“The Mom Test” by Rob Fitzpatrick

While reading this book, I wrote down the main concepts from it. They can be useful for you if just finished listening audiobook or want to refresh knowledge.

other books key concepts


Bad customer conversations aren’t just useless. Worse, they convince you that you’re on the right path. They give you a false positive which causes you to over-invest your cash, your time, and your team.

The Mom Test

The Mom Test is a set of simple rules for crafting good questions that even your mom can’t lie to you about.

  1. Ask about specifics in the past instead of generics or opinions about the future.
  2. Talk less and listen more.
  • “Would you buy a product which did X?” Anything involving the future is an over-optimistic lie.
  • “How much would you pay for X?” People will lie to you if they think it’s what you want to hear.
  • “Would you pay X for a product which did Y?” If you’re far enough along, is to literally ask for money. If you have the deposit or pre-order in hand, you know they were telling the truth.
  • “What are the implications of that?” Some problems don’t actually matter.
  • “Talk me through the last time that happened?” Watching someone do a task will show you where the problems and inefficiencies really are, not where the customer thinks they are.
  • “What else have you tried?” If they haven’t looked for ways of solving it already, they’re not going to look for (or buy) yours.
  • “How are you dealing with it now?” While it’s rare for someone to tell you precisely what they’ll pay you, they’ll often show you what it’s worth to them.
  • “Where does the money come from?” In a B2B context it’s a must-ask. It leads to a conversation about whose budget the purchase will come from and who else within their company holds the power to torpedo the deal.
  • “Who else should I talk to?” If you’re onto something interesting and treating people well, your leads will quickly multiply via intros.
  • “Is there anything else I should have asked?” People want to help you, but will rarely do so unless you give them an excuse to do so.

Avoiding bad data

With the exceptions of industry experts who have built very similar businesses, opinions are worthless. You want facts and commitments, not compliments.

Asking important questions

Every time you talk to someone, you should be asking a question which has the potential to completely destroy your currently imagined business.

Keeping it casual

When you strip all the formality from the process, you end up with no meeting, no interview questions, and a much easier time. The conversations become so fast and lightweight that you can go to a industry meet-up and leave with a dozen customer conversations under your belt, each of which provided as much value as a formal meeting.

Commitment and advancement

In sales, moving a sales relationship to the next stage is called “advancement”. It’s like pushing a customer into the next step of your real-world acquisition funnel. They’ll either move forward or make it clear that they’re not a customer. Both are good results for your learning.

Finding conversations

The goal of cold conversation is to stop having them. You hustle together the first one or two from wherever you can, and then, if you treat people’s time respectfully and are genuinely trying to solve their problem, those cold conversations start turning into warm intros. The snowball is rolling.

  • Seizing serendipity
  • Find a good excuse.
  • Immerse yourself in where they are.
  • Landing pages.
  • Speaking & teaching.
  • Industry blogging.
  • Get clever.
  1. Framing. Frame expectations by mentioning what stage you’re at and, if it’s true, that you don’t have anything to sell.
  2. Weakness. Show weakness and give them a chance to help by mentioning your specific problem that you’re looking for answers on. This will also clarify that you’re not a time waster.
  3. Pedestal. Put them on a pedestal by showing how much they, in particular, can help.
  4. Ask. Ask for help.

Choosing your customers

When you have a fuzzy sense of who you’re serving, you end up talking to a lot of different types of people, which leads to confusing signals and three problems:

  1. You aren’t moving forward but can’t prove yourself wrong
  2. You receive incredibly mixed feedback and can’t make sense of it

Running the process

The customer and learning has to be shared with the entire founding team, promptly and faithfully. That relies on good notes plus a bit of pre- and post-meeting work.


Software engineer, creator of increaser.org. More at geekrodion.com