Entrepreneur Profile: Steve Blank, creator of the customer development methodology
May 8, 2014
He is now an author, public speaker and academic but if you passed him the street you probably wouldn’t recognise him (although I am sure if you said that directly Steve he may be offended!) but this unassuming man born on New York’s Lower East Side had to grow up fast when his father left home leaving his mother to raise him. He was six years old.
Like many serial entrepreneurs he didn’t quite agree with school and school probably didn’t agree much with him either and so, after one semester, he dropped out of school and headed for Miami.
After working at the airport loading racehorses onto cargo planes he joined the Airforce and served in during the Vietnam war.It was during this time he got interested in electronics after taking on the management of 15 electronics technicians.
After leaving the Airforce he headed for a place that would become synonomous with start-ups, billionaires and all things life changing for many of us around the world – Palo Alto – soon to become Silicon Valley.It was the start of the business boom of 1978 and he was lapping up knowledge left and right centre. Then in the 1990’s he created the customer development methodology and the enterprise software company Epiphany was born.
Just before the company went to IPO he retired and eventually the business was sold for $329 million.
From our friends at Wikipedia on the Lean Start-up Movement:
“Blank's Customer Development methodology is a cornerstone of the Lean Start-up Movement, popularized by Eric Ries whom Blank states was “the best student I ever had.” The Lean Startup approach relies on validated learning, scientific experimentation, and iterative product releases to shorten product development cycles, measure progress, and gain valuable customer feedback. It has attracted attention among entrepreneurs world-wide as a constructive way to try out ideas and gain customers. Ries has integrated the Customer Development methodology into the Lean Startup practices and considers it to be one of the Lean Startup Movement's pillars.”
Today he is considered to be an ultimate serial entrepreneur the world over and really does solidify the thinking that:
You don’t need a full on university education to succeed
Sometimes you fail before you succeed and in doing so you learn valuable lessons that enable you to improve each time.
“I said ‘There are 500 people in this room. The good news is, in ten years, there’s two of you who are going to make $100 million dollars. The rest of you, you might as well have been working at Wal-Mart for how much you’re going to make.’ And everybody laughs. And I said, ‘No, no, that’s not the joke. The joke is all of you are looking at the other guys feeling sorry for those poor son-of-a-bitches.’”
“What matters is having forward momentum and a tight fact-based data/metrics feedback loop to help you quickly recognize and reverse any incorrect decisions. That’s why startups are agile. By the time a big company gets the committee to organize the subcommittee to pick a meeting date, your startup could have made 20 decisions, reversed five of them and implemented the fifteen that worked.”
“…some small segment of founders are truly artists—they see something no one else does. These entrepreneurs are the ones who want to change ‘what is’ and turn it into ‘what can be.’ These founders create new ideas and new markets by pushing the boundaries. This concept of creating something that few others see—and the reality distortion field necessary to recruit the team to build it—is at the heart of what these founders do.”
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