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 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:

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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