I had the pleasure of attending Steve Blank’s talk on “Customer Development for Startups” on Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at TiE and I wanted to offer some pointers both to content he referenced and some related information on Customer Development.
Steve Blank on Customer Development at TiE Wed-Sep-17-2008
The focus of the talk was how to organize sales, marketing and business development in a high technology startup to address the following key issues:
- Where is the market?
- Who are the customers?
- What is the minimum feature set needed to satisfy these customers?
- How to scale sales?
He offered insights and concrete examples for why some startups are successful and others are left to sell off their furniture–having some experience with the latter I can advise you that Desk Depot will not only deliver they will pick up. Some simple rules of thumb from the talk:
- Understand “a day in the life” of your customer: in particular
- How they will determine they can benefit from your product?
- Who will be involved in the decision to evaluate or purchase your product?
- Focus on minimum feature set so that you can get an adequate solution in front of customers as rapidly as possible.
- A PowerPoint slide or a datasheet is as useful as a working prototype in the early market, more useful since it’s easier to change.
- Don’t add features unless it’s absolutely essential.
- The founders must sell.
- Don’t hire more than one sales person before you start to reliably close business.
- If the founders aren’t involved in early early sales they cannot balance whether it’s the sales presentation or the product that needs to change.
Some additional resources for Customer Development:
- His slides (from the TiE Site) are here TIE20091709.pdf
- Blank referenced a great presentation by Eric Ries that explains how agile development methods are complementary and reinforcing to the Customer Development methodology. It’s available here: Customer Development Engineering.
- Handouts from the Technology Entrepreneurship course Blank is teaching this fall with Tom Kosnik
- Blank’s Book “Four Steps to the Epiphany” is available from Amazon and CafePress (which is $10 cheaper).
- We blogged about Steve Blank on Customer Development for Startups in January which covered his last seminar at TiE in more detail.
- We blogged about Steve Blank’s August 2007 talk at TiE
- Mark Duncan and I collaborated on a “Crucial Marketing Concepts for Startups” briefing that details several key concepts from “Four Steps to the Epiphany” (and a book review in the long version) and relates them to “the chasm” and “whole product” concepts.
Update Tue-Oct-7: Philip Mikal E-mails:
Came across your blog post on Steve Blank’s recent talk at TIE. I’m also a fan and thought you’d be interested in his recent talk at Stanford: http://ecorner.stanford.edu/authorMaterialInfo.html?mid=2048
It’s a good talk and the only on-line recording I am aware of where Steve talks about Customer Development. It’s downloadable as a podcast and worth listening to a couple of times.