When I meet with a startup that is pre-revenue with a neat idea, I'll often ask them if they have talked with potential customers. Often the answer is no. I don't understand that since those meetings can offer more upside than meeting with me.
Let me share a story that I think can help.
One of my favorites is about one of the entrepreneurs we seeded. He spent a few months meeting with over a dozen potential customers understanding their specific needs. Based on their input, they helped shape the direction of the company. When he met with us, the direction of the company was more clear. He had identified who his beta customers might be and he had quotes from them sharing their feedback. This added a lot of credibility and just strengthened his case for funding.
To add to this and what's really interesting is that he had one of those companies pay six figures upfront to lock in preferred pricing BEFORE he built the product. So, he used customer money to help finance building the company. That meant, he had to raise less money, which meant less dilution.
Other strategies that I've seen work well is presenting ideas to prospects with just early screen shots. Of course I've seen others present without that stuff too. But all these entreprenuers are presenting before the software is really built.
My point is to get out there, test the market and speak with prospects early to help validate the model. These meetings can help you see if what you're thinking matches up with people that can pay you for it.
Another benefit of meeting with prospects early on is that it could lead to a change in direction, which is okay too. Maybe they already use a competitor's product, which they love. Or maybe they end up suggesting some new features. Whatever the case, that early feedback would be helpful so you can build the product to your potential customer's liking, rather than having to shift strategy after you have launched. Shifting after you launch, could be costly and could slow you down.
Anyway, I always scratch my head a bit in meetings when we're pitched for capital and the idea hasn't been pitched to any sales prospects yet. I think it is an important step in building a company.