Inside Even

Make the truth unavoidable

Why we do our research out in the open.
qf and jon studying up

Even’s CEO and cofounder Jon gave me a simple task as Even’s research lead: “Make the truth unavoidable.”

Jon is obsessed with truth as the antidote to startups’ tendency to tell themselves lies. Paraphrasing what he’s said to me on this topic: When you’ve invested time and effort into an idea you love, it’s really tempting to lie to yourself about why your customers are going to love it too. These lies kill companies by making them turn out bad products that don’t solve customers’ problems. We want to live and solve the problems of variable income. For that, we need to make sure the truth about the people we want to serve is always right there in our faces.

At Even we have access to lots of truth from many sources:

The trick is making it unavoidable. That’s why our new research blog is public.

Public truth is way less avoidable than private truth.

  • It’s easier to consume. Something that comes at you in your Twitter or Facebook feed while you’re in the mood to read is way more likely to get a click than something that badges a noisy Slack channel while you’re trying to work.
  • It’s easier to retrieve. Googling a memorable headline is a lot more convenient than searching an internal archive for an obscure report.
  • It’s more entertaining. Content created to meet the standards of external consumers who don’t “have” to read it will be more enjoyable for internal ones who do.
  • It’s more social. When people besides your coworkers can read something and have a lively conversation about it, you’re going to want to read it so you can join in.
  • It faces tougher scrutiny. An internal insight is easy to dismiss because it can seem to be one person’s opinion. But if that insight survives going out into the world and getting critiqued by others (hopefully including some of your customers), you’re inclined to take it more seriously.
  • It’s better at holding you accountable. If a write-up of a mistake your company made is internal-only, you’re kind of covered if you skip reading it and later make that mistake again. But if the mistake you made is out there on the Internet and you ignore it and keep making it, other people will be like, “What’s wrong with you guys?”

The content on this blog will be whatever truth we here at Even most need to have in our faces at any given time. That means it will usually be truth we haven’t acted on yet — truth that points out what’s bad about what we’re doing right now and what could be better.

That’s kind of awkward for us, but hopefully it’s a useful awkwardness. Hopefully it motivates us to act so that we can start feeling better about ourselves. And hopefully it motivates good people to join us so they don’t have to stand by watching us being so awkward. Hopefully it’s good, because it’s not going to be avoidable.

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