Do your customers know their hair’s on fire? (Original image source: Steelhouse.com)

When considering an idea for a startup, I’ve referenced a question people often use: “are you selling a painkiller or a vitamin?” The notion is people “need” a painkiller before they need a vitamin (“nice to have”).

In my recent meeting with a venture capitalist partner, he uses the idea “hair on fire” as it’s more dramatic and visual. That is, having one’s hair on fire is direr than perhaps even a painkiller. (I, for one, don’t take painkillers even when prescribed oftentimes.)
For the VC, he considers three key questions to evaluate “hair on fire”:
  1. Are there enough people with their hair on fire? Read: What is the size of the market? Is it large enough for big returns?
  2. Do prospects know their hair is on fire? Read: Does the market need to be educated about their problem? How important is the problem? I think of this, too, as “is this a latent need or an active need? If latent, how can you convert to active?”
  3. Does the market have the desire to put out the fire? Read: Is there enough benefit for customers to make a change and adopt your product/ service? Are you mitigating risk for customers?

What other key questions should there be when considering “hair on fire”? How could you evaluate if a need is latent vs. active? How could you convert to active, if latent?

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