develops data visualization tools for small businesses. Here’s how they might explain how customers will know if the problem is solved:
  • Outcome Measurement: “Our customers will directly see the impact of using ClearView Analytics in their ability to quickly generate comprehensive reports and gain insights from their data that were previously hidden or too complex to extract. The software provides immediate visual feedback through dashboards that highlight key performance indicators, trends, and anomalies.”
  • Feedback Loop: “We ensure that customers recognize these improvements through a combination of real-time analytics, user satisfaction surveys, and a monthly review call to discuss how our tool has impacted their business operations and decision-making processes.”
Y Combinator zeroes in on how well start-ups can demonstrate the real-world effectiveness of their solutions to customers, ensuring their products not only work but are recognized as valuable by those who use them.