Why Founders Should Know How to Code

Steve Blank

I was driving home from the BIO conference in San Diego last month and had lots of time for a phone call with Dave, an ex student and now a founder who wanted to update me on his Customer Discovery progress. Customer Discovery. Filed under: Customer Development , Technology.

The Customer Development Manifesto: The Startup Death Spiral (part.

Steve Blank

This post describes how following the traditional product development can lead to a “startup death spiral.&# In the next posts that follow, I’ll describe how this model’s failures led to the Customer Development Model – offering a new way to approach startup sales and marketing activities. Three to six months after first customer ship, if Sales starts missing its numbers, the board gets concerned. Part 4 of the Customer Development Manifesto to follow.

It Must Be A Marketing Problem

Steve Blank

The Customer Development process is the way startups quickly iterate and test each element of their business model , reducing customer and market risk. The first step of Customer Development is called Customer Discovery. In Discovery startups take all their hypotheses about the business model: product, market, customers, channel, etc. outside the building and test them in front of customers. Six is a Proxy for Burn Rate.

Create Structure out of the Gate and You’ll Thank Yourself Later

Feld Thoughts

One of them used to be a lead developer at [insert hot consumer tech company here]. They close on the $750k, hire a buddy or two, buy some Macs, and get to work. Things start to get a little fuzzy in terms of priorities, but not to fret, the new office is coming along really well with all of the hiring! Early customer development talks are going great which keeps the team really excited. Three months in, the burn is now at $70k/month.

Crisis Management by Firing Executives – There’s A Better Way

Steve Blank

In an existing company with existing customers you 1) understand the customers problem and 2) since you do, you can specify the entire feature set on day one. Yet by first customer ship most of the business model hasn’t been validated or tested.

Lean Startups aren't Cheap Startups

Steve Blank

For those of you who have been following the discussion, a Lean Startup is Eric Ries ’s description of the intersection of Customer Development , Agile Development and if available, open platforms and open source. Who’s the customer? What’s the customer acquisition cost?

Managing Startups: Best Posts of 2011

Platforms and Networks

Mark Suster gives advice for startups with applications that face a substitution threat from in-house versions developed by big platforms. Customer Discovery and Validation Laura Klein describes five fast/cheap/easy approaches to user research and usability testing. Brant Cooper reviews biases that managers from different functions bring to the customer development process. Ben Yoskovitz describes how and why to use the " day in a customer's life " technique.

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Lessons Learned: Achieving a failure

Startup Lessons Learned

Hire the absolute best and the brightest, true experts in their fields, who in turn can hire the smartest people possible to staff their departments. Here are a few: We know what customers want. By hiring experts, conducting lots of focus groups, and executing to a detailed plan, the company became deluded that it knew what customers wanted. But that was two full years before any customers were allowed to use it. Stealth is a customer-free zone.

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Lessons Learned: Don't launch

Startup Lessons Learned

Marketing launch) Make a new product available to customers in the general public. In particular, a marketing launch can help you do three things (courtesy, as is most of my marketing advice, of The Four Steps to the Epiphany ): Drive customers into your sales pipeline. Worse, if you are not geared up to make the best use of those customers when the launch sends them your way, its a pretty big waste. Do your customers really read TechCrunch?

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Lessons Learned: Cash is not king

Startup Lessons Learned

The full formula works like this: runway = cash on hand / burn rate # iterations = runway / speed of each iteration Very few successful companies ended up in the same exact business that the founders thought theyd be in (see Founders at Work for dozens of examples). To increase the number of iterations you have left, you can either increase cash on hand (by raising money or increasing revenues), reduce burn rate, or increase the speed of each iteration.

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The Secret History of Silicon Valley Part V: Happy 100th Birthday.

Steve Blank

Berkeley Haas Business School was courageous enough to give me a forum teach the Customer Development Methodology. In ten years, from the early 1950′s to the early 1960′s, the valley went through a hiring frenzy as jobs in microwave companies went from 700 to 7,000.

The Curse of a New Building « Steve Blank

Steve Blank

We can’t bring customers to this rundown building. We hired an interior designer and a great facilities person to manage the process. Reply Jerry Ji , on May 15, 2009 at 4:56 pm Said: When my startup starts hiring, I’ll make “The Four Steps to the Epiphany&# a prerequisite reading for every interviewer. They develop traditions and privileges in other ways.

More Thoughts on MBA’s and Startups

Leveraging Ideas

I wanted to add my own thoughts since I have an MBA and know the startup space from both the perspective of a potential employee and as a CEO making hiring decisions. The priorities of the company at this stage are in customer development and determining product market fit via some sort of live, demonstrable product. An employee’s success is measured against what aspect of the business they can advance, relative to the hunk of the burn rate they are eating.