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The Customer Development Manifesto

Customer Development process reflects the best practices of winning startups. The manifesto of 14 rules listed here come from those best practices. The process’  overarching goal is “To discover the repeatable, scalable, and ultimately profitable business before running out of cash”.

Rule 1: There Are No Facts Inside Your Building, So Get Outside

Rule 2: Pair Customer Development with Agile Development

Rule 3: Failure is an Integral Part of the Search

Rule 4: Make continuous Iterations and Pivots

Rule 5: No Business Plan Survives First Contact with Customers, So Use a Business Model Canvas

Rule 6: Design Experiments and Test to Validate Your Hypotheses

Rule 7: Agree on Market Type. It Changes Everything

Rule 8: Startup Metrics Differ from Those in Existing Companies

Rule 9: Fast Decision-Making, Cycle Time, Speed and Tempo

Rule 10: It’s All About Passion

Rule 11: Startup Job Titles Are Very Different from a Large Company’s

Rule 12: Preserve All Cash Until Needed. Then Spend

Rule 13: Communicate and Share Learning

Rule 14: Customer Development Success Begins With Buy-In


The Startup Owner’s Manual

The following three books profoundly changed my thought process and helped me to better understand the startup dynamics :

  1. Business Model Generation – Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur
  2. Four Steps to Epiphany – Steve Blank
  3. The Lean Startup – Eric Reis

Before I could blog a few posts from my learning through these books, I bought a new book from Steve Blank. It is “The Startup Owner’s Manual” and I am happy to receive one of the first copies of the book.

My first impression after skimming through the book in five minutes is that Steve focused primarily on the first two steps of his famous ‘Customer Development Process‘. I later rationalized that the book was purposefully written with focus on creation of the startup and not much on execution/growth after identifying and building a repeatable and scalable business. The book also includes, wherever appropriate, related content like Osterwalder’s Business Model Generation, making it a go-to book for building startups.

Those were my first impressions. I will update more when I dig deeper into the book.

The Start

In the fall of 2011 I attended the ‘Kellogg Annual Alumni Entrepreneurship’ conference in Evanston, IL and heard about “Lean Startup” for the first time. The concept intrigued me. I searched online and found an interesting concept called business model canvas, based on design thinking.

In October 2011, my online reading took me to Steve Blank’s website, which I thought is an invaluable resource for startups. I bookmarked it went back to read a few of Steve’s blogs regularly. Few months back my friend and partner  at B3 Communications got me a copy of Eric Ries’s “The Lean Startup” book. It changed my understanding of the potential and significance of the lean startup and MVP(minimum viable product) concepts. I recognized how these concepts were built on top of “customer development”. So, I went back to read Steve Blank, the guru of customer development. After spending a few hours on Steve Blank’s website, I couldn’t resist from purchasing his book “The Four Steps to the Epiphany”.

Through this blog, I want to capture my thoughts on startups.