Q: How Much Effort Should I Invest in Automated Testing For An MVP?

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in skmurphy

Q: I have worked on large enterprise software systems but am now struggling working at a startup creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). I am a big believer in BDD and TDD, so I’ve developed a MVP that has high coverage and great specifications describing and asserting its behaviors in HTML with good pictures. My worry is that large chunks of my MVP may never be used again if the customer doesn’t like the demo. Also, I developed the MVP from the bottom up and I worry that I wrote tests for corner cases that may or may not be exercised in the demo.

A:  Daniel B. Markham (HN: DanielBMarkham ) gave a great answer  to “Should you TDD an MVP?” on HN a while back: ”The maintainability you’re looking for in a startup is your relationship with the customer.” Here are some excerpts from his full answer  (emphasis in original):

The question here is really “what’s the test?” You have to realize the MVP is the test.

For a startup, customers are how you pass the test. Anything else is a red light. So in the most important way possible, as long as you have no customers, you have a test which is failing.

This is important because the maintainability you’re looking for in a startup is your relationship with the customer. Manage that and the rest takes care of itself. If you are already in a business, yes, “maintainability” means writing code that will last. But if you’ve just got an idea or a dream, you’ve got nothing worth maintaining. Nor will you ever.

Put differently, your technical debt can never exceed the economic value of your code, which in a startup is extremely likely to be zero. (Different scenario entirely for project-based work for ongoing businesses, which is why TDD makes so much sense in that scenario).

Q: OK, but some customers pay us for demos and expect us to put the demos into production with little or no modification.  If we are given more money to operationalize the demo, it is for features missing from the demo.

A: These don’t sound like an MVP if it is only aimed at one customer and they are paying for it to be developed. I think your challenge is to determine the feature content for a contract development software project to be deployed at a single customer. This sounds like a question of getting agreement on needs and a specification, not how to take an MVP to 6 or 12 or 20 prospects and correlate their feedback.

I don’t think MVP is the right term or framing for the situation that you are working in, the demo sounds more like a user acceptance test for a project that they have paid for.

I think your MVP  is what you showed them to get them to fund the development of the “demo” that if accepted will be deployed into production.

Ten Principles for Trust and Integrity from Adventures in Missions

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

I have come to believe that morale or esprit de corps is the critical resource for a bootstrapping team. With it they can persist, blending freelancing, consulting work, customer discovery, product development, sales, and customer support.

The simple view is that you can just focus on one thing at a time–develop a product, market it, refine it, scale up–and that a few iterations will get you there. The reality for most is that it’s much harder and requires perseverance as a team.

The teams that persevere bring complementary skills and shared values to a common effort sustained by trust, shared vision and joint accountability. The first ten principles from  Adventures in Missions focus on trust and integrity,  offering some useful guidelines for building and maintaining trust:

  1. Integrity in an organization is built by developing trust.
  2. Trust is the glue that enables a team to function well.
  3. Trust is built over time through competence, commitment, and care.
  4. Trust is built as we preserve and build the significance of others.
  5. Trust is built through bearing each others’ burdens.
  6. Trust is built through a rapid response to communication.
  7. Trust is built through humility.
  8. Trust is built through personal contact.
  9. Trust is diminished by sarcasm and criticism.
  10. Integrity means making and living up to commitments.

See also “Entrepreneurship is the Launching of Surprises” which explores George Gilder’s essay “Unleash the Mind” and contains this insight that I think I am building on in my focus on morale as the key resource in a startup:

“America’s wealth is not an inventory of goods; it is an organic entity, a fragile pulsing fabric of ideas, expectations, loyalties, moral commitments, visions.”
George Gilder

Matt Oscamou of Frontier Bites on the value of the Bootstrapper Breakfast

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Audio, Events, Founder Story, skmurphy

steaming hot coffee and serious conversationMatt Oscamou, the founder of Frontier Bites, talked about lessons learned getting a food startup off the ground at the April 15 Bootstrapper Breakfast in Sunnyvale. Here is a short recording of his introduction, the benefits the Bootstrapper Breakfast® has offered him, and how he came to bootstrap Frontier Bites with his brother and persevere after his brother passed away in a rafting accident.


Download: http://traffic.libsyn.com/skmurphy/Oscamou-Intro-BB140415.mp3
A transcript of his introduction is available at Matt Oscamou talks about founding Frontier Bites, recap from April 15, 2014

Matt Oscamou: I have a food company in Silicon Valley, bucking the tech trend. I was over at Red Rock Coffee working in the downstairs area and I saw “Bootstrappers Breakfast” on the calendar so I figure I would try to find out what that was. This was right when I was getting going. It’s been a helpful group ot bounce some ideas off of. My attendance has been relatively sporadic based on the needs of the business. It’s been good.

I started the Bootstrapper Breakfasts in Sunnyvale in October of 2006. I was fed up with attending events where the only focus was on how to raise money from investors and where aspiring entrepreneurs would talk about what they would do once they raised money but not what they were doing to move their startup forward now.

One of the things that surprised me in the first year was that people would come for a variety of reasons. Some would attend regularly, others would come only once and a large fraction would attend when they had issues that they wanted to discuss. I thought Matt captured that neatly in his intro.

Related posts:

Quotes for Entrepreneurs–June 2014

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes, skmurphy

You can follow @skmurphy to get these 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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“Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.”
Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

Good advice for business and friendship.

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“Many a genius is slow of growth. Oaks that flourish for a thousand years do not spring up into beauty like a reed.”
George H. Lewes

h/t Tamela Lewis (@MattersOfSmart)

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“Success, as I see it, is a result, not a goal.”
Gustave Flaubert

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“A business without profit is not a business any more than a pickle is a candy.”
Charles F. Abbott

h/t Robert W. Kent “Money Talk$: 2,500 Greatest Business Quotes” (1985)

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“Everyone lives by selling something, whatever be his right to it.”
Robert Louis Stevenson in “Across the Plains

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“Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with that there is.”
Ernest Hemingway in “The Old Man and the Sea

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“A term that is vastly superior to ‘best practices:’ Default choices.”
Reginald Braithwaite (@raganwald)

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Gaping Void Art Improve The Conversation

“You can’t control the conversation, you can just improve the conversation.”
Hugh MacLeod (@gapingvoid) in  Gaping Void Art: “Improve the Conversation

h/t David Gurteen ( @DavidGurteen)

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“A theory can be proved by experiment; but no path leads from experiment to the birth of a theory.”
Albert Einstein

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“Being an entrepreneur is an existential, not just a financial thing.”
Nassim Nicholas Taleb (@nntaleb)

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“The best armor is to keep out of range.”
Italian Proverb

Which may be related to Francis Bacon’s “The best armor is to keep out of gunshot” where gunshot means “range of gunfire.”

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“Three grand essentials for happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.”
Joseph Addison

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“It’s not always easy to tell the difference between thinking and looking out of the window.”
Wallace Stevens

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“Imagination grows by exercise, and contrary to popular belief, is more powerful in the mature than the young.”
W. Somerset Maugham

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“One of the most heinous, insidious lies is the notion that you have to be an asshole to be a successful business person.”
Alan Cooper (@MrAlanCooper)

For some related commentary see

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“Genius is the recovery of childhood at will.”
Arthur Rimbaud

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“Be careful of the ‘story so far’ that you tell yourself. It anchors your position not only with others but in your own mind.”

See “Be Careful of How You Tell Yourself ‘The Story so Far’

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Is the critical path “Will someone pay for this” or “Can we get it to work”?
Sean Murphy

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“Sleeping or waking, we hear not the airy footsteps of the strange things that almost happen.”
Nathaniel Hawthorne

h/t Fred O’Bryant’s Quotations Page

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“What isn’t tried won’t work.”
Claude McDonald

h/t Fred O’Bryant’s Quotations Page

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“All great work is preparing yourself for the accident to happen.”
Sidney Lumet

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“Peers in a Community of Practice or a Mastermind group help you see the adjacent possible and persevere in moving toward it.”
Sean Murphy

My tl;dr for both ”Reflections on Startup Conference 2014 in Redwood City” and ”A Mastermind Group Can Help Entrepreneurs Achieve Their Goals

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“The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.”
Benjamin Disraeli

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“Life is made up of a series of judgments on insufficient data, and if we waited to run down all our doubts, it would flow past us.”
Learned Hand

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“It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.”
Virginia Woolf in “A Room of One’s Own” [online]

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“The essence of strategy is to align your ends with your means: to match your goals and your resources.”
Walter Russell Mead in “Groping For A Reset

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“Emails get reactions. Phone calls start conversations.”
Simon Sinek (@simonsinek)

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“Discontent follows ambition like a shadow.”
Henry S. Haskins

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“Build pockets of stillness into your life.”
Maria Popova (@brainpicker) in ”7 Lessons From 7 Years

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“Do odd jobs with an even temper, cultivating small kindnesses, a sense of humor, and calmness. ”
Sean Murphy

A rework of the closing two sentences to “Odd Jobs With an Even Temper” to make them apply to every member of the startup team.

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“Honesty pays, but it don’t seem to pay enough to suit some people.”
Frank McKinney Hubbard

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To be surprised, to wonder, is to begin to understand.
Jose Ortega Y Gasset (1883-1955) in “The Revolt of the Masses”

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“Opportunity is a bird that never perches.”
Claude McDonald

For some reason this reminds me of this stanza from Rush‘s Dreamline

They travel on the road to redemption
A highway out of yesterday, that tomorrow will bring
Like lovers and heroes, birds in the last days of spring
We’re only at home when we’re on the wing
On the wing

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“The maxim ‘Nothing avails but perfection’ may be spelt shorter: ‘Paralysis.’”
Winston Churchill

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“Wisdom consists of the anticipation of consequences.”
Norman Cousins

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“Life is not so short but that there is always time for courtesy.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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“Getting angry can sometimes be like leaping into a wonderfully responsive sports car, gunning the motor, taking off at high speed, and then discovering the brakes are out of order.”
Maggie Scarf

h/t Reader’s Digest Quotable Quotes

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“A challenging and uncertain environment requires you to maximize learning by minimizing the time to try things.”
Twitter-length summary of a bullet from “Our For Impact Culture Code.

See “Bootstrappers Turn Time Into Resources and Possibilities For Customers” for more more excerpts and my observations on their applicability to for-profit bootstrappers.

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“Information is pretty thin stuff unless mixed with experience.”
Clarence Day

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“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
Henry David Thoreau

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“The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.”
Jonas Salk, MD

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“We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, “but we can’t have both.”
Louis Brandeis

h/t Joel Kotkin in “The Age of Oligarchy

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“Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell;
I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.”
Charles Studd

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Four Principles From Jonathan Wang’s “Start-Up Black Ops Creed”

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

Jonathan Wang penned the Start-Up Black Ops creed, here are some extracts I want to use a website started on the belief:

Every entrepreneur will, at some point along their journey, find themselves at the bottom of a big, dark pit–seemingly alone, surrounded by nothing, and without a way out.  That is the unavoidable norm when it comes to starting and running your own business. It is only at the bottom of this hole where you can learn and develop the skills to get out…and in doing so, you learn just how difficult entrepreneurship is and what it requires of your will and patience to succeed.

Wang offers four principles

1. You are not alone – the process is equally difficult and sucks just as much to the next person.

I think it’s very important to network, to reach out for advice and assistance, and to understand that bringing something new into the world is always a challenge.

2. You can be creative – desperation will force you to try things you have never done before.

In “Innovation Needs Starvation, Pressure, and a New Perspective”  I explored Dave Snowden’s  perspective on Culture and Innovation;  he identified three  necessary, but not sufficient conditions for innovation to take place:

  1. Starvation of familiar resource, forcing you to find new approaches, doing things in a different way;
  2. Pressure that forces you to engage in the problem;
  3. Perspective Shift to allow different patterns and ideas to be brought into play.

Of these, I think “a shift in perspective” is the most important. At a certain point pressure enables a shift, but as it continues to build it can extinguish creativity.

3. You don’t give up – you always ensure yourself a fighting chance when you at least try.

Not giving up is not the same thing as doing the same thing over and over without variation. “Try try again” is good advice only if you vary your approach. One way to avoid giving up is to develop a plan for alternative approaches before “Plan A” fails.  You can always update it based on what has not worked, but having a backup plan (and a backup for your backup) allows you to avoid the problem of “I cannot think of what to do next” when you are under the most pressure. In “Customer Development and its Discontents” I covered three common failure modes for engineering-driven companies as they approach the challenge of marketing and selling their product:

  • Get out of the BatCave: don’t try and figure it out without talking to prospects and your current customers
  • Test and measure: don’t rely just on your intuition, form falsifiable hypotheses
  • Iterate frequently: update your plans based on results to date, don’t be guided by the “Little Engine That Could” and keep trying the same thing hoping for a different result.

4. You will fail (not once, but many times) – you are better for it and will emerge smarter and stronger

For this to happen you need to conduct both pre-mortems, anticipating problems in advance, and periodic after actions  (also called post mortems, retrospectives, or lessons learned).  This also informs your customer’s perspective, as I noted in “The Technology is Nothing Without the Team

Most bootstrapping firms start out by delivering a service, or at least wrapping their product in a thick protective blanket of consulting to protect their customers from any sharp unfinished edges. And if you have ever used a product too early you know that the jagged edges of tomorrow can scratch some pretty deep wounds that are slow to heal and may leave impressive scars on what was once a promising career.

This is why early customers look hard at the people in your startup: they know that the technology cannot be divorced from the team and that how you respond when your product is producing unsatisfactory results is the most important question they have to answer. Because,  as Gerald Weinberg advises, “nothing new ever works ” and sooner or later you will have to respond.


See also “Three Take-Aways from Jonathan Wang’s Talk on Jaio Sports (Hardware Startup)

Bootstrappers Turn Time Into Resources and Possibilities For Customers

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 3 Early Customer Stage, 4 Finding your Niche, Rules of Thumb

I am a huge fan of Neil Perkin’s blog  ”Only Dead Fish” and his two newsletters: “Your Weekly Dead Fish” (archive) and “Fraggl.” I followed a link from his post on “Complexity and Simplicity” to a thought provoking presentation by Possible Health on “Our For Impact Culture Code.

Here is my take on some key concepts from the deck  (emphasis in original) that would benefit bootstrappers –as well as “non-profits.” I have added my observations in italic:

  1. “Non-profit” is a legal structure, not a way of doing things. And we don’t believe that we should define ourselves in the negative. Instead, we exist to create impact.
    Observation: bootstrappers are often motivated by a desire to make an impact (in addition to a desire for autonomy) and have to focus on impact as a way to prove credibility and establish their firm as a viable alternative worthy of consideration.
  2. We treat efficiency as a moral must.
    Observation: in the non-profit world this avoids the trap of excusing poor and/or inefficient execution because you are working on a “good cause.” For bootstrappers it’s second only to impact for viability.
  3. If building effective healthcare systems for the poor were easy, everyone would do it. We do this work precisely because it is labeled as “impossible” by many.
    Observation: you can substitute “effective healthcare system” for whatever you own Big Hairy Audacious Goal (see “Building Companies to Last” by Jim Collins for more on this term). Bootstrappers have to work in riskier and more challenge environments because established firms are less willing to invest effort when markets with a clearer return are accessible.
  4. When your outcome is impact, time  is a terrible thing to waste.
    Observation: as I have outlined in the Chalk Talk on Technology Introduction, prospects use their estimate of your “time to impact” as the single best indicator of the amount of risk in your solution. Days to weeks beats months to quarters.
  5. When you’re working in the world’s most challenging environments under constant uncertainty, the way to maximize learning is to minimize the time to try things.
    Observation: any environment with high uncertainty is challenging, running smaller experiments minimizes the cost of failure and speeds learning.
  6. It’s everyone’s job to turn time into resources and possibility for our patients.
    Observation: all that bootstrappers have in the beginning is their time; if they cannot create an impact and a sense of possibility in prospects they won’t prosper.

Related Startup Culture posts:


Update June-28-2014: Guillermo Marqueta-Silbert (@guillemarqueta) tweeted a comment to the effect that the exchange rate for entrepreneur hours to impact was a function of entrepreneurial skill. I think this is a great insight and suggests a more nuanced understanding that it’s not just trying anything but trying things that flow from a deep understanding of customer situation and needs, competitive landscape, relevant technology alternatives, and market evolution. In an OODA Loop formulation–Observe-Orient-Decide-Act–the key differentiator that expertise brings is a richer and faster Orientation to the situation.

D. H. Lawrence’s “Escape” Offers a Vision of the Entrepreneur’s Journey

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage

Escape
by D. H. Lawrence

When we get out of the glass bottles of our own ego,
and when we escape like squirrels from turning in the cages of our personality
and get into the forest again,
we shall shiver with cold and fright
but things will happen to us
so that we don’t know ourselves.

Cool, unlying life will rush in,
and passion will make our bodies taut with power,
we shall stamp our feet with new power
and old things will fall down,
we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like burnt paper.

The Complete Poems of D. H. Lawrence

Many will also die of cold in the forest, or look around and decide to go back and live in the cage.

Others will decide to build new cages and squirrel wheels.

Not everything that is old will fall down or whither.

But there is a sense of possibility and self-actualization and revolution in entrepreneurship that Lawrence captures evocatively.

Reflections on Startup Conference 2014 in Redwood City

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Community of Practice, Events, Rules of Thumb

“Not everyone who is worth knowing is famous.
Not everyone who is famous is worth knowing.
You meet your community of practice,
those who can help you see the adjacent possible,
in line waiting for the famous.”
Sean Murphy (inspired by Elia Freedman’s “Accidental Meetings“)

The conversations I had with individual entrepreneurs were the best part people of the Startup Conference 2014. 2,000 entrepreneurs, VCs, and met in Redwood City on, May 14, 2014. I talked to a number of folks and had several conversations that were far better than any of the presentations I sat through.

I came away with a couple of thoughts on networking.

  • Focus first on understanding the other person’s situation and what they are trying to accomplish. This enables you to share useful and directly relevant information and to ask for insight and assistance that they are more likely to be able to offer.
  • Trust develops over time: smiling helps, listening closely can require effort in a crowd but by giving someone your clear attention you encourage them to have a serious conversation.
  • Make a note to jog your memory of the conversation. I often use either a their business card or a 3×5 card, use your smartphone or tablet if that’s easier.
  • You can only make connections if you first listen carefully and understand their story.
  • If you meet someone at an event don’t skip talking to them if you have the opportunity. Serendipity is always at work but is only possible if you make the effort to have a conversation. It’s hard to predict where things will lead.
  • If you intend to talk to a speaker rehearse what you want to say and get to the point in 15-20 seconds. Exchange cards if you want to follow up. Especially if there is a line get to the point and limit yourself to 30-60 seconds. If a minute leaves you with the strong impression that they would like to talk more go back to the end of the line and let others have a chance to talk briefly before engaging in an extended conversation.

“All great work is preparing yourself for the accident to happen.”
Sidney Lumet

A Mastermind Group Can Help Entrepreneurs Achieve Their Goals

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in skmurphy

Mastermind GroupsComparing notes and making commitments to a group of peers can enable you to see things you might otherwise overlook and to persevere on tasks where you may have previously faltered. Active participation in a mastermind group one of the best ways to reach your goals.

SKMurphy offers small mastermind (accountability) groups for entrepreneurs.  We currently have groups with the following focus that meet face to face in Silicon Valley twice a month:

  • Healthcare
  • Hardware
  • Web
  • Women Entrepreneurs
  • Consultants

Let’s us know if you are looking for a group to keep you focused and on track.  More information

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different.”
C.S. Lewis

Quotes for Entrepreneurs–May 2014

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes, skmurphy

You can follow @skmurphy to get these 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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“Ah, May. It should be three months long.”
Elisabeth Ogilvie in “The Silent Ones

h/t Fred O’Bryant’s Quotations Collection, Volume 2

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“The longer you can look back, the farther you can look forward.”
Winston Churchill

h/t Fred O’Bryant’s Quotation Collection, Volume 6

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“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”
Coco Chanel

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“Nothing is so dear as what you’re about to leave.”
Jessamyn West

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“Concision in style, precision in thought, decision in life.”
Victor Hugo

In “Postscriptum de Ma Vie” Victor Hugo’s Intellectual Autobiography

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“Life is a biography, not a series of disconnected moments, more or less pleasurable but increasingly tedious and unsatisfying unless one imposes a purposive pattern upon them.”
Theodore DalrympleLife at the Bottom” (Amazon)

h/t Ben Nesvig “A million little decisions

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“Design is the application of intent–the opposite of happenstance, and an antidote to accident.”
Robert L. Peters

h/t Quotes on Design

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“None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.”
Henry David Thoreau

I think this applies to companies as well.

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“A community lives in the minds of its members–in shared assumptions, beliefs, customs, ideas that give meaning, ideas that motivate.”
John Gardner in “On Leadership”

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“I realized I was very far from home, though I had been born not ten miles away.”
Gregory Sullivan in “Nails

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“One can pay back a loan of gold, but one dies forever in debt to those who are kind.”
Malayan proverb

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“Details as they transmute, like a tiny flicker in the sonogram that indicates a heart beat.”

Part my “Details as they ..” riffs on “Details as they unfold.” I came up with it after watching the ultrasound for my first son. I thought it was a good quote for Mother’s Day.

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“Paths do not change when night falls; only the wanderer does.”
Hans Kudszus

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 ”Worried about somebody stealing your amazing idea? Get traction. That shit can’t be stolen.”
Startup L. Jackson (@StartupLJackson) April 25 tweet

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“You are being encouraged to look left and right at potential competition, I would try and walk around the table and look at the situation from your prospect’s perspective.”
Sean Murphy in answer to “Q: How Much Attention Should I Pay To Potential Competition?

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I’m proof against that word failure. I’ve seen behind it. The only failure a man ought to fear is failure of cleaving to the purpose he sees to be best.
George Eliot in Felix Holt, the Radical (1866) Full text at Gutenberg online

This is the old sense of the word cleave, meaning to stick to. More context

“But I’m proof against that word failure. I’ve seen behind it. The only failure a man ought to fear is failure in cleaving to the purpose he sees to be best. As to just the amount of result he may see from his particular work—that’s a tremendous uncertainty: the universe has not been arranged for the gratification of his feelings. As long as a man sees and believes in some great good, he’ll prefer working toward that in the way he’s best fit for, come what may. I put effects at their minimum, but I’d rather have the maximum of effect, if it’s of the sort I care for, than the maximum of effect I don’t care for—a lot of fine things that are not to my taste—and if they were, the conditions of holding them while the world is what it is, are such as would jar on me like grating metal.”
George Eliot in Felix Holt, the Radical

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A discovery conversation is with another human: explore their situation and enable a business relationship, don’t “gather data.”
Sean Murphy in “Don’t Ask Your Next Question Before You Learn From the Last Answer

This is my “twitter version” of this passage from  ”Don’t Ask Your Next Question Before You Learn From the Last Answer

“I work in B2B markets where my key objective in a discovery conversation is to understand the other person’s situation in a manner that also lays the foundation for a potential business relationship. If you “gather data” using an interview style that leaves the other party without any desire to do business with you then you will not succeed in a B2B market.”
Sean Murphy

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“Business is more exciting than any game”
Max Aitken, Lord Beaverbook

I credited Kitty O’Neill Collins in July 2008; she may not actually exist.

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“Teaching peers is one of the best ways to develop mastery.”
Jeff Atwood in “The Vast and Endless Sea

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“Technical skill is mastery of complexity,
while creativity is mastery of simplicity.”
Christopher Zeeman in “Catastrophe Theory: selected papers, 1972-1977 “

h/t Quotes on Design

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Lion in Winter: A great man whose prominence and powers have ebbed with age and setbacks and will not be regained.

Who is on your list? Which CEO’s, thought leaders, companies qualify?

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“Art is I; science is we.”
Claude Bernard

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“It is the essence of genius to make use of the simplest ideas.”
Charles Peguy

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“We fail more often because we solve the wrong problem than because we get the wrong solution to the right problem.”
Russell Ackoff

h/t Hermanni Hyytiälä (@hemppah)

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“An impossibility does not disturb us until its accomplishment shows what fools we were.”
Henry S. Haskins in “Meditations in Wall Street (1940)”

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“A good design is driven by needs and defined by constraints.”
Astik Pant

h/t Quotes on Design

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“The trouble with organizing a thing is that pretty soon folks get to paying more attention to the organization than to what they’re organized for.”
Laura Ingalls Wilder

h/t Glen B. Alleman

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“Thoughts left unsaid are never wasted.”
Henry S. Haskins in “Meditations in Wall Street (1940)”

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“The hero is known for achievements, the celebrity for well-knownness. The hero reveals the possibilities of human nature. The celebrity reveals the possibilities of the press and the media. Celebrities are people who make news, but heroes are people who make history. Time makes heroes but dissolves celebrities.”
Daniel Boorstin in “Who Are Our Heroes?

Used in “Memorial Day 2014” (and earlier in “Quotes For Entrepreneurs–December 2012“)

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“So I am content to tell my simple story, without trying to make things seem better than they were; dreading nothing, indeed, but falsity, which, in spite of one’s best efforts, there is reason to dread. Falsehood is so easy, truth so difficult. The pencil is conscious of a delightful facility in drawing a griffin — the longer the claws, and the larger the wings, the better; but that marvelous facility which we mistook for genius is apt to forsake us when we want to draw a real unexaggerated lion. Examine your words well, and you will find that even when you have no motive to be false, it is a very hard thing to say the exact truth, even about your own immediate feelings — much harder than to say something fine about them which is not the exact truth.”
George Eliot in Adam Bede

I used this in “Memorial Day 2014.” I think it’s also food for thought in constructing–or de-constructing–a lot of entrepreneurial stories of success, failure, and lessons learned. Abridged on twitter to:

“Falsehood is so easy, truth so difficult. Even with no motive to be false, it is very hard to say the exact truth.”
George Eliot

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“Control” doesn’t mean “command”; it means “feedback”
Jason Yip (@jchyip)

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“I’m here to teach you, not entertain you” 
“What’s wrong with doing both?”
“What’s wrong is you judge the teaching by how entertaining it is”
Bret Victor (@worrydream)

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The best design question to ask isn’t: “what’s the best way to solve this?”, but rather “what are 10 different ways to solve this?”
Amir Khella (@amirkhella)

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“An organisation’s results are determined through webs of human commitments, born in webs of human conversations.”
Fernando Flores

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“Without the desire and ability to create new understandings, a relationship can’t grow — it can only be maintained.”
Michael Schrage

h/t David Alan Quote Archive

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“Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire  tapestry.”
Richard Feynman

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“I love all insider memoirs. It doesn’t matter whether it’s truck-drivers or doctors. I think everybody likes to go backstage, find out what people think and what they talk about and what specialised job they have.”
David Mamet

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“Sometimes you have to keep ideas for decades before they have any use.”
Marc English

h/t Quotes on Design

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Memorial Day 2014

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Quotes, skmurphy

On Memorial Day we commemorate those who have died in the service of our country. It’s a day of remembrance more than of celebration. I offer some quotes on death, heroism, and the stories we tell for you to meditate on.

“Son. Everyone dies alone. That’s what it is. It’s a door. It’s one person wide. When you go through it, you do it alone. But it doesn’t  mean you’ve got to be alone before you go through the door. And believe me, you aren’t alone on the other side.”
Jim Butcher, in “Dead Beat

“The hero is known for achievements, the celebrity for well-knownness. The hero reveals the possibilities of human nature. The celebrity reveals the possibilities of the press and the media. Celebrities are people who make news, but heroes are people who make history. Time makes heroes but dissolves celebrities.”
Daniel Boorstin in “Who Are Our Heroes?

“So I am content to tell my simple story, without trying to make things seem better than they were; dreading nothing, indeed, but falsity, which, in spite of one’s best efforts, there is reason to dread. Falsehood is so easy, truth so difficult. The pencil is conscious of a delightful facility in drawing a griffin — the longer the claws, and the larger the wings, the better; but that marvelous facility which we mistook for genius is apt to forsake us when we want to draw a real unexaggerated lion. Examine your words well, and you will find that even when you have no motive to be false, it is a very hard thing to say the exact truth, even about your own immediate feelings — much harder than to say something fine about them which is not the exact truth.”
George Eliot in Adam Bede

Related Posts


Postscript: I was reading “The Paths of Long Ago” a 1925 book of poems by Wilbur D. Nesbit and came across this one that is apropos Memorial Day.

A Drum Song of To-Day

I hear it roll in the valley, I hear it surge down from the hill;
With rhythmical rally the drum-song is thralling me still.
It comes with a throbbing and thrumming, a mellow insistent refrain
As low as the langorous humming of bees in the clover-edged lane:

“Remember! Remember! Remember! They sleep on the hilldsides afar;
Their camp fires have left not an ember and yet you know well where they are.
I called them one morn with my beating, they leaped at my vibrant behest–
With dull, muffled measures repeating, I bade them lie down in their rest.

“You heap up mounds where they slumber with roses and lilies and rue;
Their battles and marches you number, and tributes of love you renew.
Aye, this for the ones that are sleeping is all that a nation may give–
And what of the faith you are keeping with such of the soldiers as live?

The dead–you have hallowed their ashes; each tomb you have named as a shrine,
Above which the old banner flashes its hues through the shade and the shine.
God bless them, and keep them, and rest them, and hold them in memory yet!
The living one–Ah, do you test them by seeming at times to forget?

I hear it roll out through the morning, I hear it surge on through the day,
Sonorous as though ’twere a warning to us in our work and our play:
“Aye, tears for the ones that are sleeping are all that a nation may give–
And what of the faith you are keeping with such of the soldiers as live?”

Wilber D. Nesbit

What is Lean? Lean Innovation 101 on May 27, 2014

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Customer Development, Events

Linked-CXO-Forum-LinkedInSean Murphy is honored to speak at Linked CXO Forum on Tuesday, May 27th, 2014 at Haworth Showroom in San Francisco, California. Linked CXO provides networking for senior executives – “Bosses Need Professional Development, Too.”

“Lean” provides a scientific approach for creating a product and developing new businesses. Teams can build products or services to meet the needs of early customers by adopting a combination of customer development, business-hypothesis-driven experimentation and iterative product releases.

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

11:30am-1:30pm, San Francisco, California

RSVP is required.  SIGNUPbutton

Key Takeaways:

  •     Why more and more companies are using Lean
  •     What is Lean; What it is Not
  •     Rules of thumb for successful lean innovation

Key concepts:

  •     Get out of your BatCave
  •     Use an initial product (MVP) as a probe to explore the market
  •     Build-measure-learn
  •     When and how to pivot

Speaker: Sean Murphy, CEO of SKMurphy, Inc., offers customer development services for technology entrepreneurs. SKMurphy’s focus is on early customers and early revenue for startups. Sean is an early and active member of the Lean Startup group and has been a workshop presenter and mentor at Lean Startup Conferences. SKMurphy’s clients have offerings in electronic design automation, artificial intelligence, web-enabled collaboration, proteomics, text analytics, legal services automation, and medical services workflow. Sean holds a BS in Mathematical Sciences and an MS in Engineering-Economic Systems (Management Science) from Stanford University.

Advice on Crowdfunding from Matt Oscamou, Mark Palaima, and Noah Dentzel

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, Crowdfunding, Startups

Here is some advice from a couple of founders that ran successful crowdfunding campaigns:

Matt Oscamou, CEO of Frontier Bites shared at a recent Bootstrappers Breakfast meeting that he ran a successful kickstarter campaign $30K for pay for new packaging artwork and initial order. He found it useful as a way friend and family could help support his effort but he had little donations from strangers.

Mark Palaima, Distinguished Engineer at Avagent, hit their funding goal in the first 5 hours. Most of their donations came in the first two days and spent a great deal of time on a marketing road trip hanging out at tech bars showing off the product. See more about their campaigns at Avegant Glyph Kickstarter Surpasses Stretch Goals Before They’re Made, Try the Glyph in a City Near You 

At a recent SV Hardware Startup to Scale meetup, Noah Dentzel, CEO of Nomad Goods emphasized the importance of getting the word out on your campaign.  He offered the tip of writing article for press and bloggers.  His goal is to make their job easier for them.  He also took advance of holes in press schedules – no shows or other delays. His biggest piece of advise is to go for it, ask, knock on the doors. His biggest surprise was learning all the logistics about shipping and delivering products oversea.  He knows that shipping to S and Russia cost $0.90-1.10.

 

Mentor at B2B Startup Weekend

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Events, Silicon Valley, Startups, Workshop

Startup Weekend logoCome share ideas, form teams, and launch startups. … Come join us for weekend-long, hands-on experience where you will learn what it takes to launch a startup, meet others with the same shared passion for entrepreneurship, and maybe even create a new business! Sean Murphy is excited to be a mentor at the event.

June 6-8 in San Francisco, CA

 LEARN MORE IMAGE

Use promo code SFB2B10

During this Startup Weekend, entrepreneurs will be empowered to pitch, build teams and transform their B2B based ideas into Minimum Viable Products (MVPs).


Update Sat-May-17 from Sean Murphy: I am grateful to Scott Sambucci of SalesQualia for recommending me as a mentor and glad that I was able to suggest that Emily Tucker of TaroWorks and Liz Fraley of Single Sourcing Solutions take part as mentors.

Corinne Roosevelt Robinson: Focus for Effect But Look Beyond Your Own Special Interests

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Rules of Thumb

“Nothing is as difficult as to achieve results in this world if one is filled full of great tolerance and the milk of human kindness. The person who achieves must generally be a one-idea individual, concentrated entirely on that one idea, and ruthless in his aspect toward other men and other ideas.”
Corinne Roosevelt Robinson in chapter 1 of “My Brother Theodore Roosevelt.” 

This passage is actually about her father, Theodore Roosevelt Sr.  She continues:

“My father, in his brief life of forty-six years, achieved almost everything he undertook, and he undertook many things, but, although able to give the concentration which is necessary to achievement, he had the power of interesting himself in many things outside of his own special interests, and by the most delicate and comprehending sympathy made himself a factor in the lives of any number of other human beings.”
Corinne Roosevelt Robinson in chapter 1 of “My Brother Theodore Roosevelt.”

Good advice for entrepreneurs: you have to focus for effect, making hard choices to drive a project or product forward. But if you are only interested in yourself and your own needs you won’t have much of a life.

Steve Hodas’ Lean Startup 2013 Talk Offers Recipe for Re-Invigorating Intrapreneurs

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Lean Startup, skmurphy

Steve Hodas packs a lot of insight packed into this 15 minute talk from the Lean Startup 2013 conference. A recent conversation reminded me how much I enjoyed this talk and the savvy approach Hodas outlines for enterprise or large organizations who want to encourage innovation by partnering with startups and re-invigorating intrapreneurs and internal change agents:

  • define an API to share data;
  • elicit support from change agents on the front lines;
  • allow for a lot of experimentation;
  • only pick winners based on results achieved after months of perseverance.

This forces you to create platforms for experimentation, it sends a strong message you are committed to improvement based on results, and forces the entrenched bureaucracy to defend on many fronts instead of attacking the incoming executives new “anointed” solution.

Presenter: Steven Hodas @stevenhodas / NYC Department of Education iZone
Video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBxJNFAILw8

Articles/Blogs/Commentary on the talk or related content:

Don’t Ask Your Next Question Before You Learn From the Last Answer

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Customer Development, Sales

Interviewing Tip #5: Run An Interview, Not A Conversation
“I once listened as one of my colleagues conducted and interview that made me cringe. It sounded more like two old friends catching up more than anything. “Aren’t you suppose to be gathering information?” I thought, but his mistake is not uncommon, especially in our climate of approachability and human business. But, as the interviewer, your job is to lead the conversation, not participate in it.”
Garret Moon in “How to Interview Your Users and Get Useful Feedback

If you find yourself talking with a prospect for a few minutes and you are not getting any questions back from them then your discovery conversation may have deteriorated into an interrogation.

My goal in a discovery interview is to have a serious conversation about issues, needs, constraints, and goals. There is a risk an interview can become a casual conversation, but casual conversation is a very useful method for establishing rapport: context matters.

I work in B2B markets where my key objective in a discovery conversation is to understand the other person’s situation in a manner that also lays the foundation for a potential business relationship. If you “gather data” using an interview style that leaves the other party without any desire to do business with you then you will not succeed in a B2B market.

Moon includes a pull quote:

“Interviews are different from conversations. We’ll use a relaxed tone, but we are purposefully guiding the interaction, often thinking several questions ahead.”
Steve PortigalInterviewing Users

While it’s a good idea to think several questions ahead, I worry that too much focus on getting your pre-planned questions answered may suppress learning: you may be following a track laid down before the customer said something surprising that merits an improvised exploration.

Here are some related blog posts on customer interviews and discovery conversations:

Circle the Chairs

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Community of Practice, skmurphy

Brian Fuller had an interesting blog post on “Industry events need to get more social.

Panels and speeches at events are the live equivalent of newspaper publishing: We talk, you listen. Newspapers and magazines have been pounded for the better part of a decade that the we-say, you read model isn’t what people want in the age of ubiquitous and constant information. Why should it be the same for live events?

Array the chairs in the room in a great circle around the presenter(s). Everyone has to look at everyone else; no one hides; everyone’s forced to be attentive and stay off their laptops and cell phones. The circular set-up makes conversation easier. Up the ante by removing microphones from the speakers and panelists. Make sure the moderators really know how to facilitate a conversation, even if it means calling on people in the audience. Phil Donahue meets sub-threshold leakage.

These are great suggestions but they have a few things working against them. And I say this as someone who really likes the round table  format and has used it many times:

  • We did the EDA Bloggers Birds of a Feather this way at DAC 2008 and ICCAD 2008.
  • We structured the “Managing Project Health” Birds of a Feather at DAC 2009 as lightning talks followed by discussion in the audience.
  • We run the Bootstrappers Breakfasts®  this way as well.
  • All of our workshops

I only mention this to show I like the format and understand its strengths.

The drawbacks:

  1. Only works with small groups: the nature of the interactions start to breakdown at 16-20 people and really starts to have problems above 40 or 50 people. There are other formats that build on it that have the group break into smaller discussions and then reform and report but the practical limit on the meeting size is somewhere around 40 or 50 for a single large roundtable. Above 16-20 it becomes more difficult to manage.
  2. Speakers sell audiences on attending. While the ‘unconference’ format is also gaining in popularity, I haven’t seen any in the electronics or EDA space. The EDA Process workshop comes closest to free discussion, but again it’s a smaller audience and people are in one room for the day and get to know one another better.
  3. Requires strong moderation. When a panel breaks down into a series of monologues you may still learn something. But when a roundtable doesn’t come off it can be very painful. It’s a challenge to bring folks together for 60-90 minutes and foster a good discussion. We do it at the breakfasts but we limit the table size to 20 (and most breakfasts have 8-16 attendees). Sharing a meal or a cup of coffee also seems to help break the ice. We have the networking take place afterward, once folks have had a chance to get to know one another.

I think the roundtable format works better when the attendees are still wrestling with emerging problems where collaboration trumps competitive pressures (e.g. where the “stag hunt” model still holds). This was certainly the case for the blogger BoF’s and the Project Health BoF as well as the Bootstrappers Breakfasts. Everyone is more focused on learning than “getting the word out” about their product or service.

And I think that points up another problem with the format for conferences. Sponsors pay and take part to get the word out about their product. They don’t want to be in a setting where competitors and others can attend in what is effectively a peer position. If you are on a panel, up on a raised platform or stage, there is an unconscious presumption that you must be smarter than the audience. If everyone is sitting around in a circle, then everyone’s opinions matter more or less equally.

This was the inspiration behind the Conversation Central model that had 8-16 around a table having a conversation. The premise was that we would talk about issues facing the EDA industry that had not yet settled into competing solutions from vendors.

Here are some comments that Jeff Jarvis gave at TEDxNYed that mirror yours:

This is bullshit.

Why should you be sitting there listening to me? To paraphrase Dan Gillmor, you know more than I do. Will Richardson should be up here instead of me. And to paraphrase Jay Rosen, you should be the people formerly known as the audience.

But right now, you’re the audience and I’m lecturing.

That’s bullshit.

What does this remind of us of? The classroom, of course, and the entire structure of an educational system built for the industrial age, turning out students all the same, convincing them that there is one right answer–and that answer springs from the lecturn. If they veer from it they’re wrong; they fail.

Q: How Much Attention Should I Pay To Potential Competition?

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

Q: When I introduce the idea for my business a lot of my friends are quick to ask: “are you sure there is no one else doing this?” In today’s fast and disruptive business world, I think it is very hard to come up with a business idea that is 100% unique, and utilizes a completely new set of technology features. I constantly find myself arguing that it doesn’t matter if someone else also has the same startup or business idea, it’s how you go about executing your business idea that matters.

What are your thoughts on competitors and how put off should I be when I find out another company has a similar product and mission to my startup?  

Your friends are trying to help you but you may be asking them to comment on a problem where they have little expertise. Evaluating a new business idea is challenging even for professional investors and firms already in the target market–how many times have new entrants been underestimated or new technologies view as far more promising than they turned out to be. It’s a hard problem.

You are being encouraged to look left and right at potential competition, I would try and walk around the table and look at the situation from your prospect’s perspective.

Perhaps a more important set of of question for  B2B are:

  • What is your prospect doing now to solve the problem?
  • Are they satisfied with their current solution or do they still view this a critical business issue?
  • What other solution options are available to them?
  • Which of these other options have they also evaluated and rejected and why have they done so?
  • Are you providing a capability or solution for what they consider a critical need.

Execution only matters in the context of a particular category of customer with a distinct and identifiable problem or need.

Working to develop new capabilities when it’s not clear who will pay for them may give you the illusion of progress for a while but ultimately won’t let you build a business.

My suggestion is to pay close attention when prospects ask you to explain why your product is superior or at least different in some useful ways from what they are currently using or have available to them.

My question is why are you talking to your friends instead of having serious conversations with prospects? What are your prospects asking for or telling you?

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