Many people, it turns out, don't know that President Eisenhower was President of Columbia for several years (after WWII and before becoming President of the U.S.). While that is a fact, the following story may well be apochryphal -- but it's too good not to republish as a lesson to entrepreneurs to "listen to the customer".
Many venture capitalists (including me), think that the perfect founder of a startup is a great technical product person. In many, maybe most, cases, that's true. But, there's a potential catch that investors need to consider, and that entrepreneurs need to watch in themselves: people with strong product intuitions often ignore data from the users of the product that conflict with the designer's idea of how the product should be used. It's almost a cliche around early-stage finance folks to tell the story of the technical product founder who, in high dudgeon and out of frustration, exclaims: "Dammit, all those customers are using the product the wrong way!"
Guess what, any time all your users are "using the product the wrong way" should be a wake-up call.
Anyway, back to Eisenhower. As the story goes, during his tenure at Columbia, the university was building a new quad. In a design review meeting, the architect gave a presentation to not much reaction. Next, the landscape architect gave a presentation about the way the grounds would look, including the layout of the sidewalks. During this, Eisenhower supposedly burst out: "NO! We're not building any sidewalks until we see where people walk. Only then will we know where to put the sidewalks!"
Good advice for all entrepreneurs.