Sun Tzu Series #2 of 10: “Even the finest sword…” Steve Blank, Author of The Startup Owner’s Manual.
As Sun Tzu, the brilliant military strategist wrote in his Art of War in 520-320 BC (yes BC, so that’s almost 2400 years ago): “Even the finest sword plunged into salt will eventually rust.”
TEC Meeting I, along with about 120, mostly Russian, members of TEC (The Entrepreneur Club) met Steve Blank on Thursday, May 3, 2012 at Wilmer Hale in Palo Alto. However, unlike most of the other 120, I did shake hands with him and took a delightful close-up photo (left).
Steve’s Book? It’s called: The Startup Owner’s Manual. The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company. It was published in March 2012, so by Sun Tzu standards the ink is still wet. All the meeting attendees, including me, received a free copy.
The Book Publisher? K&S Ranch Inc., located in Pescadero is the publisher. Maybe the “S” in “K&S” stands for “Steve.” Steve is also located in Pescadero (he signed the preface, Steve Blank, Pescadero CA). All these years I thought the only item of note in Pescadero was Duarts (famous 100 year old tavern known for its home-made pies and artichoke soup).
Just like the Pescadero revelation, Steve’s talk, flipped my belief that 85-90% of startup success is luck, now I know that it is implementing Steve’s Customer Development Model.
Who is Steve? If you’ve never heard of Steve Blank, taken one of his entrepreneurship classes at Stanford University, U.C. Berkeley, Columbia or been one of the elite scientists selected by the U.S. National Science Foundation to be trained by him, then you’ve been living in a startup vacuum. You might want to rethink whether starting a company is for you.
- Entrepreneurship is an art.
- 90% of startups fail (read the book if you want to be in the 10% that don’t).
- A startup is a temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable scalable business.
- Most startups fail from a lack of customers than from a failure of product development. According to Steve, entrepreneurs need to get out of the building and meet their customers even before created the sacred business plan
Yes, that’s it. However you can’t sell a book with four (4) lines of type in it so Steve and his co-author Bob Dorf added 555 pages of delicious parsley around the main course.
That Rusty Sword Metaphor? Pescadero is near the ocean…. The fine sword rusting because it is plunged into salt water, represents the bright, passionate, young entrepreneurs (the swords) who run their startup under the old product introduction model (salt water) which works for existing companies but not startups. We all know what the rust is–startup death. Old or existing companies have existing customers, startups don’t. You need to find your customers before you do a business plan or launch your product. Your customers may not turn out to be who you thought they were and your disruptive product may not be what they want.
Takeaway: If you don’t want to end up with customers who are like FB friends–it looks like there are a lot of them, until you need a ride home from the airport, talk to them (in person), meet them (in person at their business or an industry conference), ask them (in person) about the features and pain points your product is trying to solve. You might be surprised, that unlike your FB friends, you might end up with a lots of real customers leading to a real IPO or a real M&A or just a real big-ass, successful company. This “meeting in person” disruptive concept also works for dating.
Preview of Sun Tzu Series Blog #3 of 20: Silicon Valley Israeli Innovation Meeting a.k.a. a startup gathering of the most over-achieving ethnic group on the planet (a compliment).
© 2012 Marisa Alma McGinnis