No ‘Buts’ – The Most Dreaded Word of All

Last week I started avoiding the word "but" in all my communications. It's harder than you'd think. I'd thought I could just replace it with "and" but and that just doesn't cut it. Sounds weird. It requires a total rewrite of every sentence you put to paper and forces you to think constructively.

No: I'd love to come, but I already made plans.
Yes: I'd love to get together with you some other time. I have plans that night.

No: I would have finished, but it was just too much work.
Yes: My bad. I'll finish it now.

I highly recommend it.

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The Taxonomy of the Lean Startup Pivot

(Warning: this post may be highly theoretical / geeky. If you're looking for the more amusing Taxonomy of the Lean Startup Anti-Pivot, it's here.)

Last week I was planning for the worst. Having gone through 51 iterations of my mockups and gathered as much as feedback as I could with our primitive alpha, I feel confident about our basic customer problem hypothesis. Still, I play a lot of chess and like to think at least five moves ahead in the five most likely futures. So I decided to make a list of my potential pivots.

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Customer Development: Fight or Flight

Motivations are unimportant if you happened to be B.F. Skinner. But since he's dead let's assume you're not him.

Before we can talk about customer development, here's the obvious question: Why do you want to start a business?

Let's start off topic with a ridiculously simplistic dichotomy: Fight or Flight

Those are the two basic choices we all have when faced with a conflict situation and it's deeply ingrained in our physiology.

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Clever Hans and Photoshop Iteration

It's been over two weeks since we released a bare bones alpha of our site and started letting people in one at a time. Since then we've been through approximately:

10 iterations of our "view idea" page 6 iterations of "browse ideas" page and 3 of "browse people" page 10 "profile" pages 8 of our "p-home" page (this is the page you see when you log in) 3 "search result" versions and a whopping 14 basic template revisions

That's a total of 51 revisions in 18 days, almost all of which are iterations based on feedback from users without writing a single line of code.

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How to Sell Me (Not), I Dare You to Try

"Thanks for the meeting, no I don't want to hire you to consult for my company."

Having to sit through an increasing number of sales pitches from startup consultants these days, I thought I'd summarize the points that worked in selling me and what just turned me off. At the very least, next time someone tries to pitch me, maybe I'll just send them a link to this blog before the meeting.

At best, I'll formalize some points to improve on my own sales pitch.

Tip #1: Don't assume.

I understand that I'm a bit of an idiot.

I'm new to this. I didn't go to Harvard. I don't have a million dollars. Your fine Italian shoes clearly indicate your business superiority. I am destined to fail without your advice.

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How to Practice Shutting Up (Customer Development Practice)

I've discovered a great new method of growing bigger ears. Ready? Wait for it... go listen to sales pitches from startup consultants.

If you're an entrepreneur, then you probably don't like being bossed around and you might think your own opinion is pretty damn good. If you didn't, you probably wouldn't be starting your own company.

(I'll admit it, I have both of those flaws to varying degrees.)

Given those two features, you may or may not have a tough time (like me) really shutting up and listening to your customers. It's always tempting to interject your own opinion, and even if you think you're just asking a clarifying question, you're probably adding some spin to it to try to nudge your customer's responses the way you want...the way you expect...the way you know your customers ought to be thinking.

But if you do that, you're not getting real customer feedback. Instead, you're just stroking your own ego and validating an opinion rather than validating a hypothesis.

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Impending Doom and Early Releases

This week we'll be letting a few users into our early release of and in the tradition of the lean startup, we're rather embarrassed about it.

It's buggy, it's ugly, and it probably just won't work.

But we're going to throw it out there anyway for a few select people who can mock us about it to our face so we can get early feedback.

Improvement via Trauma

One of the things we'd like to achieve with this early alpha release is a bit of trauma.

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