Author Archive

Q: Is It Waste To Build A B2B MVP That Inspires Trust?

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in checklist, MVP, skmurphy

Q: I am preparing to launch a website for my minimum viable product (MVP). It’s a few pages and has has some forms and a file upload capability. Potential customers will be able to explain a particular type of problem that they have and then upload some relevant files for review. I will review their situation and send them a link for payment if I can fix the problem. My concern is that if I don’t have pages for “Contact Us”, “Services”, and “About Us then a potential customer may not trust the website to actually start a purchase. Is it waste to add these pages? Would I be smarter to launch a very simple site with a form and file upload.

Build A B2B MVP That Inspires Trust

If the information you are requesting is not particularly proprietary and you are only looking to charge $10 or $20 dollars then the “put up a landing page and see who clicks” model may tell you enough. This is essentially an impulse purchase.

But when you write  “I will review their situation and send them a link for payment if I can fix the problem,” I am assuming that you are selling to business and that your target price point is more than $100.  This moves beyond the impulse purchase or simple consumer buying models for a $4 E-book or a $19/month service; if you plan to charge more than $300 then you are pretty clearly into a “considered purchase” and need to provide a richer context for the decision than a simple landing page. Also because you are asking for data that they may consider private or proprietary this makes it more of a considered purchase.

Stanford Credibility Guidelines

The Stanford credibility project has come up with some good guidelines that I always point entrepreneurs to if they want to sell to businesses. Here are the first five:

  1. Make it easy to verify the accuracy of the information on your site. You can build web site credibility by providing third-party support (citations, references, source material) for information you present, especially if you link to this evidence. Even if people don’t follow these links, you’ve shown confidence in your material.
  2. Show that there’s a real organization behind your site. Showing that your web site is for a legitimate organization will boost the site’s credibility. The easiest way to do this is by listing a physical address. Other features can also help, such as posting a photo of your offices or listing a membership with the chamber of commerce.
  3. Highlight the expertise in your organization and in the content and services you provide.  Do you have experts on your team?  Are your contributors or service providers authorities? Be sure to give their credentials. Are you affiliated with a respected organization?
  4. Show that honest and trustworthy people stand behind your site. Links to bios and third party on-line content (e.g. LinkedIn profile, twitter, other forums or sites you regularly contribute to).
  5. Make it easy to contact you. A simple way to boost your site’s credibility is by making your contact information clear: phone number, physical address, and email address.

How To Establish Trust

If you are asking for details about a problem someone has in preparation for asking money to solve it you need to invest in substantiating your expertise and trustworthiness. Case study examples of other problems you have solved, testimonials from other firms that you have helped, and multiple ways to contact you in addition to the text file upload form, are all probably part of an MVP depending upon how much money you are asking for, how serious the problems are you will solve for them, and how much information they need to disclose about themselves and their business.

Minimum Viable Product vs. Product Description or Message

One “message” (I don’t call it an MVP because you are not asking to get paid) that you could test would be a self-service checklist that would allow them to solve simpler problems that may mimic the more difficult problems you ask to get paid to solve, or a checklist that allows them to better diagnose their situation to understand alternatives (where you service may be one to consider). If people are willing to download a checklist (or don’t bounce off the page and actually read it) this is an indication that they believe that the may have the problem you are trying to help them with. It doesn’t mean that they will pay you to solve the problem but you are at least a step closer to that conversation.

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Q: What Are Critical Tasks In A Startup?

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in checklist, skmurphy

Q: What is the target allocation for each of these critical tasks in a successful startup? Here is my list of critical tasks in a startup and a percentage allocation:

  • Planning 10%
  • Execution 50% 
  • Ideation 20% 
  • Talking to Potential Customers 15% 
  • Recruiting 5%

What Is The Real Decision?

Can you clarify :

  • At what stage of company?
  • What time frame are the percentages averaged over?
  • Is this just for the founders or total effort of all team members?
  • What is the distinction between ideation and planning?  Can you please elaborate on this?

How would you use or apply any answer that you get?  In other words, what is the real decision you are trying to make?

Don’t Forget Retrospectives

One category of task that is missing is “after action” or “lessons learned” or “post project assessment” or retrospective.

If execution is 50% then 10% on planning/ideation and 5% on retrospective seems about the right balance. That would leave 30% for talking to potential customers (i.e. sales and marketing)  and 5% on recruiting (construed broadly to include finding partners, suppliers, channels as well as contractors and employees).

And Talking to Current Customers

But this also leaves out talking to current customers (not just potential customers) which can be very different conversations.

I would split execution into somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 talking with customers (includes support, training, joint planning, etc..)  and 2/3 to 1/2 “execution.”

Critical Tasks In A Startup

So that means:

  • “Execution” 25-35% (totals to 50% with “talking to current customers”)
  • Talking to Current Customers 15-25% (totals to 50% with execution)
  • Talking to Potential  Customers 30%
  • Planning/Ideation 10%
  • Retrospectives (“learning from mistakes)  5%
  • “Recruiting” (employers, contractors, partners, channel, supplier) 5%

How to Apply to Avoid Failures

  • Not Enough Time Spent on Customer Discovery: One typical failure mode in the early stages is not enough time is allocated to talking to potential customers so if you are not spending at least 20-30% of team time on this you may not succeed.
  • Premature execution / Not enough planning: if you start trying to “execute” immediately with a working consensus on the team you will probably have problems. If you are spending more than 10% of your time on a monthly basis planning or trying to reach a working consensus then either folks cannot compromise or want to live in the world of ideas
  • Not Talking To Customers: once you have customers if you don’t spend at least 1/6 to 1/3 of your time on their ongoing success and satisfaction you are likely to face not only churn issues but also competitors may be learning faster than you are.
  • No Looking Back: if you don’t allocate any time to after-action or retrospective analysis then you may never learn from failures (or successes) and again your competitors may be learning faster than you are.
  • No Effort to Scale (Beyond Working Harder): once you start to have customers you need to spend some time on “recruiting” partners, contractors, employees, suppliers or your original team will  either hire or work with people that they already know and become insular and stale or simply run out of bandwidth

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If “Cold Calling” is Your Answer Please Reconsider

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Lead Generation, skmurphy

Q: I am launching a new live chat service and trying to decide the best way to acquire new customers from cold calling, email marketing, social media outreach by posting content to Facebook pages. What would you recommend?

Technology vs. Business Model

A live chat service is a technology, what is your business model?

Who is the Customer? What Is Their Need?

In particular who is the customer and why aren’t they using one of the several dozen live chat services already available? To determine the best tool for acquiring a new customer you have to have a clear hypothesis for who the customer, their need or pain point, and how your offering is differentiated from other alternatives already available to them.

Cold Calling Is Almost Always The Least Effective

The question cannot be answered in the abstract although “cold calling,” despite it’s popularity, is almost always the worst possible customer acquisition approach as a pure method. If you can make a “warm call” either via an introduction or because a prospect has indicated or expressed interest then that’s has a much higher chance of success. But that normally means you have to use multiple outbound methods (e.g. email marketing, SEO, SEM, advertising,..) to generate that interest and warm up the call.

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Entrepreneurial Mindset: Create Value For Others

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Community of Practice, Thought Leadership

Creating value for others is the core of the entrepreneurial mindset. It enables the exchange of value that fuels entrepreneurs efforts to bring new ideas and products to market.

Dan Sullivan: Entrepreneurs Make Two Decisions

Dan Sullivan wrote “The Great Crossover” in 1994. He offers the following insight on entrepreneurial mindset:

Successful entrepreneurs differ from other people–not in their abilities but in their mindset. They have internalized two fundamental commitments, by making these two decisions:

  • Decision 1: To depend entirely on their own abilities for their financial security, because they realize that the only security is the security they create themselves.
  • Decision 2: To expect opportunity only by creating value for others, because they understand that this is the only unlimited source of economic opportunity.

These Two Decisions Form the Entrepreneurial Mindset

I think these decisions are transformational and lead to

  • The recognition of personal limitations that are either addressed by ongoing self-improvement efforts or by partnering with others who have complementary strengths.
  • You cannot rely on only self-assessment but must also actively solicit feedback from team members, customers, partners, and other members of the communities you are part of.
  • A commitment to the exchange of value for value, of quid pro quo. This does not preclude acts of generosity, kindness,

Creating Value With Others: Individuals, Teams, Communities of Practice

Creating value for others–and with others–means that you have to form effective working relationships:

  • With other individual entrepreneurs and experts,
  • By joining or forming teams to launch to launch new initiatives, projects, products, and businesses,
  • Cultivating communities of practice through active participation in conversations, constructive critique, and contributing “works in progress” for feedback and review.

When Tim O’Reilly advises entrepreneurs to “create more value than you capture” he is offering another perspective on the same entrepreneurial mindset.

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Guidelines For An Online Community of Entrepreneurs

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Rules of Thumb, skmurphy

Q: I am starting an online community for technology entrepreneurs. Can you suggestion some guidelines I can use to help set newcomers expectations for what constitute valuable content and comments?

Here are some good guidelines and articles that I would start with, borrowing what makes sense and adapting it.

  • Hacker News Guidelines would be a place where I would start. In particular: defining what is on and off topic, how to write titles, and guidelines for leaving comments. Your rules may be different, your focus certainly is, but it would be a place to start.
  • The “Please Do” and “Please Don’t” lists on Reddit Reddiquette are definitely worth reviewing for things to include.
  • For “ASK BN” See Stack overflow how to ask a question for some specific suggestions worth considering for those posts

Finally A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy is a good article by Clay Shirky on design issues for social software (on-line forums and communities). I was fortunate to be in the crowd at O’Reilly Emerging Technology conference in 2003 to hear him give it. He’s someone I have paid attention to ever since, he is consistency insightful when it comes to social software and the Internet. The key points he makes that are apropos your question (these are all pull quotes from the article) :

  • You cannot completely separate technical and social issues.
  • Members are different than users. A pattern will arise in which there is some group of users that cares more than average about the integrity and success of the group as a whole. And that becomes your core group
  • The core group has rights that trump individual rights in some situations. This pulls against the libertarian view that’s quite common on the network, and it absolutely pulls against the one person/one vote notion. But you can see examples of how bad an idea voting is when citizenship is the same as ability to log in.
  • Users have to be able to identify themselves and there has to be a penalty for switching handles. The penalty for switching doesn’t have to be total. But if I change my handle on the system, I have to lose some kind of reputation or some kind of context. This keeps the system functioning.
  • you have to design a way for there to be members in good standing. Have to design some way in which good works get recognized. The minimal way is, posts appear with identity. You can do more sophisticated things like having formal karma or “member since.”
  • Three, you need barriers to participation. This is one of the things that killed Usenet. You have to have some cost to either join or participate, if not at the lowest level, then at higher levels. There needs to be some kind of segmentation of capabilities.
  • And, finally, you have to find a way to spare the group from scale. Scale alone kills conversations, because conversations require dense two-way conversations. In conversational contexts, Metcalfe’s law is a drag. The fact that the amount of two-way connections you have to support goes up with the square of the users means that the density of conversation falls off very fast as the system scales even a little bit. You have to have some way to let users hang onto the less is more pattern, in order to keep associated with one another.

For a good explanation of  the distinction between handles and identity see how Amazon distinguishes between “real identity” and “persistent handle” in their guidelines on “Pen Names and Real Names

Don’t Require Facebook to Login

Please don’t require a Facebook login: while I am interested in new tools that allow me to find insights in the large number of conversations going on around me I reserve my Facebook account for friends and family. I don’t know how many folks are like me, but I do not want to burden my friends and family with any messages auto-generated from your system (they already know more about my entrepreneurial activities than they care to) and I fear using a Facebook login opens the door to unwanted invites, updates, etc..

Deprecating Facebook

For more on why I am deprecating Facebook see


Entrepreneurship As A Calling

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, skmurphy, Startups, Video

A documentary on entrepreneurship as a calling that I found very compelling was “The Call of the Entrepreneur” produced by the Acton Institute. It addresses both practical and spiritual aspects of entrepreneurship from the point of view of three very different entrepreneurs:

  • Brad Morgan, a dairy farmer in Evart, Michigan who transforms a failing farm into a successful dairy and compost company.
  • Frank Hanna, a merchant banker in New York City who explains how entrepreneurship transforms the economy into a positive sum game.
  • Jimmy Lai who grew up in Communist China and then Hong Kong, emigrating to New York to found retail and media companies.

What Are You Throwing Away That You Could Be Selling?

I found Brad Morgan’s story to be the most interesting, as he says, “You put your butt in a corner, you would be surprised what you could achieve.” Certainly a familiar feeling for most bootstrapping entrepreneurs, sometimes more than once a month in the early going. The documentary stresses the creative problem solving aspects of entrepreneurship. When Morgan figures out he can convert an excess of cow manure into a compost–so that he can sell it instead of having to pay to have hauled away–it’s a light bulb moment. He is down to earth and pragmatic, and his story offers two lessons for bootstrappers of all sorts:

  • what are you throwing away that has value to someone?
  • What is someone else throwing away that you could recycle or re-purpose into something valuable?

Trailer For The Call Of The Entrepreneur

About The Acton Institute

The Mission of the Acton Institute is to promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles.

The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty is named after the great English historian, Lord John Acton (1834-1902). He is best known for his famous remark: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Inspired by his work on the relation between liberty and morality, the Acton Institute seeks to articulate a vision of society that is both free and virtuous, the end of which is human flourishing. To clarify this relationship, the Institute holds seminars and publishes various books, monographs, periodicals, and articles.

Where To Buy DVD and Study Guide

Please note that these are not affiliate links, it’s just much cheaper to buy from the Acton Institute directly than Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

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Why You Need A Logo

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, 2 Open for Business Stage, skmurphy

Q: What are logos good for?

An image is processed by a different part of the brain than a word or phrase, making it both memorable and evocative in ways that are distinct from the name of your company. Having a logo for your company or product makes it more memorable and allows you to suggest connotations that can be put into words.

I have put together a table of a couple of icons or logos that we used and the word or phrase that the replaced. The first version of the SKMurphy logo was just a text treatment as was the first version of the Bootstrapper Breakfast. You can judge for yourself if adding some simple artwork changed your opinion of what each represents.

SKMurphy logo vs.


Bootstrapper Breakfast logo vs.


Business Book Club ICON vs.

Book Club For
Business Impact

Mastermind Groups vs.


Your Name Is More Important Than Your Logo

“Your name is your primary weapon in the battle for the mind.”
Al Ries and Jack Trout in “Positioning

While a both a name and a logo can both evoke emotional connotation, it’s your name that is normally spread by word of mouth–or “word of mouse” in an email or on-line posting–so you have to take care that people can find your company or your product if they only here it pronounced. One of my first jobs was as the 13th employee at Silvar-Lisco in 1982:  I quickly learned to spell the name out completely when leaving messages, but  even then it was problematic. When I was first hired I was taught to  explain that Silvar-Lisco originated from the merger of Silicon Valley Research (Silvar) and Leuven Industrial Software Company (Lisco) but quickly realized that nobody cared about our origin, only about what we could do for them. And for that the name was of no help.

Outsourcing Logo Development

We prefer the TheLogoCompany and have also used LogoWorks and been very pleased with the results. they have a good article about colors. Others have been very happy with 99Designs.

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Tristan Kromer on Testing Customer and Value Hypotheses

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, 2 Open for Business Stage, 3 Early Customer Stage, Customer Development, skmurphy

These are excerpts from  Episode 9 of Outlier on Air: Tristan Kromer, A Lean Approach to Business.  They are in the same sequence the took place in the interview but a number of stories and asides have been omitted to focus on what I felt were some extremely valuable insights from Tristan Kromer on clarifying and testing customer and value hypotheses.

Podcast is dedicated to Disruptors, Rule Breakers, and Big Thinkers

Melinda Yeamen (@melindayeaman): Today, we are going to talk about having a lean approach to your business. We’ve got Tristan Kromer. He is a freelance lean and Innovation coach, and he runs the Lean Startup Circle. This is a grass roots community based around lean startup principles, with Meet-Up groups worldwide. This is actually a follow-up interview to a written interview that “Outlier Magazine” did, Tristan, you are joining us from Silicon Valley, is that right?

Tristan Kromer (@TriKro  | blog):  That’s right. I’m sitting here in the SOMA area of San Francisco right now, and I have my offices in this area.

Tristan Kromer Started Like Everyone Else, Failing Repeatedly

Melinda: Before we go into Lean principles, I want to get to know more about you personally: what brought you up to Lean Startup coaching and what drives you to do it.

Tristan: How I got to Lean Startup is relatively straightforward. It’s the same way that most people get into it, which is that you try something new, whether that’s in a large company or a small startup of your own.

You start out with this wonderfully egotistical idea that you know what you’re doing, and that you alone can provide that vision, and tell the customers what they need, and then you fail repeatedly to deliver on that promise.

Then, after banging your head against the wall enough times you start to think, “Maybe I’m not so visionary. Maybe I’m not Steve Jobs 2.0, and it’s time to try something new.” Most of us who have become real Lean evangelists in the past few years have struggled desperately with our own projects and suddenly realized that there was perhaps a better way. A way that is more grounded in reality.

  • Test out those ideas on a small scale and seeing what sticks and what doesn’t. I’ve worked with larger companies in the past. I worked in the IT security industry for five years in Germany and Taiwan and Vietnam and Switzerland. I worked in the music industry in the US before that for 10 years.
  • Identify the critical assumptions in your business–whether that business is a band, a restaurant, an IT company, or a high-tech company.
  • Test them, validate them, and then move on. Just that methodology has just proven more successful than the “Field of Dreams” — the “build it and they will come” approach.

That’s really how I got there –by failing repeatedly and–by trying to recognize the things that worked when I did succeed and the things that inevitably wound up bringing me to failure.

A Day In The Life Of A Lean Startup Coach

Melinda: Tell me a little bit what your life is like. What does your life look like as a Lean Startup coach?

Tristan: This morning I woke up at 6:00 AM to talk with a team at company I’m working with in Switzerland. They want to implement Lean Startup practices but in a large company they also have to worry brand, and political fallout from other teams. I am helping them do small-scale innovation in a large company environment?

Since then, I’ve been working a lot of the day on Lean Camp,  an unconference the weekend right before the Lean Startup conference. An unconference offers an open space format like BarCamp, this one will gather a lot of Lean Startup practitioners to discuss Lean methodologies, tactics, and tips and lessons learned. I’ve been spending all day with our massive volunteer team trying to get that organized.

Melinda: I ask you because our audience is specifically entrepreneurs and startups. We all have these major aspirations, and once we take that leap from the corporate world–or from college or wherever we’re from–we have to bust it. There is no longer a paycheck that’s coming no matter what. We have to earn every cent. We’re all doing it for a larger dream, too. I wanted to pull that out, plus I’m really interested in how you operate.

Tristan: I think that’s common for a lot of us. It’s no different from when you or I worked in a larger organization. We probably did the same thing. We were busting our asses at two in the morning. Eventually it becomes, “Why am I doing this for somebody else?”

Instead of dealing with the nitty-gritty of some mechanical policy that’s not allowing me to innovate, why don’t I do that for myself, and really try and solve other people’s problems in a more direct fashion?

We Have This Drive To Create

Melinda: I love that you use the word innovate, because I think a lot of entrepreneurship, of course, we have our own “why” as to why we’re doing it, but one big commonality that we all have is we’re innovating. That is what we want to be doing all the time. We have this drive to create, and that’s what we have in common there.

Tristan: There are a lot of people out there who I would consider entrepreneurs, who consider themselves entrepreneurs, who are innovating on a small scale.

I know a lot of people in Silicon Valley who look down on people who are just creating yet another brick and mortar business, or yet another restaurant, or even an e-commerce site or a blog. Personally, I think these are all levels of innovation.

People have a lot of different reasons why they go into entrepreneurship: I think they are all valid. Being an entrepreneur is not a question of scale but the drive and self-imposed desire to solve problems. That’s what I think really qualifies it.

Melinda: What is the bottom line for you personally? What really drives you to do all of this?

Tristan: I’m rather introverted; given no agenda for the day I would most likely curl up into a little ball with a television. I get a lot of satisfaction seeing the end result of my labor and seeing people actually make progress against their goals. It’s like listening to a good song.

When I played in a band and worked with other bands as a producer, those jobs offered immediate satisfaction. When there is too much distance from the impact of what you are building, which can happen in a large company, even if you’re working for a phenomenal company.

If you don’t actually get to interact with those customers, and see the satisfaction on their faces when they buy or use your product, I think that can become very demotivating. For me, the satisfaction of genuinely helping somebody is the end-all be-all. If you don’t have that, I don’t know what you’re doing.

Whether you want to call it business model innovation, or Lean Startup, or Lean Canvas, or Business Model Canvas, or any of those individual methodologies doesn’t really make a difference. The question is: are you actually helping people enable their own creativity and problem solving?

What is Waste?

Melinda: Can we talk about Lean Startup principles? Many in our audience have read the book; I found it to be excellent. Many, many things hit home for me. One was that failure is a good thing: we need to fail fast and pick ourselves up, eliminating waste and not repeating the same failures so you can efficiently move along.

I want to get your perspective on failure: how do you accept yourself and love yourself through the failure, but eliminate waste and not fail any more than you have to.

Tristan: Eliminating waste is the original lean: what Taiichi Ohno and the crew at Toyota first created as “just in time manufacturing” and later  became known as lean manufacturing.

The idea was to eliminate waste in terms of resources being used to create one physical product. I think it gets confusing, because a lot of people have a different sense of waste. The definition of what waste is and what the product is that you are trying to build changes the way you approach things.

If you are trying to build the product, even an insubstantial product, there are a lot of things that could be waste. There’s code and automated testing that might be considered waste even though it helps you maintain quality. Ultimately, the thing that Lean Startup identified is if you don’t know what product to build in the first place, then, it is all waste.

Failure of a Hypothesis is Not Failure of Your Startup

If you don’t know what the product is that the market wants, then everything you build is waste. The only thing that you can focus on is producing a business model that capture the knowledge and know-how in your company of what the customer wants and how to deliver that. Waste is really anything that you do that is not directly focused on learning about your business.

You might run a test and you put up a landing page and you put up a value proposition and nobody bought it. Some people might say that is failure, but it is not. You have to look at it in terms of, “Did we produce any units of knowledge? Did we learn anything?” A failed test teaches you something if you invalidated a hypothesis. For example, you have successfully discovered that nobody wanted that value proposition; therefore you don’t have to build that product. Failure of a hypothesis is not failure of your startup.

Melinda: A lot of us have things that we want to build, some are tech related and some are not. When you should actually start building that product? Should you always be explicit about your concept sand prove the desire for it in the market first? What is your strategy on that?

Tristan: Focus on what is the riskiest thing about your business model. Sometimes it may be a technical risk–can we make this piece work–and sometimes it may be an aspect of market risk–will people pay for this?

A Lean Startup Starts With You Admitting Your Ignorance

Melinda:  So when we want to create a product, evaluating just how obvious the problem is in the market is the first step. How much do we really need to test? What are the fundamental steps Lean Startup recommends?

Tristan: A Lean Startup for me is first and foremost the willingness to admit your ignorance. It’s recognizing that we don’t  know all of the answers. That’s step number one.

If you think that you know everything, that you have a perfect product, that you have a crystal ball that lets you make a spreadsheet for  how much revenue you’ll have five years into the future, Lean Startup is irrelevant for you.

But for those of us who are willing to start with that premise that “I don’t know,” then our first step is identifying the blanks and asking, “How do I go about learning more?”

Other Perspectives Are Critical to Uncovering Your Ignorance

The second step for me is getting perspective. We can identify some of the gaps in our knowledge but we may still have blind spots, where we don’t know that we don’t know. What Rumsfeld called the “unknown unknowns.”  It’s at this point that you should really take the advantage of other  perspectives on your problem:

  • From colleagues: Ask them for their opinion on your business model. Ask them to question you, to challenge you,  to force you to validate key assumptions for them.
  • From potential customers: Do they really have the problem that you think they have?

Getting other perspectives is a critical part of Lean Startup. It’s not talked about as much in the canon, but nobody can identify all of their own assumptions: it’s like trying to stare at your own eyeball without a mirror.

You need a second pari of eyes. Then, and only then, can you really do what Eric Ries talks about in his book, which is that “Build, measure, learn” loop. Until you’ve identified those assumptions, you can’t go about building something, measuring it and learning from that, because you don’t know what you’re trying to learn.

You Can Adjust Your Product Or Your Market Focus

Melinda: What I’m hearing is that it’s important to approach your business in a humble way and say, “Even if I know exactly what I want to create, I need to listen to colleagues and potential customers–and later on actual customers–so that I understand my customer base and adjust my product as I’m building it.”

Tristan: Absolutely. Or adjust your market focus. What you’re striving for is product-market fit. Not only can you adjust your product all you want, you can also adjust your market focus.

I personally prefer to stick with the market because I am normally motivated by empathy for a certain group or niche and I want to solve their problem. So I will continue to adjust the product. But I know other entrepreneurs who start with an invention, who have discovered a technology and are searching somebody who wants it and will pay for it.. It’s not my preferred approach, but entrepreneurs often do it.

It’s All a Matter of Opinion Until You Run the Experiment

Melinda: That’s interesting that some of us are motivated more by the market we’re talking to and others are more motivated to find a use for something they have invented. In my experience working at companies of different sizes and in my own startups I often see teams make decisions on opinions or what we like personally. This applies to feature selection, marketing decisions, all the way on down. Sometimes it can be hard to move forward when there are several conflicting opinions. How do you move past that?  When is it OK to use opinion and when do you absolutely say, “Look, the market has to tell this, not our opinions?”

Tristan: There’s no great rule of thumb, to be honest. It’s all a matter of opinion until you run the experiment. Whether it should be red button or green button, there’s no intellectual argument you can have that says what design will be more aesthetically pleasing and result in better click-throughs.

You might have some previous case studies or some analogs that you’re familiar with, but ultimately the market is the only one who can tell you for certain which one is best. But it only makes sense to test those things that you have a strong feeling will actually have an impact.

If you’re working on a brand-new product, testing the color of the button is probably not the first thing you should do. You should probably test that tag line you were talking about before. Can you explain the value proposition to somebody? Even before you determine whether or not anybody wants the value proposition, are you explaining it correctly? Can anybody understand what you’re talking about?

If your product is guaranteed to cure plantar fasciitis–which is a serious problem–and your tag line is “Cures plantar fasciitis instantly,”  that would be an extremely valuable proposition. But do many of your prospects know what plantar fasciitis is? Perhaps the better phrasing: “Do you have foot pain?” “Do you have a pain in your heel when you get up in the morning?”

The value proposition is far more important than what color is the button. It does take a certain amount of judgment to figure out what is the most important thing to test, right now. Is it going to be the line spacing or the font you’ve chosen or is it going to be the actual functionality of your product? It really depends on your target market and how severe the pain is. If it’s a very severe pain, the design is probably not an issue.

But if it’s only a weak pain point, something makes your prospect’s life just a tiny bit easier, than design is a huge factor:  the user experience has to be very fluid and friction-less.

Don’t Get “Stuck in Solution Land”

Melinda: When a client approaches you with a problem what techniques do you use? The Lean Startup book highlights “5 Whys” is that one that you use a lot? How do you kind of drill down to find a solution?

Tristan: Ignorance is my best technique. I never know about the person’s product. In fact, 90 percent of the time, I don’t want to know about the person’s product. It won’t help me and is likely to get me  “stuck in solution land” as my colleague Kate Rutter would say.

If I don’t know anything I  can adopt an outside perspective

  • I don’t know anything about the customers.
  • I don’t know anything about the value proposition.
  • I have the benefit of perspective and ignorance in that I don’t have any of the assumptions that the entrepreneur has.

The “5 Whys” vs. “5 Whos”

I can ask really stupid questions like, “OK, I understand your value proposition is to solve my plantar fasciitis, how many people are affected?”

You mentioned the “5 Whys” and I will use that for root cause analysis.  But normally I start with the basic: “who is your customer?” That’s the question that I usually wind up asking five times:

  • Who is your customer? Oh, it’s everyone.
  • Really, is it for my grandmother? Would my grandmother buy this product? Sure, she’d buy this product. She doesn’t have a computer. OK, maybe she won’t buy this product.
  • Would my six-year-old buy this product? No, probably not. Also not a big computer-user. Now we’re starting to narrow down the customer segment.

I ask “Who is your customer?” and “What is your value proposition?” repeatedly. It can help the team identify key assumptions that they didn’t realize that they were making and a better map of what they don’t know.  Both of these then need to be explored and tested.

Testing, Testing,…

Melinda:  What are some simple ways you can run a test? I think a lot of people just don’t do tests, because they think it has to be super scientific.

Tristan: I think that’s a common opinion but it’s actually a misunderstanding of what a truly scientific test is. To be scientific you need a theory–or a hypothesis–that can be disproved. You can substantiate it, but you never prove it, only disprove it with new data or observations.  So to keep it simple you look for ways to disprove your key hypotheses which are the your riskiest assumptions in your business model.

Melinda: Really, work on disproving rather than proving?

Tristan: Yeah. All tests should be designed so that you can actually fail them. Most people design tests and they’re looking for that 95 percent confidence rate: they haven’t set any fail condition. So that means that there is no condition under which they would stop doing what they’re doing.

For example, “I can get people to click on my adwords” vs.  “for my business to work I need to get at least a 20% click through rate.” The latter is a better test because it’s easier to disprove. With the former as long as someone clicks at least once at some point then you feel encouraged to continue.

My Product is For Everyone (That I Know)

The most common theory of a first time entrepreneur is that everybody wants the product.

Melinda: Does it worry you when you hear someone say, “My product is for everyone.”

Tristan: Yes, but if you actually ask, “Tell me more about your customer” they actually refine it quite rapidly. Most people don’t actually even believe that it’s for everyone because they haven’t even thought about that, yet. Sometimes when they say everyone they mean “everyone in Silicon Valley” because that’s what has shaped their worldview. But it can happen anytime the members of a  startup team are very similar and only hang out with people like themselves. Getting a little diversity in your worldview is a quick cure for that.

How to Advise Entrepreneurs About Their Business Idea

Melinda: Do you have some simple tips for how our audience can become better at advising colleagues?

Tristan:  Yes, here are four  key things anyone can do to help:

  1. Don’t focus on someone’s idea for a solution.  You may find it absurd or very reasonable but either way you will have a bias.
  2. Ask: “What is the customer segment?” Is it well refined? Is it focused?
  3. Ask: “What is the value proposition? Is the proposition is comprehensible? Will the customer segment understand it?
  4. Ask: “How are you testing it?”  Can the test fail? If not, get them to reframe it to one that can.

Summary; Three Key Steps to Get Started

Melinda:  What do you want our audience to take away?

Tristan:  Whatever business idea you’re focused on right now, no matter how much you think you know something, say out loud, “I don’t know. I don’t know and I’m going to test this.” Then get somebody else’s perspective. Ask a fellow entrepreneur, “Please spend the next 20 minutes and challenge me on everything I’m saying. Don’t argue against me but just ask me questions.”

If you can have a conversation with somebody for 20 minutes, where they only ask you questions and you don’t defend your value proposition just explain it, you’re going to find that you have a lot of unanswered questions. That’s what you need to test. Just start with, “I don’t know.” Get a second set of eyes on whatever you’re doing. That’ll take you 90 percent of the way.

After that join a Lean Startup Circle group near you. There are groups all over the world. It’s just a group of fellow entrepreneurs who, just like you, are  there to learn and to challenge each other constructively.

Melinda: I want to thank you so much for spending this time and lending your expertise to us. Thank you so much, Tristan. I sure appreciate it.

Tristan: No, no. Thank you very much and I hope you all have a great day. Good luck to you and your businesses.

Melinda: Thank you. To learn more about the Outlier movement, visit

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A Note on the Transcript

These excerpts represent about 50% of the raw transcript. They are in the same sequence the took place in the interview but a number of stories and asides have been omitted to focus on what I felt were some extremely valuable insights from Tristan Kromer. I have added subtitles and hyperlinks for easier scanning and context. I used and supplied a copy of the raw transcript (which ran about 7300 words) to Melinda Yeaman of Outlier for their use.

Lee Harris’ Insights on What 9-11 Means

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in skmurphy

Some excerpts from “Civilization and Its Enemies” by Lee Harris, with commentary on the implications of 9-11 for Silicon Valley.

We Have An Enemy

It is the enemy who defines us as his enemy, and in making this definition he changes us, and changes us whether we like it or not. We cannot be the same after we have been defined as an enemy as we were before.

That is why those who uphold the values of the Enlightenment so often refuse to recognize that those who are trying to kill us are their enemy. They hope that by pretending that the enemy is simply misguided, or misunderstood, or politically immature, he will cease to be an enemy. This is an illusion. To see the enemy as someone who is merely an awkward negotiator or sadly lacking in savoir faire and diplomatic aplomb is perverse. It shows contempt for the depth and sincerity of his convictions, a terrible mistake to make when you are dealing with someone who wants you dead.

We are the enemy of those who murdered us on 9/11. And if you are an enemy, then you have an enemy. When you recognize it, this fact must change everything about the way you see the world.

We face enemies who want to kill us and we need to act accordingly.

Pockets of Peaceableness

The first duty of all civilization is to create pockets of peaceableness in which violence is not used as a means of achieving one’s objective, the second duty is to defend these pockets against those who would try to disrupt their peace either from within or without. Yet the values that bring peace are the opposite values from those that promote military prowess, and this poses a riddle that very few societies have been able to solve and then only fitfully. If you have managed to create your own pocket of peace – and its inseparable companion, prosperity – how will you keep those who envy you your prosperity from destroying your peace?

There is only one way; you must fight back; if your enemy insists on a war to the finish, then you have no choice but to fight such a war. It is your enemy, and not you, who decides what is a matter of life and death.

Once you have accepted this reality, however, you are faced with the problem of how to fight. If the enemy is composed of men who will stop at nothing, who are willing to die and to kill, then you must find men to fight on your side who will do the same. Only those who have mastered ruthlessness can defend their society from the ruthlessness of others.

By creating these pockets of peaceableness–places like Silicon Valley–the United States gains a tremendous economic advantage that confers prosperity not only on its own citizens but all of its trading partners. It also gains significant military strength if we are willing to invest in raising, equipping and training military forces to use these technologies. But technology is not enough.

A Code of Honor

This was the plight faced by the peasants in Kurosawa’s masterpiece, The Seven Samurai and by the dirt farmers in the American remake, The Magnificent Seven. Men and women who knew nothing of battle, the impoverished peasants of a remote village found themselves at the mercy of a gang of ruthless bandits who each year came at harvest to steal what the peasants had managed to eke from the soil. In their desperation, the farmers turned to the seven samurai, all of whom had fallen on hard times. But then, once the samurai had defeated the bandits, the question immediately arose in the peasants’ minds: “Now how do we rid ourselves of he samurai?”

Such has been the lot of most of mankind: a choice between the gangsters who come across the river to steal and the gangsters on this side of the river who do not need to steal because they have their own peasants to exploit. How else could it be? Given what we know of human nature, how could we expect there to be a government that wasn’t, in the final analysis, simply a protection racket that could make laws?

Yet this is not how Kurosawa’s movie ends. The samurai do not set themselves up as village warlords but instead move on, taking only the wages due them for their services. How was this possible? It was possible only because the samurai lived by a code of honor.

Codes of honor do not come cheap, and they cannot be created out thin air upon demand. The fact that you need samurai and not gangsters is no guarantee that you will get them; indeed, you will almost certainly not get them when you need them unless you had them with you all along.

A code of honor, to be effective when it is needed, requires a tradition that is blindly accepted by the men and women who are expected to live by this code. To work when it must, a code of honor must be the unspoken and unquestioned law governing a community; a law written not in law books but in the heart – something like an instinct.

A code of honor cannot be chosen by us; it can only be chosen for us. For if we look on it as one option among many, then we may opt out of it at will. I which case, the community will never be quite sure of us when the chips are down.

Inculcating a code of honor requires a willingness to see the world as it is, not as we want it to be.

See The World As It Is, Not Just As We Want It To Be

All of which explains why those who subscribe to the values of the Enlightenment find the existence of the enemy so distressing.

The enemy challenges the Enlightenment’s insistence on the supremacy of pure reason by forcing us to respect those code of honor whose foundation is far more visceral than rational, a fact that explains the modern intellectual’s hatred for such codes in whatever guise they lurk. The enemy requires the continued existence of large groups of men and women who refuse to question authority and who are happy to take on blind faith the traditions that have been passed down to them. The enemy necessitates the careful cultivation of such high-testosterone values as brute physical courage and unthinking loyalty to a leader.  The enemy propels into positions of command men who are accustomed to taking risks and who are willing to gamble with the lives of others, and shuns aside those who prefer the leisure of contemplation to the urgency of action. Lastly, the enemy shatters the Enlightenment’s visions of utopia, of Kant’s epoch of perpetual peace and of the end of history.

Our modern civilization in Silicon Valley will require continued sacrifice to prevail.

See also these 9-11 related posts

No Such Thing as a Random Sample of Five People

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Customer Development, skmurphy

Q: I have 3D printed a couple prototypes of my product. I am going to get user feedback by letting security guards–my target market–test if for free for a few days. How many prospect should I have test it before I can determine if there is a market for the product.

Since you are 3D printing and can iterate I would start by getting feedback from five folks: see Why You Only Need to Test with 5 Users by Don Norman for some research on why this is a reasonable place to start.

You will more than likely end up talking to more folks before deciding if there is a market or not but working with a small group at one time and testing iteratively will be easier to manage and teach you things more rapidly.

There is No Such Thing as a Random Sample of Five People


Be aware that there is no such thing as a random sample of five people and that there will be unconscious biases in your selection process that you will need to adjust for (e.g. availability, channels or methods used to solicit, reasons for responding, geography location, etc..) , for that you need to get to larger numbers depending upon what your hypothesis is for the level of interest.

There are unconscious assumptions built into Norman’s suggestion for five, they are not “random people.” They have to be willing to test your product, have the ability to understand the need or problem it’s designed for, have the ability to use the product, etc..

What Are Core Skills For Customer Development?

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Customer Development

Q: What is the core mission for customer development at an early-stage start-up? Wat are the skills necessary to execute on that mission?

Customer Development Mission

Core mission is early customers, early revenue, early references. All of these reduce risk, demonstrate traction, and make subsequent sales efforts easier (and for bootstrappers, keep the lights on).

Key Customer Development Skills

People who are good at early customer development have empathy both for the product development process and how a prospect will use the product to create value in their business.

Early customer development efforts involve

  • lead generation–typically by taking part in niche communities or already active conversations,
  • complex negotiation with the objective of creating a relationship not a transaction,
  • the need to manage the product introduction and use inside the customer’s firm as a project with joint commitments and agreed to milestones,
  • the ability to triage among the opportunities on the table and the likely capability set that engineering can deliver in a particular time frame.

Each Referenceable Sale Is Evidence For Business Model Hypotheses

In B2B the sale is unambiguous proof of a valid product and customer hypotheses that are core pillars to any business model. The sales model I am advocating is predicated on created value in the prospect’s business and getting a reference so that you actually establish a relationship.

Customer development is the complex discovery-driven sale

Customer development is the complex discovery-driven sale. When I explain this to entrepreneurs they often think I don’t understand sales because they pattern match to cold calling telemarketers or fast talking late night TV pitchmen or high pressure used car sales techniques. But in real B2B sales you sell by asking questions and paying careful attention to the answers–not only their content but thir implications and what’s left unsaid.

When I suggest that customer development is the complex discovery-driven sale and you don’t think I understand customer development, you may not understand sales.

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Ten Tips For New Product Demos

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Demos, skmurphy

Here are ten tips for managing new product demos to prospects. While it’s always a good idea to preview inside the team and perhaps call in some favors for “friendly fire” review, at some point you have to bite the bullet and start giving new product demos to prospects. Here are my top ten tips (or lessons learned) for a new product demo:

  1. I use GoToMtg to walk through 3-5 screen of a new site or SaaS Apps with one to three customers at a time. GoToMtg can screen share and record the session. There are many other alternatives to GotoMtg  that are also viable.
  2. In a one on one demo or where a handful of  folks are all from the same company consider giving control of the mouse to the prospect. You will learn a lot from how they interact with your product.
  3. There are always obvious problems that get overlooked until the first half-dozen real customers look at it: corollary, the fastest way to find a typo is to print a few hundred copies for a trade show, one of the first five visitors to your booth will spot it immediately.
  4. Things you think are obvious turn out to be undiscoverable by many users.
  5. New visual metaphors and interaction models are never as well accepted–no matter how powerful you think they are–as using existing representations customers are comfortable with. You need to offer them side by side or in parallel. A spreadsheet, bar chart, or trendline lets them understand a directed graph, treemap, or other complex visualization.
  6. People are much more accepting of a small but immediate–one that takes little effort–benefit than a large benefit that takes a lot of work. More than about three mouse clicks without a payoff is effectively forever (or never). Present a small benefit as quickly a possible (or a larger benefit with only a few clicks) and put it up front, don’t build for 15 minutes to a large payoff.
  7. Have a PowerPoint slide version available of key screens, use the markup tools embedded in PowerPoint slideshow mode to let the customer markup the screen for what they would like to see (make sure you save the markup in a copy of the deck). Often you can do a walk through just in PowerPoint (with image stretched to screen edge so that it looks like a real application).
  8. Keep a Text File / Word Doc open and take notes in front of them to stress that you are listening to what they are saying. If you just rely on the recording to capture their words it can seem like less of a conversation. You can also use a GoogleDoc or PrimaryPad for shared note taking if it’s more of a problem discovery conversation than a pure review of a new app.
  9. Have them show you what they are doing now to solve the problem with an existing app if it’s more of a problem discovery or initial conversation. Or they really don’t like what you are showing. Paradoxically if they hate it you often get better specific feedback than from a lukewarm “that’s nice” or ‘this looks interesting” reaction.
  10. Have a second person on the call/screenshare you can trade off with to probe for specific issues and to give you time to think to ask good follow ups. The “listener” can also be taking notes in real time. You can miss things in the first run through you catch on the tape but the act of taking notes in real time forces you to focus on what’s important in  way that listening to a recording does not seem to.

 Great Demo! Public Workshop October 15-16, 2014

October 15&16, 2014 “Great Demo!” San Jose, CA Register Now

Our next public Great Demo! Workshop is scheduled to take place October 15-16 in San Jose, California.

This is an excellent opportunity for individuals, small groups or for teams that have new hires.

We’ve found that these events are most productive when there are two or more participants from each organization (singletons are also fine). This helps to mimic real-life interactions as much as possible, both when preparing demos and delivering them in the role-play sessions.

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Counting Your Blessings

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Silicon Valley, skmurphy

The next few weeks and perhaps the next few years are going to be awful. Keep counting your blessings anyway, remain kind, and continue to make a difference.

Peggy Noonan wrote My Brothers and Sisters on March 8, 2002 in the Wall Street Journal. She subtitled it “A report from New York, six months on” indicating it was a reflection on 9/11. I have re-formatted an excerpt as a meditation on the need for counting your blessings.

The odd thing
   about these people
   is that they have everything.

They are rich, accomplished, healthy;
   they have marriages, children, love;
   they don't have to be up nights
   worrying about paying the rent
   or the electric bill.

And they are not really happy.

They have been lucky so long
   they don't even know
   they're lucky anymore.

That's the bad thing that can happen to you 
   when you've been lucky too long:

You start to think it's not luck,
   it's what you deserve.

And instead of being grateful
   you get a bitter-tinged sense of entitlement.

You start to think you deserve it,
   you made the right choices.

You're smarter than the dumb people,
   or more accomplished than the lazy people.

When the truth is
   you're lucky and blessed
   and should be on your knees
   saying thank you for your good fortune.

The next few weeks and perhaps the next few years will continue to be marked by considerable turmoil between the rise of a blood drenched Islamic Caliphate, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and an Ebola epidemic that is currently estimated to kill 20,000 and may kill ten or a hundred times as many if it kills enough doctors and nurses in one or more African countries to trigger a collapse of urban healthcare systems.

Perishable Opportunities For Kindness

There is much we are aware of and little that we can influence, but don’t let that become an excuse for not making a difference where you can.  We may all only live once but I prefer a 19th century Quaker assessment of the obligation that places on us over any number of hedonistic or self-centered “you only live once” philosophies:

“I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.”
Stephen Grellet

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Second Sight: A Meditation on Silicon Valley and 9-11

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Silicon Valley, skmurphy

Michael S. Malone wrote “Second Sight” for the Dec-3-2001 issue of Forbes ASAP (a great quarterly magazine put out by Forbes and edited by Malone that no longer seems to be available on-line).  It’s also collected in his book “The Valley of Heart’s Delight: A Silicon Valley Notebook 1963-2001” as Chapter 3. It’s a meditation on Silicon Valley and 9-11. Writing in the aftermath 9-11 he reflects on the roots of Silicon Valley in the Cold War and World War 2.  What follows are excerpts with subtitles and hyperlinks added, intermixed with commentary

Second Sight: Seen Through A Relic, A Haunting New Vision

I bought it on eBay as a lark, in the days when we all felt rich enough to do such flippant things. I don’t even remember my winning bid, which says something as well.

It came in a 3-foot-square cardboard box, which I opened on the driveway to minimize the mess, as workmen behind me sanded and hammered away while restoring my house. It was wrapped in a black foam sheet encased in wadded pages of the Connecticut Post. One headline read: “Gates Tells Congress to Trust High Tech.”

I knew what I’d find when I pulled away the sheet: a Norden bombsight. But I was still taken aback by its presence. It was black as anthracite, with dust in every corner and curve. The dust of an English runway, perhaps? Or sand from North Africa? Or just the cobwebs of the garage in which it had sat for the past half century.

Malcolm Gladwell did a TED Talk on the “Strange Tale of the Norden Bombsight” in July 2011 where he asserted that the development of the Norden cost 1.5 billion dollars in 1940 dollars, about half the cost of the Manhattan Project.

Less Menacing Than Coldly Malign: A Relic Weapon

It seemed less menacing than coldly malign, in the way only a relic weapon could. Twenty pounds, not much bigger than a football, with a cylinder at one end, a sphere at the other. It was seeded with knurled knobs and toothed gears and dials. From one side hung an old cloth-insulated wire terminating in a plug. Underneath, it held a small pane of glass the size of a cigarette pack. On top, a second pane opened like a porthole into the sphere. And at the center, covered with a rotting rubber eye protector, was a lens.

I set the contraption atop the recycling bin and stepped back to regard it. On that bright Northern California day, my prize seemed like a dark emissary from a forgotten time. From one angle it looked like a clock mechanism, from another an automobile transmission, from yet another a bomb.

It was, in fact, all three. Mounted in the nose of a B-17 bomber, attached with gyroscopes and rotating mirrors and cables to the airplane around it, and manipulated by a deft bombardier, the Norden was the most dangerous weapon in the world in the early years of World War II. Once it was set on a target and adjusted for airspeed and other variables, the Norden literally took over for the pilot, flying the plane on a strict approach path and telling the bombardier when to push the button to release the ton of bombs or incendiaries from their racks 10 feet behind him.

So technologically innovative and important was the Norden–neither the Germans nor the Japanese had anything close–that bombardiers were sworn to do whatever was necessary to keep one from falling into enemy hands. If the bomber was going down, they were to pull out their .45-caliber automatic and shoot it or pull a switch that ignited an explosive mounted inside the device. Or, if all else failed, they were to obey orders to ride the plane right down into oblivion in the German soil.

“Neither the Germans nor the Japanese had anything close” is not quite correct. A German spy ring stole the plans for the Norden before the war: they were used to implement the Lotfernrohr 7 that saw wide use by the Germans.

My Father Used a Norden Bombsight in the Nose of a B-17

My father sat at just such a Norden bombsight on a rickety seat in the Plexiglas nose of the “Badland Bat,” a B-17 in the 615th Squadron of the 401st Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force. As the barrels of the twin .50-caliber machine guns overheated from his futile attempts to shoot attacking German fighters, as flak burst just beyond the glass and dying men in planes around him screamed into his headset, and as his heart pounded and his hands shook from the fear and the adrenaline, he would bow his head as though in prayer and bring his eye against the frozen eyepiece. Twisting one knob, then another, he would align the reticulated crosshairs on the target. Then, so freighted with helplessness and horror that the passing seconds seemed like days, he would hit the switch that surrendered control of his life and those of the seven men around him to that little black machine.

The target itself had been identified that morning at a pre-dawn briefing in a Quonset hut thick with the smell of cigarettes and coffee. The target always had a name–Schweinfurt, Cologne, Berlin–and a title: ball bearing factory, pillboxes, industrial district. But on the map and in the crosshairs, it was merely an image of a bridge or a crossroads, or the shape of a building. There were no people in sight; just the abstract shapes of targets and then the sudden blooming of explosions as the Badland Bat left a swath of fire across miles of German farms, villages, and towns.

Thirty times over Germany and France between January and June 1944, my father bowed to his bombsight. Looking back, he would tell me that for all the terrors of being fired on by antiaircraft guns and being strafed by German fighters as his bomber flew into and out of target zones, the worst moments were always those seconds when he handed his life over to the Norden–the long moments as he waited for it to tell him to rain death over the countryside.

My father was a young man of intelligence and imagination, and those combat experiences made him brazen. He sneaked off the base the night before D day to meet a girl in a local pub. They also made him cold-hearted. When a rookie crew arrived to replace his hut mates who had died in an earlier raid, my father teased them, saying they’d taken the doomed side of the shelter; they died the next day on their very first mission. But, after four months and 25 missions, the experience began to break his mind. In letters home, the cocky young man who’d circumvented the censors by disguising his number of raids as his birthday (“I am 21 years old today”) found himself toward the end struggling to compose a single coherent sentence (“I can’t seem to keep my mind on one thought anymore.”).

Unlike every second man in the 8th Air Force, my father made it home alive and unhurt. Five years later, he was back overseas, this time on a Pacific island and with a new job in Air Force intelligence. Through another lens–this one shielding his eye with a smoky black filter–he watched purple lightning crackle across the mushroom clouds rising from Eniwetok atoll.

Eighth Air Force  suffered more than 47,000 casualties and more than 26,000 dead in WW2. It’s hard to appreciate the willingness required to “press that attack” and take the losses that WW2 American flyers suffered. Even in the age of drone warfare we may face those days again if our enemies prove as dedicated to their cause as the WW2 Germans and Japanese.

Cold War Baby

My father returned to Germany, and I was a Cold War baby, born in Munich, then a city of vacant lots scraped smooth of the rubble of a once thriving metropolis. It had become a Norden world, with all of us hurtling forward on autopilot over a menacing landscape. Only a few people, like my father as he took the .32-caliber automatic out of the closet and headed for the Czech border, still felt they had some control of their fate.

But soon he lost even that. At the end of the decade we came home. My father found himself closing his military career in Washington, D.C., shuttling back and forth as liaison officer between the war rooms of the Pentagon and the White House, and between the CIA and the FBI. It was a position of enormous responsibility but little control. My father began to sit alone at lunch in the garden of the Hirshhorn Museum to calm himself; on Friday nights he would drink to fend off his sense of the inevitable.

A Nadir in October 1962

He reached his nadir in October 1962. On duty nights, my mother would awaken me at midnight, and we would drive from Falls Church, Virginia, into D.C., me in pajamas and wrapped in a blanket in the back seat. It was usually so lonely and dark that I would sleep the whole way. But this night was unlike any other. Every light in every building on Pennsylvania Avenue and along the Capitol Mall seemed to be on. Yet the streets were eerily empty.

We picked up my father. He usually drove us home, but on this night he was incapable of holding the steering wheel. His voice had a tone I’d never heard before–a tone it probably hadn’t taken in almost 20 years. The Cuban Missile Crisis had begun. Until we arrived, my father had sat alone, in the basement of the Office of Special Investigations before a bank of Teletype code machines, reading with growing horror as they spit out the beginning of the end of the world. The ICBMs armed, Strategic Air Command at fail-safe, airborne divisions kneeling beside runways. He had known as much as anybody on earth about what was unfolding, but he could do nothing about it. The bombsight had taken over. And for hours he sat helpless at ground zero, waiting to die, knowing his family would die as well.

Silicon Valley Had Been Born of War

Suddenly, it was over. Everything seemed to change. Although it was still a Norden world, the target had receded for the moment. My father had almost been a victim. A heart attack a few weeks later nearly killed him. But he survived, retired from the military with honor, and took a job with NASA, heading west with his family to California.

We arrived in Silicon Valley just in time to join the illusion. The Valley had been born of war. Military contracts had built Hewlett-Packard and Varian; the nuclear age had given birth to the Valley’s largest employer, Lockheed Missile and Space. So, too, had defense orders underwritten the success of the Valley’s first modern company, Fairchild Semiconductor. All had grown rich building successive generations of weaponry; they would grow richer yet.

Harry Truman once observed “the only surprises are the history you don’t know.”  Malone recounts some facts that are hiding in plain sight about the origins of Silicon Valley. Radar, radio, and countermeasures–both mechanical and electronic–underwent a rapid evolution to become what was called “electronic warfare.” Starting with World War II efforts and continuing with the Cold War, military R&D funded a considerable amount of engineering effort in Universities and private firms in Silicon Valley.

Valley Turns Away From War, Toward The Department Store

About the time we arrived, in an event all but forgotten even by historians of technology, the Federal Communications Commission announced that all future televisions would offer not only VHF tuners but UHF tuners as well. It was a little event of immeasurable consequences. Chasing million-unit orders, the chip industry for the first time turned away from the bombsight business and toward the department store.

It has never turned back. I remember the day my father brought home a Hewlett-Packard 35 calculatorand pronounced it a miracle. I remember standing in line, with the boys who would later create the personal computer revolution, in the lobby of a NASA building waiting my turn to play Lunar Lander on a computer terminal. I saw the first Atari video game in the hallway of a comedy club down the street from my house. And I walked with my father through a trade show in San Francisco and saw the Apple I, built by two of my neighbors.

America no longer seemed a Norden nation. Our fate was no longer on autopilot. Sometimes we even imagined we were flying the plane. My father cheated death for a quarter century. Each time his heart would fail, some new technology appeared on the scene to save him. He traveled the world, programmed his computer, drank beer, and gave his time to charitable work, acting as though death couldn’t catch him. And when he did die–from a fall off a ladder, not from his scarred old heart–even his death seemed an act of will, not helplessness.

The HP-35 was Hewlett-Packard’s first pocket calculator; it exceeded the numerical accuracy of most mainframe computers available and fit in a shirt pocket.

The Alchemy of Technology and Desire Would Deliver To Us  Of Our Dreams

It was now a willful world, as though an alchemy of technology and desire would deliver to us all of our dreams. Our enemies were less defeated than enlisted into a cybernetic common cause. The autopilot retreated so far into memory that two generations forgot it. We replaced it with nostalgia for the future: the aching desire for that distant, more perfect place we could already imagine, promised to us by our technologies. Our perpetual unhappiness was that we were not there yet, a there that raced ahead from calculators and PCs to bioengineering and nanomachines.

Somewhere, no doubt just ahead, lay the fulfillment of all our desires. The beauty of it was that now, it seemed, anyone could plot his own flight path and pilot his own life.

Modern civilization will require continued sacrifice to prevail. Lee Harris wrote about this in detail in “Civilization and Its Enemies“Forgetfulness occurs when those who have been long accustomed to civilized order can no longer remember a time in which they had to wonder whether their crops would grow to maturity without being stolen or their children sold into slavery by a victorious foe . [...] They forget that in time of danger, in the face of the enemy, they must trust and confide in each other, or perish. [...] They forget, in short, that there has ever been a category of human experience called the enemy.”

That Prelapsarian Time, Just Ended Yet Long Ago

It was in that prelapsarian time, just ended yet long ago, that I carried the Norden bombsight out to the sunny driveway, past the workmen and the new Jaguar, all of them paid for with overvalued stock options. I set it atop the recycling bin, filled with newspaper headlines about the latest stock market record high: “eBay’s Whitman America’s Richest Woman CEO.” I looked through the eyepiece…and saw nothing. Nothing except a mirror reflection of the brilliant day before me.

Disappointed, I put the device back in its box, another bauble from the bubble, and returned it to the garage, between the old, unread art books and the new, unused porcelain–an evil old black toad forgotten in the shadows.

Late on a Mid-September Afternoon

Then late on a mid-September afternoon I took the box out again. Our family had just returned from church, where we had, with other Silicon Valleyites in the pews around us, wept and prayed for the thousands murdered by terrorists. As I bowed my head, I felt the distant mechanical shudder of the autopilot kicking in once more. Driving home, I could see my neighbors putting out American flags and glancing up nervously at any sound overhead. We put out a flag of our own. Then, without thinking, I went into the garage and brought out the Norden.

I did the same as before, though the day was overcast, and the papers in the new recycling bin carried headlines proclaiming “WAR.” The Norden was dustier and darker than ever. The eyepiece seemed harder and more brittle. Once again, I bowed and put my face to it. Looking through the lens I saw this time what I had missed before. What my father had seen before me.

Silicon Valley and 9-11

I saw my family and home caught squarely in the bombsight’s crosshairs.

User Experience Research vs. Customer Discovery

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

Q: Why don’t you ever blog about User Experience Research (UX)?

The short answer is that we don’t do it.

Our Clients Want Leads and Deals

My clients come to me for help generating leads and closing deals, so that narrows my focus.

We don’t sell studies to larger firms that want a lot of fingerprints on the gun if things go wrong. If things go wrong for too long for my clients they are out of business. It tends to keep me–and them–focused very directly on revenue. We tend to focus much more on the “job to be done” by the product instead of constructing user personas.

Customer Development Is Customer Discovery and Validation

I look at B2B customer development as a discovery driven sales process, you validate your idea when you get people’s time, their opinions, and ultimately their money. Larger firms and consumer firms pay a lot more attention to the experience, I look more at talking to the right people about a critical business issue and then offering a compelling solution. It’s a different mindset from the UX folks although there is some overlap.

From my perspective UX is an optimization technique for refining an offering in a particular niche. We tend to focus more on:

  • problem identification
  • discontinuous innovation (vs. refinements to an existing paradigm)
  • niche selection
  • and developing a compelling value proposition.

You can tell when you have a compelling value proposition: someone takes out their checkbook or credit card and pays you.

It’s a reasonable but weak signal–necessary but not sufficient–when someone who fits your target user profile is willing to spend time with you. It’s a stronger signal when they give you proprietary information about their needs, and much stronger signal when they ask to evaluate your offering to solve a real problem (not a toy or evaluation benchmark).

How Do You Build A Compelling Value Proposition?

Our approach is to build a model of your customer’s business both before and after they employ your product or service. The delta or difference between the before and after, whether it’s faster cycle time, reduced errors, higher revenue, lower costs, etc.. is a good start on determining your value to them.

Refining your understanding of their business–in particular understanding the diagnostic questions that will allow you to accurately predict the likely impact of your offering on their business–is the key to a good customer discovery interview, correctly pricing your offering, and closing the sale.

Founders Want Leads and Deals

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Lead Generation, Sales, skmurphy

Q: I have looked at your website and based on some of your blog posts you seem to provide a full range of tactical services–content, outbound messaging, SEO, videos, newsletters, demos, etc.. Why do you talk about “leads and deals” instead of focusing on the full range of services that you offer?

Founders Want Leads and Deals

We sell to founders and they pay for leads and deals.

Any tactics or strategies we propose we have to connect the dots explicitly to how this will generate new leads or help them create opportunities or close deals. There are many good marketing services firms who sell to the Director or VP of marketing. People in those roles tend to be measured on the number of “marketing qualified leads’” (MQL) that they generate and sometimes look to contract out tactical marketing services to specialty firms.

A Deal Is An Integration Test For Lead Generation & Negotiation Strategies

We are a generalist firm that can look holistically at the new product introduction and implement–often with the help of partners–tactics across a wide range of lead generation techniques with an eye to assist in the negotiation to close of opportunities that are uncovered. We do content development for websites, email campaigns, newsletters, articles, and blog posts. We develop scripts and decks for presentations: live talks, webinars, or videos–and we provide rehearsal and coaching to refine and tune them. But these are all tactics in service of lead generation and preparing for negotiation to close of complex deals.

We look at a closed deal as a successful integration test for the lead generation and negotiation strategies that were employed.

New Products & Markets vs. Known Products & Markets

We also understand the difference between the sales methods needed for new product introduction and those for a product that has many satisfied customers, proven collateral and messaging, and a clear target market. Founders sell to keep the lights on, meet payroll, but primarily because in the beginning no one else can. We work with them directly to rehearse, ride along and support, de-brief, and any other way we can make them more effective. To be able to hire a good sales person the founders will need to demonstrate that they have a working product, a lead generation process that works, and satisfied customers that can be used to substantiate their claims and address the doubts that can block deals from closing.

But a good sales person does not want to have to learn how to sell a product through trial and error, they want to see a recipe that works and proof that it does so in the form of satisfied paying customers. They are able to tolerate a high failure rate (e.g. only closing one in three to one in five opportunities) and are happy to continue to tune and improve it through experience, but they want to know they are following a recipe that has been proven to work at least a few times already.

Our methods assume that the product only has to work in founder’s hands, at least initially, and that we will have to earn the customers trust directly through our actions and the results the product can deliver either in their environment or on their data. Once we have a based of satisfied paying customers, the founders can look at scaling using specialists and that’s where we help to bring on direct staff and find other more specialized firms.

Office Hours: Schedule Time to Walk Around Your Sales Issues

Office Hours ButtonIf you are looking for advice on lead generation or closing deals consider scheduling “office hours” to walk around your current sales process or a particular opportunity you are trying to close. SKMurphy functions as a startup advisor to help you understand the process of building a business. We understand the challenges of selecting an advisor–and advising entrepreneurs–and have blogged about it a few times:

Nine Tips For Expert Public Speaking

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Lead Generation, Rules of Thumb, skmurphy

Conor Neill has a great post up today on “a 9 Step Cheatsheet for Becoming a Public Speaking Expert” courtesy of the London Speakers Bureau. I am not usually a fan of  infographics but this is is exceptionally well done. Expert public speaking requires deliberate practice the same as any other skill. Here are some key tips I took away for entrepreneurs from the list but the entire infographic is worth a look.

Nine Tips For Expert Public Speaking

I have summarized what I thought were some of the key points and elaborated on a few based on my own experience.

  1. Be REAL
    Relevant to your audience
    Eloquent  with clear language
    Articulate with clear thinking
    Learned offering an expert perspective
  2. Structure you talk by starting with an overview and ending with a summary. If it’s a long talk summarize at the end of each section and again at the end.
  3. Rehearse enough to be fluid, but don’t memorize so that it sounds canned.
  4. Do at least two dry runs before one other person or a small audience, this can also be over the phone.
  5. Drink water well before the talk (30 to 90 minutes).
  6. Take a bio break a few minutes before the talk and do one last wardrobe check.
  7. Don’t cross your  arms or adopt the headwaiter post (one arm folded across your waist or chest.
  8. Pause at the beginning and periodically for effect.
  9. Only speak when you are looking at someone: eye contact keeps you naturally conversational. It’s OK to look at notes or the screen to help jog your memory, but only speak when you are looking at a person.

Three Ways To Extend Your Speech Beyond the Room

  1. Develop an article as a leave behind, often more effective than slides
  2. Record the talk and blog it including the audio.
  3. Have the talk transcribed and publish an edited transcript to complement the article and the audio.

You Have Four Ways To Generate Leads

  • What you say.
  • What you write.
  • What other people say or write about you.
  • Getting found when prospects are looking.

Public speaking can have a significant impact on your lead generation. A well prepared speech with an associated deck and article as leave behind is an asset, find ways to give it to at least three different audiences.


A Great Demo Is A Conversation Driven By Mutual Curiosity

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Demos, skmurphy

The best demo–a Great Demo!--is a conversations driven by mutual curiosity.  Your goal is to learn more about a prospect’s current situation and needs while they want to learn more about your product and services and how you can help them.

Mutual Demos

“Before I demo to you, why don’t you demo to me what you are currently using?”

If a customer has an existing software system, this can be a wonderful way to understand the strengths, weaknesses and gaps in their current system–particularly from the customer’s point of view. They’ll tell you what they like, what they hate, what’s missing and a range of other delightful Discovery information.

Additionally, this also inverts the traditional process of the vendor presenting to the customer, to one of the customer presenting to the vendor–an experience often remembered by the customer as remarkable and interestingly different!

Serious Prospects Are Candid About Challenges

One of the ways to tell if an inquiry is serious is that they are willing to put their current challenges on the table. This takes several steps of sequential mutual disclosure/discovery but if a prospect just wants “the standard demo” beyond a basic get acquainted session–which can normally be addressed more directly without a demo–and is unwilling to expose more about their situation, much less give a demo or clear explanation of their view of current gaps or challenges, it’s probably a bad sign. The worst buyer approach is the RFP where they are unwilling to even entertain a conversation before you answer all of their questions in detail.

Related Blog Posts

 Great Demo! Public Workshop October 15-16, 2014

October 15&16, 2014 “Great Demo!” San Jose, CA Register Now

Our next public Great Demo! Workshop is scheduled to take place October 15-16 in San Jose, California.

This is an excellent opportunity for individuals, small groups or for teams that have new hires.

We’ve found that these events are most productive when there are two or more participants from each organization (singletons are also fine). This helps to mimic real-life interactions as much as possible, both when preparing demos and delivering them in the role-play sessions.

Labor Day 2014: Knowledge Work Productivity

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in checklist, skmurphy

“A holiday gives one chance to look backward and forward, to reset oneself by an inner compass.”
May Sarton

I have not yet internalized the lessons from Daniel Cook‘s “Laws of Productivity: 8 Productivity Experiments You Don’t Need to Repeat” [PDF] so I find myself work–and now blogging–on a holiday. Here are my key take-aways from Cook’s roundup on knowledge work productivity and some additional thoughts on why they are so hard to put into practice. Do as I say not as I do.

Rules For Individual Knowledge Work Productivity

“If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play.”
John Cleese

All of these are taken from research an analysis by Daniel Cook in “Laws of Productivity: 8 Productivity Experiments You Don’t Need to Repeat” [PDF]

  • Work 40 hours a week with time for rest and family.
  • Don’t work 60 hours a work as a burst for more than three weeks, by eight weeks you are well below your original productivity working 40 hours only.
  • Anything burst longer than four weeks of more than forty hours requires recovery.
  • You can do four ten-hour days and take three off and break-even with five eight-hour days.
  • Knowledge work that requires creativity and problem solving tapers off after 35 hours a week.
  • 8 hours of sleep substantially improves creativity and problem solving.

I would never manage anyone the way that I manage myself, so that should tell me something.

Rules For Team Knowledge Work Productivity

Again all of these are taken from research an analysis by Daniel Cook in “Laws of Productivity: 8 Productivity Experiments You Don’t Need to Repeat” [PDF]

  • Teams of more than 4-8 causes communication overhead of 30%
  • Have a plan to grow new teams, split large teams, and manage transition to new projects to manage to these limits or pay the overhead.
  • Seat people together in a closed team room for maximum team productivity.
  • Allow at least 50 square feet per person with side rooms or conversations, calls, and external meetings.
  • Form cross-functional teams where members collectively have all the skills needed to address the problem and are assigned full time.
  • Schedule at 80% capacity and keep a list of valuable side projects for people to work on if primary tasks are completed.

Crisis Models Are Strangely Seductive

I am not sure why the crisis model is so strangely seductive:

  • pulling an all-nighter
  • working all weekend
  • nobody goes home until this is working
  • sleeping in the lab, workshop, under your desk, in your cube, ..
  • my job ate my life
  • projects that are completed on schedule and on budget were “sandbagged”

Sometimes there is a crisis and people can be genuinely productive for 24 or 36 hours straight. Edison’s team would apparently work 20 hours straight, trying one thing after another that failed but believing they were one adjustment or trial away from viability. Global teams have changed this where there are now natural second and third shifts that can rely on common source code repositories–with rollback–so someone on the team can always be up and working on the problem without disrupting natural sleep patterns and family life.

It May Look Like a Crisis, But It’s Only the End of An Illusion

“It May Look Like a Crisis, But It’s Only the End of An Illusion.”
Gerald Weinberg in “Secrets of Consulting” (listed as “Rhonda’s Revelation”).

There are real crises, or at least the abrupt end to what had been comforting illusions. We once worked 12-14 hour days for two weeks straight to help a client pull together a response to an unanticipated RFP from a customer who represented more than two-thirds of their revenue. Their survival was at stake and it was time to see what we could do to preserve the business. They had been caught in a changing of the guard internally at the customer and were blindsided because they had been doing business successfully for more than five years.

We had warned them more than a year earlier that letting any one customer constitute more than 1/3 of the business was inherently unstable but it’s one thing to know you live in earthquake country and another to see your bookcases tip over and say “I am glad I wasn’t sitting in my favorite chair I would have a fractured skull.” We managed to hang on to about 2/3 of the business relationship and they have become more aggressive about new business and cultivating broader relationships at the client, but if we had not worked in crisis mode they probably would not be here or would be a very different and much more intimate company.

Let My Failed Startup’s Epitaph Be:  “I Wish I Had Spent More Time At the Office”

Too many entrepreneurs write the wrong epitaph for their failed startup: “I wish I had spent more time at the office.”  Some examples of crisis thinking from Jamie Zawinski‘s “The Netscape Dorm” diary:

  • Thursday, 28 July 1994, 11pm.
    I slept at work again last night; two and a half hours curled up in a quilt underneath my desk, from 11am to 1:30pm or so. That was when I woke up with a start, realizing that I was late for a meeting we were scheduled to have to argue about colormaps and dithering, and how we should deal with all the nefarious 8-bit color management issues. But it was no big deal, we just had the meeting later. It’s hard for someone to hold it against you when you miss a meeting because you’ve been at work so long that you’ve passed out from exhaustion.
  • Sunday, 5 August 1994, 5am.
    I just got home; the last time I was asleep was, let’s see, 39 hours ago. And I’m not even tired right now. I guess I’m on my second or third or eighteenth wind. I only came home because I was worried that if I stayed there any longer, I’d fall asleep at the wheel again. I didn’t want to stay down there for another night, because I really need a shower at this point; it was a hot day today, and Lou and I played some intense games of air hockey last night that got me all sweaty and disgusting. Wow, I must be tired — I just turned on the television, and MTV is actually moving too fast for me to understand it.

Greg Knauss wrote about a flow state in Man, Do I Miss Those Days a vision of giving himself over completely to the task at hand. I can related and used to be able to work all night but now I can’t make it much past 4am: I find I have been sleeping sitting up, or I hit a number of keys at once with my forehead and wake myself back up, or I’ve been typing the same character several hundred times in my sleep by holding down one key. I get the sense that Greg was lucid and entirely immersed in his task until something, either the cold or hydraulic pressure, took him out of flow.

Once, years ago, I had a morning deadline, a lot of code to write and a two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew. Around 4am, I realized that the window was still open and I was freezing, I hadn’t gone to the bathroom is something like fifteen hours and I was having trouble hitting the keys because my hands were trembling.

Man, do I miss those days.

An Early Start Beats Fast Running

An early start beats fast running.”
Michael Bowen (@mdcbowen) “Cobb’s Rules

Maybe it’s an inability to admit limits or a desire to force the flash of insight or schedule the breakthrough for sometime later tonight or this weekend. If you were not familiar with the research on knowledge work productivity I have now removed that excuse and you will have to find another.

“Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen,
as by little advantages that occur every day.”
Benjamin Franklin

Related Blog Posts

Quotes For Entrepreneurs– August 2014

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes, skmurphy

You can follow @skmurphy to get these quotes for entrepreneurs hot off the mojo wire or wait until they are collected in a blog post at the end of each month. Enter your E-mail address if you would like have new blog posts sent to you.

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“An early start beats fast running.”
Michael Bowen (@mdcbowen) “Cobb’s Rules

Used as closing quote for “Start with a List of Customers and Problems that Build on Your Experience and Relationships

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“Technology per se is not disruptive or sustaining: it is the way it is deployed in the market.”
Clayton Christensen in “Still Disruptive

This quote inspired me to update “Distant Early Warning Signs of Market Disruption” with a additional paragraph on the need to counter a disruptive entrant where they are taking root, not where you are comfortable selling already.

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“Almost always great new ideas don’t emerge from within a single person or function, but at the intersection of functions or people that have never met before.”
Clayton Christensen in “Still Disruptive

More context

“Almost always great new ideas don’t emerge from within a single person or function, but at the intersection of functions or people that have never met before. And most universities are organised so you don’t have those intersections. They are siloed. Universities think people come up with great ideas by closing the door. The academic tenure process, where you have to publish to journals which are very narrow, stands in the way of great research.” Clayton Christensen in “Still Disruptive

h/t Sandeep De (@sandeepcast) in Intersections/Exaption: Silo Busting

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“In the heart of every apple is an entire orchard waiting only to be planted.”
Thorstan Osborne

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“Cultivate mindfulness: it’s not the fastest reaction, it’s the decision that leads to the first effective response.”
Sean Murphy in “Cultivating Mindfulness”

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“A man should never neglect his family for business.”
Walt Disney quoted in  Ch. 14 : The Real Walt Disney, p. 361

h/t Entrepreneurs Quotes (@entrepreneurship)

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“Start building network, blog, educating 1 year before you make the leap. Build community. The first sales will always be to friends. Make those friends.” Conor Neill in “Entrepreneur: Start a year before you Start

Used as the opening quote for “Start with a List of Customers and Problems that Build on Your Experience and Relationships

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“When Iran develops its fervently sought nuclear weapon, this will look in retrospect like our last carefree summer.”
Abe Greenwald (@abegreenwald) in “Reality is Neoconservative

Looking back August 2014 may  rhyme with August 1914 (“History doesn’t repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes.” Mark Twain).

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“We’d achieve more if we chased the dream instead of the competition.”
Simon Sinek (@simonsinek)

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“There now ensued a series of incidents which transported me to the opposite extremes of ecstasy and horror; incidents which I tremble to recall and dare not seek to interpret.”
H. P. Lovecraft

This would make a great opening quote for many startup success stories (and more than a few failure stories).

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“To base thought only on speech is to try nailing whispers to the wall. Writing freezes thought and offers it up for inspection.”
Jack Rosenthal

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“Buddy, we’re here in Iowa. Usually, a man’s word is like gold. A handshake is a contract.”
William Nagel in a Washington Post article on Bruce Braley

I think “here in Iowa” is a good metaphor for how effective bootstrappers manage trust. Full quote:

Another neighbor, William Nagel, who sits on the homeowners association board, said, “Buddy, we’re here in Iowa. We talk like men here and we act like men. Usually, a man’s word is like gold. A handshake is a contract. Neighbors are neighbors, and if you’ve got a problem with your neighbor, you talk it out.”

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“It is possible to create an epidemic of health which is self-organizing and self-propelling.”
Jonas Salk

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“You don’t think that seeing your grandparents die or your parents die is good fortune, but you would be wrong.”
Sean Murphy in “Good Fortune.”

I was reminded of this observation by the recent death of John Foster McKenna, age 23.

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“The way to love anything is to realize that it may be lost.”
G. K. Chesterton

Compare to Achaan Chaa’s “when I understand that the glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious” in Mark Epstein’s Thoughts Without a Thinker (pages 80-81) quoted in “Thanksgiving 2011

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“The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but what they miss.”
Thomas Carlyle

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“He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.”
Elbert Hubbard

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“The best teams are motivated by a sense of mission, of working on the worthwhile. When they have a why they will find the how.”
Sean Murphy in “Five Quotes For Entrepreneurs by Branch Rickey

I was inspired by this quote by Branch Rickey:

“First of all, a man, whether seeking achievement on the athletic field or in business, must want to win. He must feel that the thing he is doing is worthwhile; so worthwhile that he is willing to pay the price of success to attain distinction.” Branch Rickey

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“The stories we tell ourselves can serve as straitjackets for stagnation, or scaffolding for transformation.”
Seb Paquet (@sebpaquet) tweet Dec-1-2010

h/t Conal Elliott

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“Bootstrappers are open to possibility but maintain focus: they explore many options but say yes to only a few.”
Sean Murphy

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“I wonder if one of the penalties of growing older is that you become more and more conscious that nothing is very permanent.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

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“When your toil has been a pleasure, you have not earned money merely, but money, health, delight, and moral profit, all in one.”
Robert Louis Stevenson

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“Blessed is the man who has found his work.
Let him ask no other blessedness.”
Thomas Carlyle

h/t Gretchin Rubin Daily Quotes

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“Treat social capital with the same care as cash: trust doesn’t scale, it’s knit by aligning actions with prior commitments.”
Sean Murphy in “Treat Social Capital With The Same Care As Cash

Similar to this observation

“Trust doesn’t scale, it’s built up by repeated interactions over time. That’s what makes it so important.”
Sean Murphy commenting in “Seth Godin: Trust is Even More Scarce Than Attention

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“They are ill discoverers that think there is no land when they see nothing but sea.”
Francis Bacon (1561-1626) – The Advancement of Learning, bk. 2, ch. 7, sect. 5 (1605).

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“Simple, not easy. There’s a difference.”
Ron Jeffries (@RonJeffries)

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“A fact is a simple statement that everyone believes.
It is innocent, unless found guilty.
A hypothesis is a novel suggestion that no one wants to believe.
It is guilty, until found effective.”
Edward Teller, Conversations on the Dark Secrets of Physics, 1991, p. 69

h/t Kevin Kelly

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“No one wants advice–only corroboration.”
John Steinbeck

This is true for some but not even for most entrepreneurs in my experience.

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“In the mind of the entrepreneur the future is obvious and imminent.”
Sean Murphy in “The Mind of the Entrepreneur

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“What is a trick the first time one meets it
is a device the second time
and a method the third time.”
W. J. Leveque

h/t Mark Zimmerman in “Creative Devices

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“The only courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one moment to the next.”
Mignon Mclaughlin

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“Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth.
We are happy when we are growing.”
William Butler Yeats

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“Fields can lie fallow but we can’t; we have less time.”
Mignon Mclaughlin

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“Ability proceeds from a fusion of skills, knowledge, understanding and imagination, consolidated by experience.”
Jonathan Rez

h/t Quotes on Design

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“Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.”
Thomas Edison

quoted in Daniel Boorstin’s “Cleopatra’s Nose: Essays on the Unexpected”

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“More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren’t so busy denying them.”
Harold J. Smith

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“Acorns were good till bread was found.”
Francis Bacon

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