Frederik Van Lierde

Y Combinator Question 11 + How To Answer: Who Is Your Customer?

This question from Y Combinator probes into how well founders know their target market. Being able to precisely identify and describe your customer shows that you have a clear strategy for reaching and serving those who will benefit most from your solution. Y Combinator Question 11 + How To Answer: Who Is Your Customer?

1. Why Y Combinator Asks This Question

This question helps Y Combinator assess whether the founders have a clear and actionable understanding of their target audience. Knowing who your customer is allows for more effective marketing, product design, and customer service.

It ensures that the resources are being directed towards serving a specific demographic or psychographic profile that is most likely to need, appreciate, and pay for the solution you're offering.

2. How to Answer the Question

Provide a detailed description of your typical customer, including demographic information like age, location, and income level, as well as psychographic details such as interests, behaviors, and needs.

Explain how you've identified this customer base, possibly referencing market research, surveys, or early user feedback. Be specific about why these customers need your product and how they will benefit from it.

For instance, if your startup offers a financial planning app, your customers might be young professionals aged 25-35 who are early in their careers and looking to manage their finances better without extensive personal finance knowledge.

3. How NOT to Answer the Question

Avoid vague or broad descriptions that could apply to a large and diverse group. A lack of specificity can make it seem like you haven’t thoroughly thought through your business plan or done sufficient market research.

Avoid assuming without evidence or basing your customer profile on stereotypes or superficial assessments.

4. An Example, Based on a Tech Startup

Imagine a tech startup, FitMeals, that develops a meal planning and delivery service tailored for people with specific dietary requirements like diabetes or gluten intolerance. Here’s how they might answer the question:
  • Customer Profile: "Our primary customers are individuals aged 30-50 who are managing chronic health conditions such as diabetes or gluten intolerance. They are typically professionals with busy lifestyles who appreciate the convenience of having tailored meals delivered that meet their dietary needs without compromising on taste or variety."
  • Market Identification: "We've identified this customer segment through partnerships with health clinics and dieticians, as well as through direct feedback from our initial user base, which has shown a strong preference for specialized meal options that cater to their specific health conditions."
Y Combinator zeroes in on whether startups know exactly who their customer is, because a sharp focus on the right audience can make or break the business.