I was just scanning through AVC.com, Fred Wilson’s popular blog, and hit on a post about great reading material. In it was mentioned a free e-book by Gif Constable called Talking to Humans.
Gif developed the Lean Launchpad curriculum, taught at Stanford, UC Berkeley, Columbia, UCSF, NYU & now hundreds of other universities worldwide.
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One of the main takeaways from that work is the idea of “getting out of the building”. It means essentially that before you get to far along with your idea, building your product, and too heavily vested and invested in one direction, go do real research with real potential customers.
Right from the beginning test your ideas, and talk to customers. It’s not easy, but if done right will be very revealing.
The book can be had for free at Talking To Humans as an e-book, or send it straight to your kindle for $0.99 cents! With a forward by Steve Blank & Tom Fishburne’s funny cartoons and at only 98 pages, it’s well worth an hour or two of your time.
1. How to be a detective
Getting out of the building and talking to people is hard. It’s messy. It’s going into the real world where customers may not understand or care about your product.
But that’s also exactly why you want to talk to people. You’ll get real raw perspectives.
Also be wary of talking to friends & family. They may have biases, and want to tell you what you want to hear.
While interviewing, beware of speculation in your own ideas and what your interview subjects are telling you. Ask for stories instead and tease out real behavior.
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2. Fight cognitive biases with metrics
We all have biases. We think are customers are soccer moms, or 20-somethings who like lattes. By calculating metrics, we find out which market segments actually want our product and why. Keep calculating metrics, and make conclusions from real data.
At the same time beware the dynamic of mistaking statistics for facts. Remain skeptical!
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3. Map out your business
There are a few models mentioned in the book for mapping your business. Choose your favorite:
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4. How a startup can fail
Startups can fail in a myriad of different ways. This business is not for the weary or faint of heart! Here are some of the land mines in the road ahead.
o wrong customer or market
o wrong revenue model
o wrong cost structure
o wrong customer acquisition
o wrong product
o wrong team
o wrong timing
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5. How to screw up customer discovery
Interviewing real customers in the field requires a lot of balance. Here are a few things you should avoid:
o let speculation equal confirmation
o lead the witness to your conclusion
o talk over them
o selective hearing
o weigh one conversation heavily
o let fear of rejection win
o talking to anyone
o be unprepared for the interview
o try to learn everything at once
o only do customer dev first week
o ask customer to design the product