The Startup Owner’s Manual—Part 3—Winners and Losers

Winners and Losers? Their words, not mine. Still, that’s not very nice.


Image courtesy of koko-tewan /

Steve Blank and Bob Dorf’s The Startup Owner’s Manual is a brilliant attempt to help more entrepreneurs become winners and fewer become losers. To do that, they have to share the hard truth. Here it is:

Winners throw out the traditional product management and introduction processes they learned at existing companies. Instead, they combine agile engineering and Customer Development to iteratively build, test and search for a business model, turning unknowns into knowns.

Winners also recognize their startup “vision” as a series of untested hypotheses in need of “customer proof.” They relentlessly test for insights, and they course correct in days or weeks, not months or years, to preserve cash and eliminate time wasted on building features and products that customers don’t want.

Losers blindly execute a rigid product management and introduction methodology. They assumed that the founder’s vision drives the business strategy and product development plans and that all they need to do is to raise funds for execution. (xxiii)

Think about starting a new company (not an established business)—what is your business model? What products or services will you provide? What features will you include? How will you know? Blank and Dorf’s admonition:

Founders, not employees, must search for a business model. The best way to search is for the founders themselves to get out of the building to gain a deep, personal, firsthand understanding of their potential customers’ needs before locking into a specific path and precise product specs. That’s the difference between winners and losers. (xxiii)

So many businesses fail because we think we know what the customer wants (Blackberry Z10), we think we know what features the customer will demand (Facebook’s Poke App). Will your company crank out Edsels or iPhones? Without the Customer Development process, it’s more of a crapshoot than we’d like to admit.

Next, Chapter 1: The Path to Disaster.





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