How to write a great startup survey

Pete Lead
8 min readOct 14, 2021

And what to do instead

Photo by Celpax on Unsplash

Don’t use surveys.

Please. Your goal as a founder is to learn. Learning in the most efficient way possible means balancing learning deeply and moving quickly. Surveys achieve neither.

It sounds like a small effort: create a survey, send it out. But it takes more time and effort than you realise to write the questions, perfect the questions, get people to respond, and then make sense of the answers you got.

To get rich insights from your customers I will always advocate for discovery interviews, not surveys. You’ve probably heard the startup maxim “do things that don’t scale”. If you’re doing a survey in the very early stages you’re trying to scale something that you should probably be doing manually.

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Here’s what to do instead

Why you want to do a survey: To get some compelling “data” to use in your pitch.

e.g. “87% of men wear underpants 5+ days a week”. Let’s say your idea is an undies subscription for men.

Instead: Find stats from the internet.


  • It’s faster. Someone else has already done the work for you!
  • The source might have more credibility and bigger numbers than you could achieve.
  • You might find other cool stats to add to your pitch. You can pick and choose. And you might find something funny that helps grab your audience’s attention.

Example: I just typed “how often men wear underpants” into Google and got a bunch of (weird) factoids from e.g. Men’s Health, Today. “In a recent survey, clothing retailer Tommy John asked 2,000 American men and women…” They even have quotes from university professors.

Boom. 2 minutes. Move on.

Why you want to do a survey: It’s hard to find (the right) people to interview

Pete Lead

I work with startups, teach entrepreneurship, and freelance in improv and leadership coaching.