Sorry I'm not sorry:)
My guilt stems not only from "holding judgement" on their idea, and knowing how I felt when I was in their shoes, but also from the fact that my advice is usually the same every time, especially in the beginning.
WHO REALLY HAS THIS PROBLEM? WHO REALLY WANTS IT SOLVED? WHO IS WILLING TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT?
When I started teaching groups specifically in the "social enterprise" space... this was a common theme. With "intentional startups" started with purely commercialized intent, the notion of doing what is known as customer development can be the subject of debate. With social startups - it can be more intense.
HERE's how I reconcile the two.
Doing custdev is either to learn more about the problem and the customer (and to PROVE both exist) OR it is to learn more about the nature of the best solution before selling it back to the market.
For social startups, when I encourage you to talk to the customer, end user, etc - it is for the latter. NO ONE is telling you that you have to validate the problem, if you believe it exists, GO SOLVE IT. But #custdev or traditional interviews (over simply doing usability tests or sales) can still be incredibly valuable for you.
It takes more than good intentions to make an impact, and opportunity cost is a HUGE issue in the social good space. Plus, less people are likely to be real with you because they admire you for even trying... but solving the huge problems in the world take more than effort.
Sorry I'm not sorry... and please let me know how I can help!