I had the pleasure of attending Steve Blank’s talk on “Customer Development for Startups” on Wednesday, September 17 at TiE and I wanted to offer some pointers both to content he referenced and some related information on Customer Development.
The focus of the talk was how to organize sales, marketing and business development in a high technology startup to address the following key issues:
- Where is the market?
- Who are the customers?
- What is the minimum feature set needed to satisfy these customers?
- How to scale sales?
He offered insights and concrete examples for why some startups are successful and others are left to sell off their furniture–having some experience with the latter I can advise you that Desk Depot will not only deliver they will pick up. Some simple rules of thumb from the talk:
- Understand “a day in the life” of your customer: in particular
- How they will determine they can benefit from your product?
- Who will be involved in the decision to evaluate or purchase your product?
- Focus on minimum feature set so that you can get an adequate solution in front of customers as rapidly as possible.
- A PowerPoint slide or a datasheet is as useful as a working prototype in the early market, more useful since it’s easier to change.
- Don’t add features unless it’s absolutely essential.
- The founders must sell.
- Don’t hire more than one sales person before you start to reliably close business.
- If the founders aren’t involved in early early sales they cannot balance whether it’s the sales presentation or the product that needs to change.
Some additional resources for Customer Development:
- His slides (from the TiE Site) are here TIE20091709.pdf
- Blank referenced a great presentation by Eric Ries that explains how agile development methods are complementary and reinforcing to the Customer Development methodology. It’s available here: Customer Development Engineering.
- Handouts from the Technology Entrepreneurship course Blank is teaching this fall with Tom Kosnik
- Blank’s Book “Four Steps to the Epiphany” is available from Amazon and CafePress (which is $10 cheaper).
- We blogged about Steve Blank on Customer Development for Startups in January which covered his last seminar at TiE in more detail.
- We blogged about Steve Blank’s August 2007 talk at TiE
- Mark Duncan and I collaborated on a “Crucial Marketing Concepts for Startups” briefing that details several key concepts from “Four Steps to the Epiphany” (and a book review in the long version) and relates them to “the chasm” and “whole product” concepts.
Update Tue-Oct-7: Philip Mikal E-mails:
Came across your blog post on Steve Blank’s recent talk at TIE. I’m also a fan and thought you’d be interested in his recent talk at Stanford: http://ecorner.stanford.edu/authorMaterialInfo.html?mid=2048
It’s a good talk and the only on-line recording I am aware of where Steve talks about Customer Development. It’s downloadable as a podcast and worth listening to a couple of times.
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