Why our whole team read a book called the Mom Test

Toasty's focus on problem-oriented and customer-oriented approach.

Two months ago, when we decided to build our second product in the event technology space, we did something very different from the approach we took when we built our first product. Instead of jumping into product development from day one, we all read a book called The Mom Test. Our team came together and had a discussion to share our learnings.

The results were beyond amazing. Not only did we align everyone on the team on a new approach to building a product, but we were also set on making this approach part of our company culture — to be problem-oriented and customer-oriented.

The one thing that startup founders must understand before building a product

Building a startup is exciting. Building a tech product is super exciting. No doubt about these two facts.

Startup veterans often talk about how execution matters much more than the idea itself — this is the one thing every startup entrepreneur must understand before starting a company. The common approach to building a product is coming up with an idea and trying to convince people that you have the best idea that they should pay you for. But a lot of founders actually never talk to any potential customers before “building out the idea”.

This is common because we all naturally fall in love with our ideas and go into pitch mode no matter who we meet.

On our team, we knew that talking to potential customers is the key to understand what we’re building. And just when we were about to reach out to our contacts, my friend Mike, who has extensive expertise in Product, recommended me a book by Rob Fitzpatrick called the Mom Test. I instantly got hooked with the approach and couldn’t wait to introduce it to our entire team.

Our go-to book for talking to customers.


How reading The Mom Test reshaped our company

Here is a quick description of what the Mom Test is about from Amazon:

“They say you shouldn’t ask your mom whether your business is a good idea, because she loves you and will lie to you. This is technically true, but it misses the point. You shouldn’t ask anyone if your business is a good idea. It’s a bad question and everyone will lie to you at least a little. As a matter of fact, it’s not their responsibility to tell you the truth. It’s your responsibility to find it and it’s worth doing right .”

Totally spot on! No one will answer honestly if you ask them directly how your idea sounds! This is a transformative insight because it is common for entrepreneurs to share their ideas with everyone and ask for feedback. The Mom Test presented a fresh approach to how to talk to customers and truly understand their pain points. Since the day our whole team learned this new way, the approach has influenced everything we do.

This is Toasty’s way of building a company and a product

This is a quick summary of what we want the Toasty’s culture and values stand for:

  1. Firstly, we believe in always listening to the current/potential customers for their problems and pain points. We should never pretend to be our own customers and come up with imaginative needs for them. There is only one way to find out whether our customers actually need what we have to offer, and that is talking to them. During our meetings with customers, we ask more questions about them and talk about ourselves less. We prioritize our ears over our mouth.
  2. Secondly, we believe that we should be in love with the problem, not the solution. When we’re designing a product, it is very easy to dwell in the “solving” mode and come up with lots and lots of ways to solve a problem, which sometimes results in solving the wrong problem. We constantly remind ourselves of the pain we set out to solve.
  3. Lastly, we believe in learning and sharing. In tech startups, there’s often a gap between the Sales and Product teams. Sales are typically customer-facing, and Product is the mastermind behind the idea. These teams often run on separate tracks and communicate poorly. This is why at Toasty, our Product team is also customer-facing so that we are 200% sure we’re building something valuable and useful for our customers.

I love sharing about Toasty’s culture and values and how we do things. If you also care a lot about the problem(s) and the customers, I think we should talk! You can find me at kevon.cheung[at]toasty.ai.