What's the best way for a first-time entrepreneur to determine product market fit? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Peter Reinhardt, CEO & Co-founder at Segment, ex-MIT Aerospace, on Quora:

Imagine you're trying to train a machine learning algorithm (your brain in this case). By definition, first-time entrepreneurs have no training data... no labeled set of "bad ideas" and "good ideas" to learn from.

So you have to do the only thing you can: start pitching an idea or build something to show it to some potential customers. Theoretically, this should give you a label for that first datapoint: good or bad idea. But this is where reality intervenes. People will try to be nice to you, and avoid confrontation, because they know this idea is your baby. So they'll say "That sounds really valuable!" which is code for "I don't think I'd ever use this."

The mistake we made was exactly that. We misinterpreted their "That sounds really valuable!" feedback as a "good idea" label rather than a "bad idea" label. So the machine learning algorithm in our head didn't get any better. We tried again. And then we tried a third time. Both failed.

Finally, we tried a fourth time (with analytics.js) and we got a wildly different response. People went nuts upvoting it on Hacker News, starring it on Github, emailing us demanding access to a beta product that didn't exist...

And that was when we realized that all our previous labeled datapoints were wrong. We re-labeled all the previous stuff as "bad idea" and for the first time had a "good idea" datapoint and label. With a properly labeled dataset, the ML algorithm in your head can actually differentiate good and bad customer responses.

So the best way to determine product market fit is avoid your own self-bias trap of optimistically-interpreting vague positive feedback as a "good idea" label. If they really need it, people will rip it out of your hands and give you an 11 out of 10 energetic response.

Here's a story that might help you: Judging Product Market Fit

This question originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:

Published on: Apr 12, 2017