Steve Blank vs. Steve Jobs

February 6, 2012

Seeing Both Sides Blog   Article

“… one of the interesting tension points that arose is the challenge an entrepreneur faces in selecting their primary product design approach.  Should they follow the Steve Blank, Customer Development Process school of product development or the Steve Jobs “vision” school?  In other words, should they pursue a user-centric design paradigm — setting priorities based on rigorous tests and listening excercises that determine what users want — or should they pursue a more top-down approach akin to Steve Jobs, who famously said: “It is hard to design by focus groups because most of the time people don’t know what they want until you show it to them. ”

Steve Blank’s book, Four Steps to the Epiphany, has become an instant classic in Start-Up Land for good reason.  Along with the complimentary book by Eric Ries, The Lean StartUp, it provides an incredibly useful guide for starting companies, testing hypotheses and creating products that users love.

… founders should never let themselves off the hook to applying the test and learn principles of Steve Blank to monitor their decisions and continuously validate them.  And the bar should be very high for such overrides.  As the 19th century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer observed:  “Talent hits a target no else can hit.  Genius hits a target no one else can see.”

Founders who override their users are betting on genius.  Steve Jobs and Drew Houston have proven that genius pays off.”


Got what it takes to be an entrepreneur?

January 23, 2012

ByJeff Haden  Article

You spend a lot of time personalizing your office. … Money should never be spent on anything that won’t touch the customer. You will be too busy chasing customers to worry about whether your office befits your stature or aligns with your personality.

You manage your fantasy teams at work. … Starting a business is overwhelming. Exit your fantasy leagues now. Spend that time thinking about how you’ll make profits.

You never empty your own trash. … If doing whatever needs to be done isn’t something that comes naturally, stay where you are.

You are sure you could be a lot more productive if you only had a new (insert hot new tech tool). … In your own business you’ll be lucky to get the “must have” stuff. Even if you have the funds, “nice to have” is money wasted.

You can’t get over the fact your department got shorted during the last budget cycle.Unless a VC comes calling or your dad funds your start-up, you won’t really have a budget. Money spent doesn’t come from an invisible corporate pot. It comes from your pocket. …

You passionately discuss work-life balance issues. … If you think a lot about the conflict between work and life and you feel work is winning the battle, just wait until you start a business. Work will eat life for breakfast.

You sometimes say, “Wait, I’ve paid my dues.” When you run your own business, you pay your dues every day. (The same should be true if you work for someone else: The only real measure of your value is the tangible contribution you make, each and every day.) Today, tomorrow, the next day: You earn the right to stay in business. No one cares about your experience or years of hard work. …”

One share, one vote?

November 14, 2011

By Randall Smith   Article

“Investors eyeing two hotly anticipated Internet listings will have to weigh an unusual quirk in the ownership structures: extra-supervoting shares, which could set a new standard for how company founders retain control over important corporate issues. …

After Groupon goes public, its three founders will have shares that each carry 150 votes, according to the company’s latest regulatory filings. Investors who buy ordinary shares in the IPO or in the market, by contrast, will receive one vote per share for corporate matters such as the election of directors or sale of the company.”

What startup life is really like

November 7, 2011

By Penelope Trunk   Article

“We raised money. We launched products, we pivoted 20 times. We were due to raise more money right after the markets crashed. So of course we couldn’t raise money. And of course I did what all startup founders do when they run out of money: I had a shit fit. And then I had a nervous breakdown. But the thing is, in a startup, everything moves at warp speed, even a nervous breakdown. So I recovered fast, convinced investors to put in more money. And we kept going. That cycle happened twice. Which is normal. Because startups are hell, and a startup is the perfect convergence of a brilliant idea and a founder just crazy enough to stick with it through anything.

At that point, I was exhausted. And I had to figure out: When is it time for a founder to step down? So I went through a time of personal assessment, which taught me a lot about when you know it’s time for a founder to leave:

Financial exhaustion
I had funded the idea with my own money for a few years before I launched Brazen Careerist as a social recruiting platform. I ruined my credit, I cashed out my 401K (don’t ever do this!) and I lost a baby sitter because she was appalled that we didn’t have any food in the refrigerator.

Emotional exhaustion

Marital exhaustion
The dirty secret about startup founders is they can’t keep marriages together. …

Intellectual exhaustion
And it was time to pivot. … And really, you have to live and breathe the industry you are in if you’re going to rewrite the rules to that industry. …

Relationship exhaustion
While I was appearing on shows like 20/20 to tell the world how to manage Generation Y, I was having knock-down drag-out fights with my Gen-Y co-founder, Ryan Healy. Founder bickering is a common startup problem. Because if you have co-founders with different skill sets, which you should, then you are going to have different points of view, and inevitably, arguments about that.

Vision for where to go next
Fortunately, though, Ryan had not ruined his personal finances and he didn’t have kids. So he still had lots of energy to get the company to the next level. And after seeing all these issues listed on paper, I realized that even though I loved Brazen Careerist, I wanted to step down from the CEO position.”

Richard Branson vs. Steve Jobs

October 24, 2011

By James Clear   Article

Entrepreneurs Vs. Managers: Which Are You?

Branson is an entrepreneur. His Virgin brand now encompasses over 400 different businesses. 400! When he succeeds with one business idea, he is on to the next. In fact, the following quote from Branson is one of the reasons I wrote this article.

An entrepreneur is not a manager. An entrepreneur is someone who is great at conceiving ideas, starting ideas, building ideas…and then handing them over to really good managers to run the business.”

Steve Jobs was a manager. Last month, Apple had the largest market cap of any company in the S&P 500. Jobs built a $300+ billion dollar business by operating in a manner very different from Branson.

Jobs was famously a micromanager and a perfectionist. Employees have noted him calling out tiny details in design changes (all of which had to be approved by him), grammatical and spelling errors in company documents, and so on. He would even answer customer service complaints as the CEO on occasion.

Which are you?”

10 tips for intrapreneurs

September 26, 2011

by James Gardner   Article

“I spent a few hours the other day with a ultra-successful corporate intrapreneur. I was so impressed I thought I’d share her top ten tips for success.

  1. The business as it stands now today is the business. Accept that, don’t fight it. It’s the thing that’s providing you a job. …
  2. You don’t work for a start-up. You work for a corporate, so you need to behave appropriately. Appropriate behaviour means showing up to all the pointless corporate meetings, responding to all the pointless corporate emails and filling in all the pointless corporate forms. …
  3. Just because you’re not a start-up doesn’t mean you can’t be nimble and fast. You just can’t be so fast you blow everything around you into bits.
  4. Relationships are key to everything. Build them, cultivate them, love them. If they don’t love you back, keep trying till they do.
  5. Relationships aren’t politics. Don’t play politics no matter how good an idea it seems. Politics always bite, and the bite really is worse than the bark.
  6. Be satisfied with the wins you get, however small. You have to believe you’re on a journey not a cliff edge.
  7. Be Zen about failure. Calmness is the key to turning failure into success.
  8. Bringing in the money is going to be important, sooner or later. Best to plan for sooner because even the smallest amount of new money is evidence you’re moving forward.  …
  9. Avoid creativity traps. Also be cautious around people whose primary value proposition is “creativity”. They are distracting to the main game of creating new business, a task which is only a creative exercise for about the first 5 minutes.
  10. … Being an intrapreneur is a job which requires you to personally bring the mountain to Mohammad. If you’re going to last, you must love what you’re doing.”

Quirky: The Solution to the Innovator’s Dilemma

August 22, 2011

By Jennifer Wang    Article

Ben Kaufman — with Pivot Power, Quirky’s new take on the outlet strip — calls his company “The oldest-school startup.”Photography by David Johnson
“Kaufman launched Quirky, an online consumer products company with a social development twist: products for the people, created and designed by the people. “We’re making invention accessible,” Kaufman says during a whirlwind tour of Quirky’s offices, which occupy the third floor of a building in SoHo, one of New York City’s busiest retail corridors. “Ninety-nine percent of people are armchair inventors. They have great product ideas, but most don’t have the time or money or expertise to make them happen.”
Quirky’s online community (65,000 members, and growing by 20 percent every month) is at the heart of Kaufman’s effort to democratize invention. Each week hundreds of inventor hopefuls, or “ideators,” submit their concepts online. … To simplify the development process, product ideas must retail for less than $150 and should not require integrated software. The community, composed mainly of hobby inventors, students, retirees and product-design enthusiasts, votes on the submissions. The two most popular ideas are sent to an in-house team of engineers and designers to research, render and prototype. At every stage–design, colors, naming, logo–the community chimes in. The best suggestions are incorporated, earning secondary “influencers” a portion of future sales revenue. Finally, if enough units of a product are pre-sold, Quirky will manufacture it.
Kaufman puts the upfront costs of building a company around a single product at about $200,000–just to get the paperwork done and the first prototype out. Combined with the risk, most people never get their product idea anywhere near retail shelves. However, one of the hopes is that being guided through the process the first time might also jump-start the creation cycle.”