founder stories

How Customer Discovery Can Change Your Life

The team at thought they knew what their customers wanted.

After all, the founders were trying to solve a problem they experienced at their previous company.

Plus, everyone on the Brev team actively used their own product. So they were users themselves. AND they did sales calls every week. Did they really need to talk to more customers to make sure they were on track?

But Nader Khalild and Alec Fong, the founders of Brev, noticed something alarming.

New users weren’t going through the full onboarding process. And customers started to churn.

The team spent three hours every week to pitch ideas and debate what features they should build to re-engage users. Brev employees felt exhausted after these long meetings. Worst of all, things didn’t improve.

So Nader did something different: he reached out to a new customer and talked with them. This conversation completely changed the direction of the company.

Here’s what happened.

The power of a conversation is a dev tool that makes it easy for developers to create and share their dev environment. The customer that Nader reached out to was the CTO of a tech startup, their ideal customer.

After a few back-and-forth messages through email, the CTO sent Nader a Zoom link and he jumped on the opportunity to learn more.

Within the first 5 minutes, the CTO bluntly shared the top three reasons why it didn’t make sense for their team to use at this time.

Nader’s jaw dropped. He got goosebumps on his arms.

Nader asked if he could record the call, and for the next 45 minutes he was like a sponge learning the intimate problems the CTO faced in their startup.

After the call ended, Nader sent a message to his whole team.

“Stop what you’re doing. Grab something to eat. We are going to spend the next hour watching a recording of my conversation with a customer.”

This was the first time their team witnessed a long-form conversation on the problems their users actually faced. The call also gave the team a ton of empathy for what this user was going through.

One conversation forever changed the culture of

Changing the culture of your company

The insights gained from this user interview were invaluable. Nader became hooked on customer feedback, and implemented three major changes to create a culture of continuously talking with customers.

1. Improvements to their product and messaging

After talking to dozens of customers, Nader learned that forcing users into the cloud to solve their dev environment problems was imposing.

This meant they should (a) find users already in the cloud or (b) find a way to solve their problems without the cloud. Since they already had the cloud part figured out, Nader chose the former.

This helped the team discover AI and ML developers who were already in the cloud, and using Brev to make their work easier.

Talking to these users taught the team that the cost savings was more valuable than the dev environment solutions... so now they're focused on exactly that.

Their website before user interviews:

Their website after user interviews:

In the before screenshot, the team had a line "never pay for idle GPUs again" that was about cloud infrastructure savings. Nader knew that this was a value proposition. He just didn't know it was one that users cared about the most!

2. Implemented Friday user interview reviews

These days, Nader and his team meet weekly to share and discuss learnings from user interviews. It’s similar to how basketball teams watch a recording of their game to learn how they can improve.

This meeting forces Nader to actually conduct user interviews throughout his week or he’ll have nothing to share on Fridays. It also helps his team build features that users actually want, not what they think they want.

3. Shortened their strategy meeting. A lot.

Instead of spending three hours a week pitching ideas and debating what features to build, Brev’s team now reviews the feedback from user interviews.

Based on real data, the conversation is now about solving the problems users have explicitly stated. This saves 2.5 hours every week and keeps the leadership team energized and focused instead of exhausted and drained.

Nader’s proactiveness is a prime example of how talking to customers directly correlates to a startup's success.

Nader told me that he is “trying to build the culture of the team such that everyone feels anxiety if we haven’t had enough user convos.”

While I’m skeptical of the need to increase a team’s anxiety, I get his point: talk to your customers. Listen to what they need and build your product to solve their problems.

Much easier said than done. Let’s get to work.