Newsletter: Customer Discovery Interviews

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

SKMurphy Newsletter
for October 2015

This blog post summarizes our October newsletter, you can subscribe to the monthly SKMurphy newsletter using the form at the right

Customer Interviews

Customer Discovery interviews are key to discovering whether or not a market exists for your product or service and the skills and questions you hone in the early market will continue to be refined as you scale. This month we focus on how to start them, techniques for cultivating your curiosity so that you learn as much as possible, and some suggestions for how to review and organize your findings on an ongoing basis.

Scaling Up To a High Reliability Organization

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 4 Finding your Niche, 5 Scaling Up Stage, Favorites, Rules of Thumb, skmurphy, Startups

Randy Cadieux, founder of V-Speed LLC, started to post some interesting articles in the Lean Startup Circle Group on LinkedIn in June of this year, in particular his “Working on the Edge of Failure.” High reliability organizations have a lot to teach startups so I decided to reach out to him to compare notes. This led to some great conversations and a recorded sessions that we have transcribed into this edited transcript–with some hyperlinks added for context.

Good and Bad Reasons to Pivot

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, 2 Open for Business Stage, 3 Early Customer Stage, checklist, Favorites, Intrapreneur, Lean Startup, MVP, skmurphy, Startups

Much has been written about a startup making a pivot in direction after Eric Ries first coined the term
in a 2009 blog post “Pivot don’t Jump to a New Vision.” The word pivot has attracted almost as much wordplay as the word lean.  What follows is a short list of good and bad reasons to pivot.

Nature, Technology and Magic

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

What seems natural, artificial, or supernatural is a function of familiarity. Nature is the background or context for innovation. The challenge is that we live in a world and culture formed by millennia of innovation so that some incredibly advanced technologies seem natural. The difference between technology and magic is not that one works more reliably than the other but that technology is part of the adjacent possible–seemingly impossible but comprehensible. Magic breaks our existing paradigm and is initially incomprehensible. As entrepreneurs we need to present our innovations as technology not magic.

Entrepreneurs Focus On Customers Not Startup Mechanics

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in skmurphy, Startups

Excerpts from Paul Grahams’ October 2014 essay “Before the Startup” with commentary interspersed. This essay is in some ways less self-confident than many of his earlier ones. He seems to recognize more explicitly the limits of his ability to offer advice that entrepreneurs in the Y Combinator portfolio–or entrepreneurs applying to Y Combinator–will actually follow. The primary point he hammers home is the need to focus on customers and to realize that a startup a significant multi-year commitment.

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.

Busyness Won’t Build Your Business

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in skmurphy, Startups

Busyness won’t build your business, it closes off your creativity and your luck. Anticipate, or at least acknowledge, missed deadlines and commitments: triage or re-negotiate.

Busyness

I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it.

Tim Kreider “The Busy Trap

It’s a terrible feeling when you are behind in your work. What might have been good if delivered early and adequate if on time is now insufficient. So you have to keep raising the bar the later you get.  Understanding what is critical to accomplish means making hard choices, and just as when you won’t admit a loss on a stock because you haven’t sold it, you can console yourself that you are still working on that deliverable and it’s just a little late.

Hurried

 “The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is on the contrary born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else–we are the busiest people in the world.”
Eric Hoffer

Hurry creates tunnel vision.  It closes off your ability to notice, create, and act upon chance opportunities. It makes you less lucky. It’s always a good idea to maintain focus and finish the critical tasks that are on your list for today or that you have committed to a customer or a partner.  But if your list is longer than about six hours of work and you are like most entrepreneurs I know, many won’t get done and you should at least prioritize.

Mark to Market

“That thud of the back against the wall is a fantastic motivator.”
Christopher L. Smith

I have a very long to do list that contains goals for the day, week, month, quarter, year, and next year. Sometimes I have to mark tasks [d] for dropped instead of [x] for done. The sooner I do that so that I can finish the critical ones the less I have hanging over me. I don’t mean to make this sound easy or even straightforward but consider the following to catch up and be creative again:

  • Drop tasks that may have been a good idea at one time. Put them on a “good idea” list you can revisit in six months time.
  • Explicitly de-commit or re-negotiate a new deadline if you know you are going to miss one or you have already missed it.
  • If it’s possible: do a partial job early, send a draft, send an outline, timebox for 20 minutes or 30 minutes or an hour and get a small chunk done and ask for feedback. The worst outcome is to be late and have an incorrect idea of what’s expected or needed.

Related Blog Posts

Don’t Waste Time Painting Tom Sawyer’s Fence: Proving Someone Wrong Is A Poor Motivator

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

Don’t waste time painting Tom Sawyer’s fence: proving someone wrong is actually a poor source of motivation. It’s OK to ignore conventional wisdom, but don’t get trapped into doing someone else’s work (or building their platform) just to prove them wrong. Build something instead of trying to win an argument.

Improve Your Sales Pitch

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Sales, Startups, Workshop

Peter Cohan from Second Derivative offers some of the best sales demo/pitch training and hands-on learning that we have seen. So we are honored to offer these interactive workshops to startups.

Here is the upcoming schedule:

March 5&6, 2014 “Great Demo!” San Jose, CA Register Now
May 21&22, 2014 “Great Demo!” San Jose, CA Register Now
October 15&16, 2014 “Great Demo!” San Jose, CA Register Now

Difference Between a Hypothesis and an Assumption

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, 2 Open for Business Stage, 3 Early Customer Stage, Favorites, Intrapreneur, Startups

The difference between a hypothesis and an assumption is that the first is normally explicit and the second implicit. A hypothesis is what is being tested explicitly by an experiment. An assumption is tested implicitly. By making your assumptions as well as your hypotheses explicit you increase the clarity of your approach and the chance for learning.

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