Steve Blank on Customer Development at TiE Wed-Sep-17-2008

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Customer Development, Events, skmurphy

I had the pleasure of attending Steve Blank’s talk on “Customer Development for Startups” on Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at TiE and I wanted to offer some pointers both to content he referenced and some related information on Customer Development.

Steve Blank on Customer Development at TiE Wed-Sep-17-2008

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:

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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