Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Rethinking Customer Development

I'm a huge fan of Steve Blank his theory of Customer Development.  I've found his writing always inspirational and insightful.  However, has been a little to dense for me to use as a clear roadmap.  Many in the Lean Startup movement point to the Business Model Canvas as a cure - which, try as I might, I've never been able to actually follow in a real live business.

The issue was that each of these pieces is part of a flow - not a discrete map.  So, here at Contastic we started using a variant that models the business as a process rather than as a map:

This covers same essential areas as the Business Model, but slightly re-arranged to fit the process of validating a startup.  Generally, each stage from left-to-right is dependent on the next and should be evaluated in that order.  At each milestone the company should seek to find a path through.  I like to have at least two stages written out to look at: general themes, and then specific actions/sources to test:

While by no means complete, this model serves as a basic roadmap of our plan.  We also often use  third level for tactical tests to confirm items in level 2 (ie acquire 20 customer per day at Dreamforce).  As they are confirmed the fact bubbles up to the next level.  As we develop the company we continually edit this knowing that the dependencies flow from left to right and then top to bottom.  

Hope this helps you all bring a strong evidence-based approach to your ventures.  We're continually evolving this model, so if you have any ideas for improvements or cases where it fails let me know in the comments below!


  1. Awesome article! The "who" and problem you're solving are great places to start.

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