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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Four Steps to buisnding successful start-ups, 26 Feb 2010
By 
Mark Gibson "Author, consultant and thought-l... (Bay Area, San Francisco) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
If you were to interview entrepreneurial high-tech CEO's having just sold their companies, or less than successful CEO's who wound them up, they would provide a great source of information; however their reflections could sound like Tiger Woods at his recent press conference, "Regrets, I've had a few....too few...I mean too many to mention".

Underachievement of potential is an opinion many investors will have reached on exiting their high-tech investment. In a conversation with Nic Brisbourne, investment partner at Esprit Capital Ventures in London last week, we concluded that the principal factors causing underachievement are generally people, not product related and the root cause is nearly always poor sales and marketing execution.

In hindsight CEO's will generally agree that they should have made changes earlier and knowing what they know now, can tell you what they would have done differently.

But what if entrepreneurs had a method or set of best-practices that were proven to create early sales and marketing success in both startups and new product introductions in high-tech companies...would this change the odds of survival and over/underachievement and the value of the company on exit?

I believe it would and am currently reading and absorbing the wisdom and four steps cover knowledge captured in Steven Gary Blank's "The Four Steps to the Epiphany", subtitled "successful strategies for products that win", a book about building successful high-tech companies.

Blank is better known in the US than in Europe, having started 8 companies in CEO or Marketing roles, five of which were IPO's including names you may remember: E.piphany an enterprise software company, Ardent a Supercomputer company, two semiconductor companies MIPS Computers and Zilog and according to Blank 3 very deep craters.

Blank teaches entrepreneurship and Customer Development at UC Berkeley's Haas Business School, in the Colombia/Berkeley MBA program and at Stanford University at the Graduate School of Engineering.

I love this book!; it's the best advice I have ever read in one volume for entrepreneurs. So many times through this book I said aloud, "wow if i'd only known this back then.....

Blank's core thesis in building companies is that there are four discrete stages in the process:
4 steps to the epiphany

1.Customer Discovery - is about finding out if there are customers for your idea and if and what they would be willing to pay for it, before you write a line of code. This must be done by leaving the office and talking to real potential customers and of course this removes the guess work in initial product specification - as the spec. is the founders vision and the mimimum working set required to win first customers (or earlyvangelists as Blank calls them). Customer Discovery removes pricing risk because prospects tell you what they would be prepared to pay and it removes the hiring and market failure risk of alternate approaches, including the popular "build it and they will come" start-up strategy.

2.Customer Validation creates a repeatable sales and marketing roadmap based on the lessons learned in selling (not giving it away) to the first early customers. These first two steps validate the assumptions in your business model, that a market exists for your product, who your customers will be, the target buyers, establishes pricing, sales process and channels strategy.

3. Customer Creation builds on early sales success and after completion of Customer Validation. Blank states that customer creation is dependent on the market entry type which is governed by the natture of the product - is it a disruptive innovation or a me-too. Customer Creation strategies define the four types of start-up
* Startups entering an existing market
* Startups that are creating an entirely new market
* Startups wanting to resegment an existing market as a low cost entrant
* Startups that want to resegment an existing market as a niche player

4. Company Building is where the company transitions from its informal learning and discovery oriented Customer Development team into formal sales, marketing and business development teams to exploit the company's early success.

If you are an entrepreneur or a sales, marketing or business development leader responsible for introducing new products or services, then this book is a must read.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I've seen on technology entrepreneurship, 2 Jun 2010
By 
Edward Smith (Manchester, UK.) - See all my reviews
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This book is a comprehensive guide to creating a technology product that sells. It reads a little like an MBA textbook and is better for it, eschewing the usual buzzwords and wit typical of this genre for clear, practical advice. Steve Blank is all over YouTube if you want to listen to some of the material before committing to the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First rate guide to establishing a new business, 24 Oct 2013
By 
Mr. A. Q. Kopp (UK) - See all my reviews
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Full of useful models and questions to ensure that you consider the things which will enable you to launch a new business or product.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Additional revelations and refinements to guide and inform the evolution of the Lean Startup Revolution, 7 Aug 2013
By 
Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Note: The review that follows is of the Third Edition, published in 2007. Other than minor revisions and refinements, the material in the Fifth Edition is essentially the same. "A few typos were corrected and unfinished sentences completed."Blank would be the first to suggest that his book is literally a "work in progress" as is the revolution to which he continues to contribute. I especially appreciate having all of the information, insights, and counsel in a hardbound volume and only regret that it has no Index. Let's all hope that one is provided in the next edition.

* * *

In this volume, Blank introduces and then explains in thorough detail the "Customer Development" model, one that he characterizes as "a paradox because it is followed by successful startups, yet has been articulated by no one [person other than Blank, prior to its initial publication in 2005]. Its basic propositions are the antithesis of common wisdom yet they are followed by those who achieve success. It is the path that is hidden in plain sight." In fact, Blank insists that what he offers is a "better way to manage startups. Those that survive the first few tough years "do not follow the traditional product-centric launch model espoused by product managers of the venture capital community." And this is also true of product launches in new divisions inside larger corporations or in the "canonical" garages.

Moreover, "through trial and error, hiring and firing, successful [whatever their nature and origin] all invent a parallel process to Product Development. In particular, the winners invent and live by a process of customer learning and discovery. I call this process `Customer Development,' a sibling to `Product Development,' and each and every startup that succeeds recapitulates it, knowingly or not." Wow! This really is interesting stuff and I haven't even begun to read the first chapter.

Few start ups succeed, most don't, and Blank notes that each new company or new product startup involves (borrowing from Joseph Campbell) a "hero's journey" that begins with an almost "mythological vision - a hope of what could be, with a goal few others can see. It is this bright and burning vision that differentiates the entrepreneur from big company CEOs and startups from existing businesses." Although Blank suggests that the aforementioned "journey" involves a four-step process, it should be noted that not one but several epiphanies or at least revelations can and - hopefully - will occur during that process, one that is multi-dimensional rather than linear, from Point A to Point Z.

These are among the dozens of reader-friendly passages I found of greatest interest and value:

o Customer Discovery Step-by-Step (Page 30)
o The Customer Discovery Philosophy (33-37)
o Customer Discovery Summary (76)
o The Customer Validation Philosophy (82-83)
o Customer Validation Summary (118)
o Customer Creation Step-by-Step (120)
o Customer Creation Philosophy (123-124)
o The Four Building Blocks of Customer Creation (129-132)
o Customer Creation Summary (157)
o Company Building Step-by-Step (158)
o The Company Building Philosophy (162-163)
o Company Building Summary (205)

These and dozens of key passages will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review later of information, insights, and counsel.

No brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the scope and depth of material that Steven Gary Blank provides in this volume but I hope that I have at least suggested why I think so highly of him and his work. Also, I hope that those who read this commentary will be better prepared to determine whether or not they wish to read it and, in that event, will have at least some idea of how the information, insights, and wisdom could perhaps be of substantial benefit to them and to their own organization.

* * *

As we proceed through the third quarter of 2013, I am more aware now than ever before that breakthrough innovation, disruptive innovation, high-impact innovation is most likely to occur within a workplace environment that encourages, supports, and rewards individual as well as collaborative initiatives. I am also convinced that such initiatives must planned, guided, and informed by a methodology and a process such as those that Steve Blank recommends. Whereas, if you don't know where you're going, any road will get your there, having neither a methodology nor a process will get you nowhere.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very insightful and very detailed, 28 Mar 2014
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Read a lot of books that wax lyrical over 'lean' but this one is the base template.

Its really not a read cover to cover book but to dip in and out of when your thinking about how you practically do something.

Really a must for your shelf as a reference if your a startup leader. Also not something you can find on the net (most of the lean stuff is just basic concepts which you can glean from the net).
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5.0 out of 5 stars Eye Opening, 1 Feb 2014
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This review is from: The Four Steps to the Epiphany (Kindle Edition)
I just finished but since I was around 10% of the way through I knew I'd have to read this a second time. Full of wise insights as to why you have to frequently measure your assumptions against the real world or suffer the consequences. On my second read I hope I'll understand it all a little better.
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5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic, 24 Jan 2014
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This review is from: The Four Steps to the Epiphany (Kindle Edition)
Really insightful, and quite holistic in its approach, in that it really covers everything a start-up will need to deal with, right until the time it transforms into a full-blown, profitable organisation.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Here is "a radical reexamination of the entire new product introduction process"...and almost everything that precedes it, 6 Nov 2012
By 
Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Note: The review that follows is of the Third Edition, published in 2007.

In this volume, Steven Gary Blank introduces and then explains in thorough detail the "Customer Development" model, one that he characterizes as "a paradox because it is followed by successful startups, yet has been articulated by no one [other than Blank, prior to its initial publication in 2005]. Its basic propositions are the antithesis of common wisdom yet they are followed by those who achieve success. It is the path that is hidden in plain sight." In fact, Blank insists that what he offers is a "better way to manage startups. Those that survive the first few tough years "do not follow the traditional product-centric launch model espoused by product managers of the venture capital community." And this is also true of product launches in new divisions inside larger corporations or in the "canonical" garages.

Moreover, "through trial and error, hiring and firing, successful [whatever their nature and origin] all invent a parallel process to Product Development. In particular, the winners invent and live by a process of customer learning and discovery. I call this process `Customer Development,' a sibling to `Product Development,' and each and every startup that succeeds recapitulates it, knowingly or not." Wow! This really is interesting stuff and I haven't even begun to read the first chapter.

Few start ups succeed, most don't, and Blank notes that each new company or new product startup involves (borrowing from Joseph Campbell) a "hero's journey" that begins with an almost "mythological vision - a hope of what could be, with a goal few others can see. It is this bright and burning vision that differentiates the entrepreneur from big company CEOs and startups from existing businesses." Although Blank suggests that the aforementioned "journey" involves a four-step process, it should be noted that not one but several epiphanies or at least revelations can and - hopefully - will occur during that process, one that is multi-dimensional rather than linear, from Point A to Point Z.

These are among the dozens of reader-friendly passages I found of greatest interest and value:

o Customer Discovery Step-by-Step (Page 30)
o The Customer Discovery Philosophy (33-37)
o Customer Discovery Summary (76)
o The Customer Validation Philosophy (82-83)
o Customer Validation Summary (118)
o Customer Creation Step-by-Step (120)
o Customer Creation Philosophy (123-124)
o The Four Building Blocks of Customer Creation (129-132)
o Customer Creation Summary (157)
o Company Building Step-by-Step (158)
o The Company Building Philosophy (162-163)
o Company Building Summary (205)

No brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the scope and depth of material that Steven Gary Blank provides in this volume but I hope that I have at least suggested why I think so highly of him and his work. Also, I hope that those who read this commentary will be better prepared to determine whether or not they wish to read it and, in that event, will have at least some idea of how the information, insights, and wisdom could perhaps be of substantial benefit to them and to their own organization.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Some good insights, could be a bit shorter and to the point, 9 Oct 2012
I liked a lot the overall framework and all the practical info and examples from Steve Blank. However, I found it overall a bit hard to read and that could have been synthesized in a much shorter version of the book. I would have loved it to be more to the point. At the end, entrepreneurs don't have much free time to spend it reading longer-than-needed texts.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you run or intend to run a start up you must read this book now, 2 May 2009
A simple premise, fully understand you potential customers *before* you build or release your product and validate those customers, ideally with sales to know that they will actually pay for your product and you do actually have a business and not a delusion. The book provides great detail on how to do this.
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