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5th Anti-Lean Startup Archetype – We Already Do It

I recently blogged about 4 anti-lean startup archetypes. These are people who, in my opinion, are at first blush, unwilling (or unable) to adopt Eric Ries' lean startup principles, and specifically, Steve Blank's customer development methodologies.

The four are:

  • The renaissance salesperson - He or she can sell a sno-cone to an Eskimo; they don't need no stinkin' customer development.
  • If you build-it, they will come Engineers - Our product rocks, therefore we win.
  • Madison Ave marketers - All we need is some advertising, PR, branding -- mix in a little social media marketing, and you're good to go!
  • The "you don't get it" entrepreneur - If you don't see the billion dollar win the CEO sees, you simply lack the vision.  See?

I think I've met one of each in the last week. Read More »

How to find early adopters

The toughest part about practicing customer development is getting started.  You already know that customers are not going to magically find you because you have a great product, work hard and are good looking.  Now that you've realized how big the world is and that using a megaphone from your roof top is a poor method of user acquisition, what's next?

Presumably if you are committed to the principles of customer development, you are already committed to "getting out of the building."  Before you can interview potential customers, however, you have to find potential customers to interview.  Unfortunately, there are no magic bullets.   This is painstaking work.  Just as with other portions of the customer development model, to find early adopters you make assumptions, test, and iterate.  If you are having trouble getting started, try these steps: Read More »

Who owns the vision?

I love the work Eric Ries is doing with Lean Startup.  (IMO, coupled with an investment model where funds are predicated on implementation of lean startup principles and achieving specific customer development milestones #leanstartup could revolutionize the start-up and investment landscapes.)

Words are powerful and and the intent of catchy phrases can be lost when removed from their original context.  I brought this up before a few weeks back, when the "Fail Fast" meme was cruising through Twitter and among some cheerleaders, it seems, failing itself had become the best means to success, as if it were the end objective, as if tripping your way to finish line will ensure you are the winner.

So it goes, IMO, with this quote about the customer's vision:

Early customers are often more visionary than the startup they work with for that product.

I'm not so sure.  Read More »

Lean Start-up Part IV

It has been awhile since I've updated the progress on a very lean startup I'm helping out.  Last time out I briefly discuss our first engagement with customers through personal interviews and surveys.

I am pleased to report our first failure.  : )

According to our surveys and interviews, our assumptions regarding who will be willing to pay for what appear to be wrong.  (I might add, too, that the feedback seems to be running exactly opposite of the expert advice the company heard while going through a local mentoring process.)

So now that we've got our answers, we're ready to go to market, right?
Read More »

Customer Development Gut Checks

Through the evolution of their start-ups, entrepreneurs will face many  inflection points, at which decisions made or not made will determine their future.   The painful truth is that a wrong turn may lead to its demise, whereas a right turn leads to another inflection point.

Relevant to ongoing discussions about Blank's "Customer Development," I wish to highlight a few of these "inflection points."

The first step in Blank's model is "Customer Discovery."   This step seeks to answer this fundamental question: Read More »

Mumford's Law and Vision vs. Customer

Lewis Mumford (1895-1990) was an American Architecture and Literary critic, as well as Sociologist and Philosopher.  I often attribute a particular quote to Mumford, though I can't seem to locate the source.  When asked where to put a sidewalk, Mumford responds:

See where the people walk and then pave their path.

How many times have you seen two sidewalks intersecting at 90 degree angles, with worn grass cutting the corners?

There's a fine line between executing on your vision and listening to your customers.  Consider Mumford's quote, thinking of the sidewalk as the "vision" and the path as "customer needs."

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Customer Development and Start-up Models

I am sensing marked uptake on the concept of conducting serious customer research in order to jump start high tech start-ups.  It's about time. There's definitely buzz building around Steve Blank's customer development methodology.  Ego dictates that whatever you're thinking about must be what the world is thinking about and to that, I plead guilty.

But I wrote a post about an iterative, process-oriented approach to high-tech sales and marketing on 2.9.9.   Shortly thereafter, Andrew Beinbrink, CEO of the interesting San Diego start-up SportsTV, introduced me to Seal Ellis who introduced me to Steven Blank's book The Four Steps to the Epiphany, which sounded an awful lot like what I had blogged about.  Whew.  Oh, and Steve's even got a new blog.
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