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How startups are different: No customers or business model

If you read nothing else in my article beyond this presentation by Steve Blank, I will have felt like I accomplished something today. Steve Blank's Customer Development Process is a big idea. It will save you and your startup company. It will save your investors or company project stakeholders millions of dollars. Steve's customer development methodology will give you at least a chance to be successful.

Startups are often started by very creative, high-functioning product or technology teams. They have a vision and then follow the product development process they know best for developing it. Product development is in their DNA. (I can say this confidently with 18+ years of product development experience). However, startups don't have customers or a business model. Quoting Steve Blank, "Startups just have a series of hypotheses. Startups don't have customers or a repeatable, predictable business model. They don't know who their customer is, what they want."

Not knowing which customers love/use your product is the single biggest source of risk for a startup. Warren Buffet recently summed it up very nicely. "Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing". Not knowing who your customers are, what they want, how your product matches their needs (product-market fit) or how you can find them in a repeatable, predictable manner is the ultimate definition of not knowing what you are doing and is really the first and most important problem to solve for in a startup. Established companies have a known business model with actual customers paying money for products or services they value. Startups have to "discover" their customers and their model. They have to act like they know nothing and let the market tell them what their customers want and are willing to pay for.

To close on this point, I'll quote Steve Blank again: "Startups fail from a lack of customers, not product development failure".

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