Author: Bram Krommenhoek
The most crucial step to a successful startup, according to the most successful entrepreneurs.
What is the point of starting your startup?
Is it to make money?
Is it to be famous?
Is it to eventually get to a point where you don’t have to work anymore?
The answer to this should be no.
What’s the point of starting your startup, then?
The point is to solve a meaningful problem FOR OTHER PEOPLE.
FOR OTHER PEOPLE
Most startups aren’t successful because they fail to acknowledge this. Specifically, they want to build their technology based on their worldview.
Insert the Innovator’s Bias. Most of us come up with problems around our brilliant ideas, and then try to find just enough evidence to convince ourselves we’re on the correct path.
But how do you prevent the Innovator’s Bias from killing your startup?
Get to know their world
Steve Blank has worked on and founded eight startups, four of which have gone public. Moreover, he’s considered by many to be the top-tier of entrepreneurial masterminds.
Steve Blank has developed a method to help startups get towards more success. He calls it Customer Development. The principles of his method are:
- Focus on how you will help customers reduce their suffering and solve their problem.
- There are no facts inside the building: you have to talk to your customer to move forward.
- Business plans hardly survive first contact with customers. Thus, drawing them up is almost always a waste of time.
Put it to work
If you and your team are not taking advantage of customer development — you may be digging for copper when you could be striking gold.
The cornerstone of Customer Development is the customer interview. When you’re able to work with customers to relive that moment of struggle, it’s amazing.
You can figure out whether and how exactly you add value to your customer with Customer Development. But how do you put this into action?
Here’s my experience after over 200 customer development interviews.
Ready to kickstart your startup’s growth?
“Hi and thank you so much for participating in this interview. Maybe it’s best if I clarify a bit about the context and purpose of our conversation. We’re an early-stage business currently trying to figure out whether our ideas can help other people. I’d love to tell you more about the solution at the end, but first we really want to learn as much as we can about you. So you’re a [customer segment], and I’d love it if our goal could be to get to the core of you: your goals, the challenges you face and how you deal with those. Think about it as if we’re filming a documentary. There are no right or wrong answers, we’re just trying to get your story in your words. Any questions? Great! Let’s begin.”
Understand their role
- How would you describe your role as a [customer segment]?
- Can you walk me through a typical day? Can you for example tell me about your last two days?
- What do you enjoy the most about your job?
- What does success look like for you? How do you measure it in your position?
- What are the most important goals you’re trying to achieve? Why are they important?
- What is the hardest part about achieving that success or those goals?
- Why is it a problem for you?
- What frustrates you the most about your job?
- Tell me about how you deal with [problem] today… What do you currently use/do to deal with this problem?
- Tell me about how you looked for a solution. What was the process like to search for a solution? Where did you start?
- What alternative solutions did you consider?
- Did you have any hesitations and concerns about using the different solution?
- Before you started using this solution, did you imagine using the product would be like?
- What’s not ideal about this solution?
- Did it help you get the job done?
- If you could wave a magic wand and be able to do anything you can’t do today, what would it be? Don’t worry about whether it’s possible, just anything.
Wrap it up
- We’re trying to understand this problem from a wide range of perspectives. Do you know two or three other people who are struggling with [the problem they’re actively trying to solve]?
- We’re actively exploring a solution to [their problem]. Can we contact you if we have a viable solution?
- This has been incredibly helpful. I’m really excited to incorporate what we talked about into our plans.
Somewhere along the way, you’ll face these things:
1. You will have to deal with your negative emotions.
2. You will face a load of resistance and fear.
3. You will want to quit.
If you can invest early into customer understanding, you line yourself up for a sustainable business from the outset. Understanding their perspective will:
- Give you a base to create your engine of growth.
- Know you’ve got a good product in a good market.
- Align team members on a clear vision for the problem.
This is how you separate yourself from the masses.
Call to Action
If your startup isn’t going the way you want it to, ask yourself:
Which 5 potential customers can I talk to in the coming week?
And go and do it!