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"Intermediate" MVPs

At Eric Ries' fantastic Lean Startup Conference last Friday, I had the privilege of working the Customer Development panel.  While the translation to video is a bit tough due to awkward dead air while questions were being asked (Sean Ellis thankfully repeats the questions), I'm proud we closed the day off with a full session's worth of questions from the attendees.   After all, that's who the conference was for. Perhaps more of these can be sprinkled throughout the day in the future and even include a means for remote viewers to ask questions.  What do you think?

I liked one question in particular, because it concerns something I've been thinking about recently.  Erin Turner asked about landing pages as Minimum Viable Products (@23:05 in video).  I didn't opine, though I would have enjoyed challenging my friend David Binetti with an alternative take, and since the subject is covered in my new book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Customer Development, I missed an opportunity for shameless self-promotion.   One that I will now partially remedy.  ; ) Read More »

Natural Experiments in Product-Market Fit: How to know you don't have it.

I attended the most recent Startup2Startup event and after the presentation, the discussion turned to how one might define Product-Market Fit and what might serve as a proxy for Product-Market Fit, given various types of business models.

The Sean Ellis 40% rule-of-thumb was quickly invoked as were other ideas.  However, I thought it worthwhile to share one insight that came from an experienced start-up entrepreneur at the table.  While we were talking about triangulating on the various signals available to an entrepreneur as to what constitutes Product-Market Fit, he recounted a story -- really an accidental natural experiment -- on how he unequivocally learned his start-up hadn't achieved Product-Market Fit.

To wit, his site had gone down for a few hours, and he hadn't known about it.  In the interim, there had been nothing but silence.  None of his users had squawked or had made it publicly known that the site was down and they were angry/frustrated/furious/going to switch providers/fed-up-with-this etc., etc.

This lack of frustration/noise is a data-point.  In this case, it meant his start-up had a ways to go on iterating to finding Product-Market Fit.

As a contrast, we might choose to look at what happens when Twitter goes down.

So, for the more intrepid of you out there, perhaps try "accidentally unplugging" your servers and see what happens.  (Clearly, this has significant risks such as alienating users, but it may be a useful signal to know when you don' t have Product-Market Fit, if you were wondering.)

BTW, I believe Dave McClure has advocated a very similar idea with regard to features.  If I recall correctly, he suggests removing features from a web app and waiting to hear if users complain loudly.  The intensity of the complaint is likely correlated with the usefulness of the feature.

Is My Poem Lean?

Lean is not about the funding you take,

The size of your sales force, the money you make.

Lean is not how much money you spend,

That you like your product and so does your friend.

To test your guess and iterate,

To kill your favorite feature your customers hate,

To exercise ideas, removing the sheen,

That is what makes a startup lean.

The State of Customer Development

When I first started blogging about Customer Development, last February, I felt like there were only a handful of people talking about it.  I'm sure that's just a matter of perception.  The likes of Sean Ellis, Sean Murphy, Nivi at VentureHacks, Dave McClure, Hiten at KissMetrics, and Eric Ries had already thinking and blogging about it for many months (years?) before.

By March it was clear to me I had stumbled across something that was catching on.  It's not insignificant that Twitter had just reached its "tipping point."  Customer Development would ride the wave.  I first learned the value of Twitter through the promotion of great posts written by start-up superstars, many of which contained elements of customer development.  Rich Collins created the Lean Startup Google Group in June and it quickly grew to a couple hundred members.  There are now over 1700 members!

All of which leads me to this question, done in full cliche-riddled, end-of-2009, year-in-review regalia:

What is the State of Customer Development?

Read More »

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 »