Steve Blank: “This isn’t Dogma”

Summary:  Steve Blank presented to the NEXT Beijing mentors, teams, and organizers on Monday.  He emphasized that the big idea – startups are about searching, not executing – is what matters, not following anyone’s specific process.

On Monday the organizers, mentors & supporters of NEXT Beijing were treated to a private workshop with Steve Blank.  Steve was his usual self – informative, insightful, and entertaining.  The 2 hour workshop flew by and most of us remained for another hour to talk about the ideas and how the can be applied to China’s startup ecosystem.

Steve make a couple of points that I wanted to share with you.

“Don’t Fall in Love with My Process – Fall in Love with the Big Idea”

Me introducing Steve to the NEXT mentors, teams and supporters in Beijing

Me introducing Steve to the NEXT mentors, teams and supporters in Beijing

As movements begin to mature, inevitably factions and new ideas spring up – the Agile software movement being the best example in my career.  Steve emphasized that his process is just one process – it is most important for us to focus on the big ideas and adapt the techniques to our situation.

Whether you call it Lean Startup, Customer Development, etc., the big idea is the same:  startups are about searching for a scalable model, not executing on an idea.  Our companies are not small versions of big companies.

It is easy for those of us in the trenches to lose sight of this and wondering if we’re doing Lean Startup “the right way”.  There is no one “right way” to do Customer Development – we heard it today from the man himself.

“You have to Localize Customer Development”

In many of my startup help sessions I talk to entrepreneurs from around the world.  Often times they express concerns about difficulties applying Lean Startup tactics to their local market.  I try to remind them that we’re all learning together and that they need to adapt these techniques to their communities – what works in Silicon Valley doesn’t work everywhere.

It was great to hear Steve make that point – he went as far as to ask audience members what they thought about doing Customer Development in China.

Once you get the Big Idea, There is No “Right Way” to Do Lean Startup

There is no startup cookbook, no secret set of steps that will bring clarity to the confusion – I wish there was, I’d love to read it.  I’ve been advising teams around the world to stop looking for magic and focus on the big picture.  Watch Steve’s Udacity Course, read Running Lean, attend your local Lean Startup Meetups.  Doing so will help you internalize the big idea, hone your instincts.

Then find your own way and remember there is no magic process – we heard it from the man himself this week.

About the Photo

I took this photo while Steve was presenting.  If you ever have the chance to see him live, I highly suggest taking advantage of it.  What an amazing, generous guy.


  1. Cesc March 27, 2013 at 6:01 am #

    It’s great he is saying this. So much people seemed to be looking for the “step by step guide” instead of really embracing the fundamentals.

  2. Deverick March 30, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    Awesome event Kevin, I am really sorry to be missing it. Once in a lifetime opportunity to be getting inputs from Steve Blank the man himself.

    Good luck organizing the rest of NEXT, I am sure you have a great team of helpers!

    • kevindewalt March 30, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

      Thanks Deverick,

      I’m getting inquiries from people who want to do one in Shanghai in the near future. Talk to you soon.!

  3. Sarah G May 22, 2015 at 9:35 am #

    I am applying this in an internal environment. I wanted to get your take on MVP as a function of solving a 1st level of user need, or as a design goal defined as what success looks like. Can you even do it this way? Your article is really helpful and making me thing about the big picture I just want the first thing to be a small bite of work and still mean something

I read EVERY comment and want to hear from you