Thought-provoking post by Jason Fried: "Validation is a mirage"

Jason Fried just posted a thought-provoking short post:
"Validation is a mirage"

I thought I would share and ask what you folks think about this?

Maybe when you are one of the founders of Basecamp and Hey you can say this, but can mere mortals also do that? or do we need -indeed- to create little MVPs, try them out in the wild, refine and so on?

  1. 5

    I think much what Fried is attacking is the black-and-white view of "validation".

    I see a lot of people on IH saying their product "is validated" ... validation is a process. You get more certainty over time. Only when you have product-market-fit can you really have any degree of real certainty. In the meantime, you are just de-risking your business.

    I was listening to Rob Walling on a podcast and he says that he likes to do some research/customer interviews to get to 20-30% validation. Then he'll build a quick MVP and put it out there and get more validation. I like the way he thinks about validation as percentages of certainty rather than binary yes/no.

    1. 1

      the process is the key. you validate a product, based on a hypothesis. you continue this process over and over.


      the great thing about getting old is that you realize that you don't have to accept everything someone says... maybe just bits, pieces.

      been following those two dopes for years... and i do love them. but, they have a very particular and distinctly-unique perspective on the world... they also have the creator of rails... of that doesn't do something to your head.

      unless you are the founder / creator of a massively-adopted software language that's been parlayed (contracted, initially) into a crazy-opinionated product that's survived and thrived and now is subject to its own survivorship bias...

      ... lol.

      yeah, whatever. i really dig their perspective on just a few things, everything else is fun to read.

    2. 1

      "validation as percentages of certainty" does it for me!
      Run your little bets experiments , build an MVP, try to understand what works and what doesn't and -if you/your company have/has not died yet- cleanse and repeat.

  2. 4

    This is just absolute nonsense in my opinion. Jason Fried needs to crawl out of his own asshole and stop it with this pseudo influencer / personal brand garbage.

    Of course validation isn't a mirage. What a stupid thing to say.

    Honestly I know I've been prattling on about this on here recently but the trend / formula is so blatantly obvious.

    1. Take something completely established, accepted and understood
    2. Say something contrary to that
    3. Reap the internet attention and "influencer" points.
    1. 2

      Here's advice I've seen around here and other indie entrepreneur / growth hacker forums:

      1. Build a landing page
      2. Get people to sign up
      3. If enough people do, build the thing. If not, don't waste your time.

      And let's face it: that type of validation is bullshit. You can't see whether people are interested in a vague landing page and infer whether or not your product will succeed. It's exactly the same as expecting that a Product Hunt or Hacker News launch will make you rich and famous.

      Jason Fried is obviously being overly provocative here. But some of the hackier validation techniques are in need of a reality check.

      1. 1

        Perhaps. But his premise is that validation isn’t a thing, or that it’s useless, or that we shouldn’t do it.

        You’re putting words into his mouth by specifying certain (poor) validation techniques.

        1. 1

          I'm not really trying to defend Jason Fried here tbh. I just think that there's nuance to this topic, and it would be helpful to include that nuance in this discussion, original article be damned.

    2. 1

      Being a contrarian creates controversy and thus enables you to get more engagement. The entire premise of Basecamp is contrarianism, from writing about how you don't have to grind, to not taking investors, to even the latest Apple and Hey controversy. Shit really works to gain clicks.

      1. 2

        There's always validity underneath all the overstated nonsense. I truly believe that you never really understand the problem you're trying to solve until ship date. So get to ship date as soon as possible.

        He's got a bit more nonsense about MVPs not being useful, but basecamp has always felt like an MVP on every iteration so I would ignore that clickbait.

        Generally validation is hard without software that works because users unintentionally lie to you. A feature limited mvp is fine. Ship it asap then find out the truth.

  3. 3

    In here he is roasting people who just build a marketing LP with some email collection form + arbitrary pricing and call it "MVP". At least this is what I understood and I think that's true.

    Apart from that, Jason Fried is in a unique position that he can throw a lot of money on a product and then he can cancel with no harm feelings :) And this uniqueness is coming from not having investors :) + pile load of money :)

    So in my opinion, the best thing is building a low level of something you want to monetize and give it for free and watch how many people are interested. Then contact those people to understand their motivations.

    But for the sake of god, let's stop calling email collection forms as MVPs :)

    1. 1

      I agree that email collection forms are not MVPS. They are however "little bets" (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Bets). I think little bets -in genetal- are underappreciated. The tools and concepts I have been refining around my blog (blog.granthackers.club) have benefited quite substantially from the little bets philosophy. Thus am a strong believer in Peter Slims ideas.

  4. 3

    Some IH context for those who may have missed the original debate.

    IMHO, I think this whole thing boils down to a matter of perspective. Is the glass half full or half empty?

    Some people view the verb validate, from which validation is derived from, as meaning "to prove the validity or accuracy of something", while some people take the opposite stance, "to disprove or show something as being false".

    An inexperienced founder will tend to take the former view, since by definition, they have not yet been humbled by failing hard in the marketplace. The former view brims with excitement, optimism.

    An experienced founder like Jason Fried will tend to take the latter view because it is more cautious. Optimism when tempered with real world experience tends to lead people to hold the more cautious view for a word like validation.

  5. 2

    Personally, I thought the article was pretty bland and he spoke more in generalizations than anything substantive.

  6. 1

    As in the little video he shared a few weeks ago, he completely misses the point of validation.

    Of course it is a stupid idea to ask someone if he would buy this or that. Asking for hypotheticals is a really bad idea. But asking if someone has a certain problem, how he dealed with that in the past etc. is not so stupid but actually a necessity.

    And as many people have stated in the thread with his video: He - probably intentionally - equals validation with certainty. With knowing it will work 100%. That’s not the point of validation. The point of validation is to lower the uncertainty. But you can never eliminate it completely.

    1. 1

      That was my line of thinking too. Moreover, I think what he says is easy to say when you are the successful founder of a multimillion company that has not only created great products but that also contributed free open source that changed the world. But what about mere mortals? Sometimes you do need some sort of social validation to carry you over chopy waters, or to tell you to stop when in your seal you keep hitting your head in the wall. And sometimes even the simplest realization of the product is so complex that you must divide and conquer .
      More fundamentally, I think it goes against all the great lessons from other companies such as Strategyzer for example.

  7. 1

    IMHO I agree with JF. Validate to a certain confidence level, but not 100%. Enough till it is worth putting in an effort building it and not get too paralysed with perfecting the validation.

    I find that if you can identify a problem you are solving and whether that problem happens to have a quantifiable large cost, that’s usually good enough validation to start building stuff.

Trending on Indie Hackers
Best Gumroad Day Ever 18 comments Uncomfortable = Learning 12 comments "all that can be invented has been invented" syndrome, how do you deal with it? 10 comments From 13 followers to 1000 in less than 2 weeks 😱 9 comments 4 of my biggest mistakes from 2 years of building 👎 8 comments My Newsletter Mention Brought More Traffic Than Product Hunt 3 comments