Nivi · March 20th, 2009
Steve Blank, the king of customer development, has started a blog at steveblank.com. And he’s on Twitter too: @sgblank. Steve is one of the great startup mentors of all time and he is using his blog to share 30 years of Silicon Valley war stories. Start at the beginning, and read every word he writes.
According to his book, Four Steps to the Epiphany, Steve is a “retired entrepreneur who… has been in 8 startups in operational roles from CEO to VP of Marketing… These startups resulted in five IPO’s, and three very deep craters.”
Marc Andreessen calls Steve “one of the most strategic thinkers you will find on the topic of starting high-tech companies… buy [his book], read it, keep it under your pillow and absorb it via osmosis.”
Steve’s theories are elaborate, thoughtful, and thorough. Most important of all, they’re based on 30 years of success and failure — they’re tested, not hypothetical.
A few people in the world have built big companies. Even fewer have done it many times. And even fewer can teach us how to do it. Now it’s up to us to learn.
Here’s a snippet from one of Steve’s posts, There’s a Pattern Here, to get you started:
“So what is it that makes some startups successful and leaves others selling off their furniture? Simply this: startups are not small versions of large companies. Yet the processes that early-stage companies were using were identical to that of large corporations. In hindsight it appeared clear that startups that survive the first few tough years do not follow the traditional product-centric launch model espoused by product managers or the venture capital community. Through trial and error, hiring and firing, successful startups all invented a parallel process to product development. In particular, the winners invent and live by a process of customer learning and discovery. It’s a process that doesn’t exist in large companies with existing customers and markets. But it is life and death for a new venture.
“I call this process “Customer Development,” a sibling to “Product Development,” and each and every startup that succeeds recapitulates it, knowingly or not.
“The “Customer Development” model is a paradox because it is followed by successful startups, yet articulated by no one. Its basic propositions are the antithesis of common wisdom yet they are followed by those who succeed.”