Innovation: the Trick is Managing the Pain

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 3 Early Customer Stage, 4 Finding your Niche, Customer Development, skmurphy

Any innovation effort is a painful struggle punctuated by false starts and dead ends. Your efforts are met with lack of interest even when a basic invention is working and active resistance when it starts to replace the tried and true. Like any childbirth the trick is managing the pain long enough to deliver.

Your Startup Never Gets Any Easier

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 2 Open for Business Stage, Rules of Thumb, skmurphy

When I first went to work for Monolithic Memories my boss, Ivan Pesic, told me, “It will be rough for the next two months and then it will get easier.” He was still telling the team that a year later when someone else offered that advice during a problem solving session and we all broke out laughing because we realized it was never going to get easier. We kept working on harder problems. Ivan went on to found Silvaco and despite a few legal setbacks built a company that has endured more than three decades.

The Uncanny Valley of Email Automation

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 2 Open for Business Stage, 3 Early Customer Stage, 4 Finding your Niche, Consulting Business, Customer Development, Sales, skmurphy

Trust is built over repeated interactions between people. If your business requires long term relationships then you have to make sure that investments in automation are not deployed in a way that undercut your ability to have real conversations. Unfortunately, some uses of email automation tools are pushing sales conversations into the “Uncanny Valley” because they strive to simulate–but miss–a genuine personalized touch.

Q: How Do I Interest People In My Product?

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

Q: We have a product for bloggers but I am having a lot of trouble getting leads. I have met bloggers from popular media companies at events, I have cold called them, e-mailed them, and e-mailed to on-line groups that I am a member of. None of this has worked. How do I interest people in my product?

I have a couple of suggestions:

Simon Sinek: Why Leaders Eat Last

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 5 Scaling Up Stage, skmurphy, Video

I remember first learning the principle “leaders eat last” from John K. Russell, an advisor on a summer Presbyterian workcamp in Westpoint Mississippi. He had been an officer in the Army and talked about how the officers had nicer silverware and napkins but it was the same food and they ate after the enlisted men. Simon Sinek uses that principle as a point of departure–leadership as a combination of higher status and service. His description of leadership reminded of Goethe’s maxim “A man is really alive only when he delights in the good-will of others.”

Here are some of my key take-aways from this talk:

5 Ways To Start Customer Discovery Interviews

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

Customer discovery interviews are essential to testing key B2B product hypotheses and understanding your target customers’ needs. Broadly there are five ways that you can reach out to potential customers to have a discovery conversation. All of them assume that you have a clear picture of who your target is and a few key questions that they will be willing and able to answer that will indicate they have a problem or need your solution may address.

Few–If Any–Silicon Valley Secrets

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 2 Open for Business Stage, Consulting Business, Customer Development

I signed up for a mailing list a while ago from a reasonably famous entrepreneur and he sent me this mass email in late November promising to share “Silicon Valley Secrets.” I don’t know if it’s because I have worked in Silicon Valley for more than three decades but I found the whole thing kind of sad (of course, he’s probably laughing all the way to the bank).

OCT Offers Insights That Used To Require an Autopsy

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 3 Early Customer Stage, skmurphy

Christoph Guetter suggests in “The eye is a window to the brain; but who’s looking?” that the micron scale resolution of optical coherence tomography (OCT) for in vivo cross-sectional imaging of the human retina may allow earlier and more accurate diagnoses of several common neurodegenerative disorders: Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Webinar Replay: Innovator’s DNA Series Overview

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, Books, Customer Development, Video

Steve Hogan and Sean Murphy walk through a five part webinar series on “The Innovator’s DNA” by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen,and Clayton Christensen. Sean thinks it’s the best book on innovation and entrepreneurship for 2011 and useful for any team that is trying to innovate. Each webinar will be in a roundtable format and include first time entrepreneurs and experienced innovators discussing lessons learned applying the five key discovery skills described in the book.

Movies to Renew Your Sense of Wonder

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

I caught Interstellar  over the weekend and was mesmerized for the entire three hour runtime. Coop the astronaut/farmer falls goes exploring and falls down a series of rabbit holes that take him far from home. It’s a movie that celebrates exploration and continually triggered my sense of wonder if only because none of the protagonists are fearless action heroes but all too human in their desires to return home safely and be re-united with families and loved ones.  I don’t want to say too much about the plot not because of all of the twists and turns but I think the movie is best appreciated by not knowing how it’s going to turn out.

Crafting a Value Proposition

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 2 Open for Business Stage, 3 Early Customer Stage, Rules of Thumb, Sales

Q: I struggle with the value proposition for our product. Either I am too abstract “we offer a positive return on time invested” or too vague “help increase your ability to manage critical challenges.” Do you have any suggestions for how to frame or formulate a value proposition?

Here a few questions that a value proposition normally addresses

Entrepreneurial Passion: Good Servant, Poor Master

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

Entrepreneurial passion has to be based on a desire to create value, to be of service to a set of target customers. There may be many things you are interested in learning and room enough in your life for several hobbies, but pursuing a passion without regard to your ability to provide value in a way that is competitively differentiated is to pursue a hobby.

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.

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