Finding Customer Zero

September 2015

“I was Patient Zero. The first person to have their reputation completely destroyed worldwide via the Internet.” – Monica Lewinsky

The prevailing approach to starting something today is that you first find a customer and then figure out their problem. Only then do you develop and test a solution with them. It’s a great approach.

This customer discovery process hopefully leads to a much better result for both the customer and the entrepreneur. The early customers that you cultivate, nurture and grow are the ones that become an extension of your team and should best represent your future customers.

Much like an epidemiologist seeks to find the initial patient in a disease breakout, an entrepreneur needs to find their first customer. Of course, along the way the trail may go cold, there may be dead ends, there may be false positives. But there’s nothing more important for the entrepreneur to do than to identify exactly who they are solving a problem for and then go about working to craft the “right” solution with them. They are your “Customer Zero”.

So how do you find your “Customer Zero?”  There are many ways, including:

  • Observation (people you see)
  • Relationships (people you know)
  • Networks (people you can find)

(Of course by “people”, I also mean “companies” if you are a B2B venture.)

I challenge every new entrepreneur I meet to identify their first customer. Research them, understand them, spend time with them. Find your “Customer Zero” first, then go figure out a cure.