January 28, 2011
Readers and watchers may have noticed that when outlining the four types of startups we referenced “The Four Steps to the Epiphany” by Steven Gary Blank quite a bit. In truth it has been a valuable tool for us, not only in the advice it offers but for the tweaks we are able to make to these philosophies to better help us. As Blank says even before the introduction to the book “The model is a paradox because it is followed by successful startups, yet articulated by no one.”
What Blank touches on in his writing are some of the keys that he attributes to a successful company. Things that companies should do and more importantly things they should not. The “path to epiphany” and “path to disaster” respectively.
Ultimately Blank focuses on the customer development model as the best path toward success for a business. A model that does exactly what its name implies, allows the business to develop not around the product, but what it is that the product is fundamentally trying to do. By focusing on what you want to accomplish instead of solely on how you are going to accomplish it, you allow the market to help decide what aspects of your product or service it finds desirable and what aspects are the least successful.
The book offers a fairly quick overview of the “standard” product development model. While this overview is helpful for comparison purposes and to stress some of the key failures of this model, the main focus and meat of the book is dedicated to understanding the customer development model.
In exploring this model Blank takes the time to thoroughly describe the processes of customer discovery, validation and creation. At the same time Blank does touch on how to successfully marry the product and customer development model to help make your startup successful.
At 281 pages the book isn’t going to be overly difficult to get through, however Blank has packed the book with information and diagrams creating a lot to absorb. At times it can seem like you’re suffering from information overload however Blank’s straightforward writing does a good job at negating these feelings.
Whether your startup is focused on products or services we highly recommend that you have “The Four Steps to the Epiphany” on your bookshelf, pasted with post it notes and covered in highlighter.