“Angry Birds was Rovio’s 52nd game. Startups are hard, but they can also go from difficult to great incredibly quickly. You just need to survive long enough and keep going so you can create your 52nd game.” –Chris Dixon, The myth of the overnight success One of the great joys of working with startups is the […]
Summary: People have many ways of coming up with startup ideas. The most successful for me has been to (1) pick the market I want to serve – then (2) try to find a problem to solve. Not only has this approach made Customer Development more efficient… but serving the customers I want to help makes startup life more fun.
Today’s Entrepreneurs are generalists, and that means having proficiency in many skills including programming. Fortunately most people with limited programming experience can get a lot out having some basic skills. Being a really good programmer is not practical or optimal.
Summary: Programming is becoming a new form of startup literacy – a language you need to effectively communicate with the team. Start learning this lifelong skill today and you’ll get more startup opportunities, will build better products – and you’ll enjoy it a lot more.
Many entrepreneurs believe the key to an MVP is identifying the right minimal features for the right customers. It turns out this is mostly a fool’s errand because an MVP isn’t about product features – it is about the next phase of Discovery.
Summary: With worldwide explosion of entrepreneurship educational programs and accelerators, more and more of us are mentoring startups. In our eagerness to help, sometimes we can distract entrepreneurs from the most critical issues they need to address. Hence the Mentor’s Oath: Primum non obturba – First, don’t distract.
Summary: Ironically enough, starting a company with a long-term goal has helped me achieve success faster than having short-term goals. Want to relieve some startup anxiety? Think about what you want to do for the next 20 years – you’ll be surprised how many of today’s problems look easier.
During my Startup Help sessions with entrepreneurs worldwide I am frequently asked to review a 1-page summary of their business assumptions. Usually the team has filled out Ash Maurya’s Lean Canvas or Alexander Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas. I recommend that entrepreneurs – especially those new to Lean Startup – fill out a canvas. After 3 […]
Summary: A startup takes a full-time commitment of 5-10 years – a good chunk of our lives. A great deal of that time will be spent talking to and empathizing with our customers. The most important choice you can make is deciding what customers you want to serve – everything else comes from this decision.
Summary: I encourage all entrepreneurs to build their own MVP – not so they can become a great (or good) programmer, but because it is the most efficient way to get an MVP in the hands of customers and validate the major business risks. Here are some examples from my current startup, soHelpful.me.
Summary: Yes, yes, startups are hard. Brutally hard. But one of the reasons we chose this career is because we want meaningful, enjoyable work. While the emerging entrepreneurship management science of being a Lean Startup is our best remedy against failure, process isn’t worth it if it ruins the fun. So take breaks from the process and don’t let it.
Summary: Whether you’re 15 or 75 – every entrepreneur should take advantage of the amazing tools and platforms available to us and start building her product. You’ll execute faster, recruit better talent, learn new skills and how to deal with constraints. And no matter what happens – you can keep going.
Summary: Most people expect us to give them sales pitches about our products. When we instead start asking Customer Development questions about their habits and problems, the conversation can seem really weird to them. I’ve found that framing the meeting by (1) asking for advice, (2) keeping the meeting short, (3) giving them unique industry insight, and (4) framing the background questions all make the conversation more natural.
Summary: Steve Blank teaches entrepreneurs to test business assumptions by conducting dozens of interviews with prospective customers. At first it took me a huge amount of time, but over the years I’ve developed a process to make it easier. I manage a running list of interview candidates, organize my calendar with help from a virtual assistant, and have a well-crafted intro request email. I hope it saves you time as well.
Steve Blank and others advocate having lots of face-to-face interviews with potential customers. While this approach yields the best possible insight, it also takes a lot of time to get introductions and meet people, particularly for those with a day job who are working part time on their startup. I’ve used Craigslist to successfully recruit candidates with Amazon gift cards and quickly got insight into whether my initial idea had merit. In this post I explain how to do it and share a job template to help you get started.