Sunday, November 13, 2016

Lean First means Customer Discovery before Product Development

I regularly get people contacting me to talk about their startup and the work they are doing. Frequently they are very very busy doing startup-y things like managing their team, organizing their tasks, raising money... But strangely, not really doing any significant Customer Development. I have run several experiments now where I have made them an offer to take a small time-out, and to run a Lean Startup Experiment to do just one Build-Measure-Learn loop in a formal and transparent way. My experience is that there is serious significant resistance among entrepreneurs to really talk to real customers.

As a person who believes deeply in the Lean Startup methodology, I would start the conversation urging you to stop building your prototype. Clear the space for you to do significant customer engagement.

The Lean Startup idea is that you put Customer Development before Product Development. That is you talk to , understand and adapt to a customer base, discovering and validating your customers before you build things.

You have three main risks:
1) Technical Risk - Can it be built
2) Market Risk - Should it be built
3) Execution risk - Can my team build it

These are in order. Chances are, you do not have technical risk.
And Chances are that you have not talked to enough customers to resolve that there are really customers who have a real problem that are really willing to pay you. (Note that there is a significant difference between the 98% of people who are cheerleaders that tell you happy thoughts and the 2% of customers who really really really are ready to pay you now to solve a problem)

You need to find 100 customers who really really really want to pay you now to solve a problem; before you take one more step on building the product, find those 100 people.

I recommend that you read these three books, in order:

Running Lean by Ash Maurya
Lean Customer Development by Cindy Alvarez
Scaling Lean by Ash Maurya.

And I recommend that you get the Startup Owners Manual by Steve Blank, and strive to read one page a day. Keep reading pages one at a time until they start falling into place.

This would allow you to get focus on this Customer Development before Product Development.

If you are ready to take a leap into a Customer Development experiment, take a look at the work of Adam Berk ( @adamberk ) as outlined in

Remember in the Theory of OOMAAT, your first step is to find just one customer. Don't think about anything more than things that lead you to your first paying customer.  Then we can worry about how we might get to ten paying customers. 

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hey John I'm interested in exploring your next startup contest. Where should I start? I'm in Seattle, we're about to launch, its another 502 software product.