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Listening Skills For Startup Founders

In this episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten sit down for a candid conversation about listening. Like it or not, everyone (yes, even you) has a problem listening—especially company founders. Founders are notorious for having some of the worst listening skills out there. An inability to listen amongst company leaders is a big reason so many startups fail. Fortunately, listening can be learned.

Updated on June 16

Key Smash Notes In This Episode


Founders get so busy talking, they don't spend any time listening to their customers, missing key insights in the process.


Figure out a hypothetical problem you are trying to solve, and ask questions that explore whether or not your customer has those problems.

Founders often make a mistake of explaining their solution, and take lack of feedback as confirmation that their product is good, while in reality their product might be entirely unnecessary.

How do you know if you are listening? A good listener would have a lot of follow on questions to the responses they get. Learn to dig deeper.


You can’t be in the moment if you are constantly thinking about the next moment, so if you want to actually hear your conversation partner, you have to slow down.

Listen to every word, and repeat them to yourself if it helps. Look for inflection points, for emotions and visual cues.

Finally, when it's time to answer, say less. Don't say everything, just focus on the 20% that is likely to deliver most value.

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