I still see people think "talking to customers" works when validating an idea, but people don't always know what they want. I think real validation of an idea happens with executing it and then people getting their credit card out and paying you for it.
I think talking to people and asking them what to build USED to work because there wasn't as much stuff built as now. But there's hundreds of websites/apps launched every day now, so even if you build what they want, the odds of them paying for it are less due to competition.
That's why building more things, not less, and seeing what exactly people will get their credit card out for and paying you money is, I think, how to get to validation these days.
There's a certain excessive self-confidence in working on a project for months/years without any paying customers and thinking it will just work out if only people realize how great your product is. But if people visit every day and not pay for it, that's daily rejection.
That daily rejection should be a data point too. That's people EVERY day NOT paying for your product. That means something is severely wrong with your idea/execution. But instead entrepreneurs like to ignore this with "one day people will get it".
And yes, sometimes it does work out, people iterate a product for a long time until ppl start paying for it. But this is way more seldom than ppl think. That's why funding is so risky, it removes the biggest incentive to build a product people actually want: making money.
Being broke may be the best incentive to build something people want because you're struggling to pay rent and survive. There's no Plan B, there's no savings, there's no extra income. You'll build anything to make money, and that'll get you closer to market fit than most people.
This ties into entrepreneurship research: poorer countries generally have higher amounts of entrepreneurship than rich countries, out of necessity:
"people are far more entrepreneurial in the developing countries than in the developed countries. According to an OECD study, in most developing countries, 30-50 per cent of the non-agricultural workforce is self-employed (the ratio tends to be even higher in agriculture).
(..) In some countries, the ratio does not even reach one in ten: 6.7 per cent in Norway, 7.5 per cent in the USA, and 8.6 per cent in France.
So, even excluding the farmers (which would make the ratio even higher), the chance of an average developing country person being an entrepreneur is more than twice that for a developed country person (30 per cent versus 12.8 per cent). The difference is 10 times, if we compare Bangladesh with the USA (7.5 per cent versus 75.4 per cent).
And in the most extreme case, the chance of someone from Benin being an entrepreneur is 13 times higher than the equivalent chance for a Norwegian (88.7 per cent versus 6.7 per cent)."
— Ha-Joon Chang on United Nations University
Starting from a place of comfort (savings, residual income) can ironically be a negative factor for entrepreneurial success because the difference between the result of you failing and succeeding is smaller: in both cases you'll still be able to pay your rent. Less incentive.