Task: Problem Interview Script

Required Question

Problem Interview is Ash Maurya's term for the interview you conduct to validate whether or not we have a real problem that our target audience has.

In the Problem Interview, you want to find out 3 things:

1. Problem - What are you solving? - How do customers rank the top 3 problems?

2. Existing Alternatives - Who is your competition? - How do customers solve these problems today?

3. Customer Segments - Who has the pain? - Is this a viable customer segment?

Talking to people is hard, and talking to people in person is even harder. The best way to do this is building a script and sticking to it. Also don’t tweak your script until you’ve done enough interviews so that your responses are consistent.

While you can conduct the interview any way you want, whether by person, by blog, by emailing, the main point is to collect the information that you will need to validate your problem. Also, the interview script is merely a suggestion. As long as you can get the answers with your own methods, do go ahead!

You can use the space below to write up your script.

The script below is a great interview example proposed by Ash Maurya. However, if you can still arrive with answers that can help you, feel free to conduct the interview in any way you'd like.

Components of a good Problem Interview based off Ash Maurya's Running Lean

Problem Interview

StartitUp's Sample Script:

Welcome - 2 minutes

We’re building a step-by-startup guide that will provide action items for entrepreneurs like you build and grow your business. blah blah blah...

Collect Demographics (Test Customer Segment) - 2 minutes

(This is where you try to understand who this customer is - is he/she a customer? an early adopter?)

- What are you doing for a living now?

- Have you started a company before?

- If yes, how many? 

- If not, do you want to?

- Do you use a lot of online resources for your work?

Tell a Story (Set Problem Context) - 2 minutes
So, one of the biggest problems we have is that we start a lot of startups, and it's always quite frustrating to not be really able to keep track of our progress, or knowing what to do, and when to do them. We find that we spend a lot of time scavenging over the internet for the newest tricks, or growth hacking tricks. While we are seasoned entrepreneurs, we still prefer to have some kind of guidelines to keep us in check.

Is this something you face as well?

Problem Ranking (Test Problem - see if they really struggle with this problem) - 4 minutes

(Ask your customer to rank the top 3 problems)

1. Do you feel a strong urge to want to start a company?

2. If you have not started a company, do you feel overwhelmed by the fact that you don't have a clue about how to start it?

3. If you have started a company, do you also feel helpless sometimes when you don't know the best way to build or grow your company?

Explore Customer's Worldview (Test Problem) - 15 minutes

(In this section, you just want to understand how your customers solve this problem today)

1. What resources do you usually use to start your business? 

2. What parts of starting up is most difficult for you? Or what topics?

3. What is the best way for you to learn? 

4. While starting up, if there was a checklist that makes sure you do everything you can do to grow your company, would you be able to follow them step by step, or would you skip most of them and get to the part where you are having most difficulty with? 

Wrapping Up (the Hook and Ask) - 2 minutes

We are almost done with our product, and I think we have a pretty awesome solution to help startups build and grow their business in an efficient manner.

Thanks a lot for your time today.

Do you think you'd be interested in using the guide when we have it ready?

Would you know anyone who could be a good candidate for this topic?

Document Results - 5 minutes

Spend 5 minutes to document the results. 


1. Don’t ask questions that might get a polite response back. Asking a yes or no question or whether or not they will use your service will often yield a polite answer.

2. Always ask questions that will make them tell you what they already do right now as an alternative to solve their problems.

3. Probe their behavior instead of asking them questions that leads them to answer that they want to use your solution.

4. The point of the interview is to learn about them, not to sell to them.

5. The trick to get people to talk more is by asking them open-ended questions like "What do you usually do to solve this problem." and not "Is this how you solve ths problem nowadays?"

Please check out Ash Maurya’s Problem Interview Script Deconstructed from "Running Lean" for instructions on a more comprehensive interview strategy.

If possible, you could also use emails or survey tools to get feedback as well.

Here are some tools you can use:

  1. Google Consumer Surveys
  2. Zoomerang - Free basic version, surveys polls, 150+ templates
  3. Qualtrics - cloud-based survey, free account a complete game changer – incredibly well built and powerful
  4. Qualtrics Wiki - Joseph Williams
  5. Amazon Mechanical Turk - you can set up a question and get answers
  6. Using Mechanical Turk for Customer Discovery - Joseph Williams
  7. Qualaroo - target surveys, boost signups, increase usage
  8. KissInsights - survey visitors while they surf your site
  9. Wufoo - create contact forms, online surveys and event registrations
  10. AYTM - Ask Your Target Market
  11. Ethnio - Recruit real people from your website for user research
  12. Poplytics - online surveys and analytics
  13. AskYourTargetMarket – market research surveys
  14. SurveyMonkey-  granddaddy of on-line surveys
  15. QuestionPro - on surveys, plus templates
  16. SnapSurveys - online and mobile surveys
  17. PickFu - Instant Market feedback A/B testing, polls
  18. SurveyGizmo - free version, survey creation and data integration tools
  19. SmartSurvey - UK’s leading survey tool, complies with the Data Protection Act
  20. FormAssembly - Create order forms, service requests or registration forms and collect payment securely