In the field of tissue engineering, mechano-regulation theories have been applied to help predict tissue development in tissue engineering scaffolds in the past. For this, finite element models (FEMs) were used to predict the distribution of strains within a scaffold. However, the strains reported in these studies are volumetric strains of the material or strains developed in the extracellular matrix occupying the pore space. The initial phase of cell attachment and growth on the biomaterial surface has thus far been neglected. In this study, we present a model that determines the magnitude of biomechanical signals on the biomaterial surface, enabling us to predict cell differentiation stimulus values at this initial stage. Results showed that magnitudes of the 2D strain—termed surface strain—were lower when compared to the 3D volumetric strain or the conventional octahedral shear strain as used in current mechano-regulation theories. Results of both µCT and CAD derived FEMs from the same scaffold were compared. Strain and fluid shear stress distributions, and subsequently the cell differentiation stimulus, were highly dependent on the pore shape. CAD models were not able to capture the distributions seen in the µCT FEM. The calculated mechanical stimuli could be combined with current mechanobiological models resulting in a tool to predict cell differentiation in the initial phase of tissue engineering. Although experimental data is still necessary to properly link mechanical signals to cell behavior in this specific setting, this model is an important step towards optimizing scaffold architecture and/or stimulation regimes.