Steve Blank and Customer Development

Although I had mentioned him in previous posts such as The Art of Selling and his Views on Entrepreneurship, I had never read Steve Blank’s until now. I just finished reading The Four Steps to the Epiphany and I must just say it is a great book.

I will explain into some details his theory but the main reason I love this book is how he explains why founders are critical in all the decisions of the early phases of a start-up. Not the usual “hire business people”, but “learn and become an expert until you reach your limits”. I should immediately add that it is not an easy book to read and certainly mostly useful to people in the process of launching a start-up or developing new products. His web site is also very informative, you will find tons of slides of his teachings on the web and I particularly recommend the list of books he suggests reading.

Steve Blank is famous worldwide (mea culpa for not mentioning him more before) for his theory on the Customer Developement. Whereas we all know that the high-tech world is not about technology (no it’s not; ideas and technologies are far from sufficient to explain this world), we have a tendency to focus on products (much more important than technologies) and markets (business vs. technology). But Steve Blank explains how products can be an illusion (if never sold to customers) and how markets can be extremely dangerous if not well understood; whereas what counts are the users of products, the people which make markets, i.e. the customers. He explains how important it is to interact with potential customers in an iterative manner (bottom-up) even before designing and developing the product, then while developing them and be careful about a top-bottom-only analysis of the markets.

This is one of his famous slides where he explains that Product Development in isolation is deathly and should be done in parallel with Customer Developement only. Start-ups do not need teams in Marketing, Sales or Business Development, but only two teams, in Product Development and Customer Development, each headed by one of the Founder(s)/CEO. Below is another detailed description of this process (also available online). Then when they become large, they can switch to the traditional models.

You should absolutely read this if you are in a start-up mode. This may help you avoid many (possibly deathly) mistakes.

Tags: , , ,

7 Responses to “Steve Blank and Customer Development”

  1. herve says:

    and he has a nice definition of a start-up: “Startups began to recognize that they weren’t merely a smaller version of a large company. Rather they understood that a startup is a temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model. This meant that startups needed their own tools, techniques and methodologies distinct from those used in large companies.”

  2. […] So why did I feel some frustration? There is probably the feeling Ries gives that his method is a science. [Page 3]: “Startup success can be engineered by following the right process, which means it can be learned, which means it can be taught.” [Page 148]: “Because of the scientific methodology that underlies the Lean Startup, there is often a misconception that it offers a rigid clinical formula for making pivot or persevere decisions. There is no way to remove the human element – vision, intuition, judgment – from the practice of entrepreneurship, nor that would be desirable”. I was probably expecting more recipes, as the ones Blnak gives in The Four Steps to the Epiphany. […]

  3. […] start-up? Pas vraiment. Mon collègue Pascal (merci ) vient de me signaler un nouvel article de Steve Blank, Why Governments Don’t Get Startups, qui donne une excellente définition du […]

  4. […] is a start-up, right? Not so. Thanks to my colleague Pascal :-), I just read another article by Steve Blank, Why Governments Don’t Get Startups, who gives the perfect […]

  5. […] customers and there are easier routes to revenues – the concepts around lean start-ups (Eric Ries, Steve Blank) make product development more iterative thanks to efficient interactions with early […]

Leave a Reply

nine + four =