How to Lose a Customer in Six Easy Steps

Customers matter. Customer development doesn't end with product/market fit. Your customer support process is an ongoing dialog with the customer that provides valuable information to just just fix problems, but discover new product opportunities.

Companies that forget the customer are denying themselves the right to innovate.

The Saga

It started simply enough, there was a fairly obvious $8,364,175.00 error in my financial statement from (now owned by Intuit) that prompted me to contact customer support with this email:

Mint is showing "Your $8,364,175.00 purchase from Peated has cleared your PayPal - PayPal Account account."

It should go without saying that I have not spent over eight million dollars on anything. The charge was 175 EUROs.

Thank you,


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The Stability of Startups

A friend of mine was thinking about joining a startup and asked me,

How stable are startups?

Well...not as stable as a huge corporations...which nowadays isn't very stable either.  Eric Ries' definition is apt:

A startup is a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.

So...if you're looking for a steady paycheck, probably not the best way to go. However, we can caveat this by looking at a typical funding model for a startup. The injection of funds provides some promise of the companies continued existence and the ongoing supply of pay stubs.

The reason for this is simple...most entrepreneurs, who will still have majority control of the company, are loath to give up. Even if the business model is obviously not working, it's more likely that they'll try something else with the funds remaining rather than refund the money back to investors. There are notable exceptions like Odeo, but let's leave that aside.

So give X amount of funding, you can generally predict the minimum amount of time the company is going to be around.

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Blame Culture via Tank

Blame Culture: “Who Gets Shot”

I read a blog post by Lance Weatherby that epitomized everything I think is stereotypically wrong in large organizations and was worth commenting on. Lance opines:

When it comes to roles and responsibilities a way to add a little clarity is to think in terms of who gets in trouble if something goes wrong (which is very different from who gets credit when something goes right). I call this who gets shot....

Imagine the team sitting around a big conference table. Imagine a little tank sitting in the middle of that table. The tank turret is always rotating and turning toward someone. The key is to solve the pressure point before the turret stops rotating and the gunner has time to take aim.

If we are not moving out product fast enough or the product we have is not functioning properly the turret turns to the CTO.

Market managers miss their numbers? Here come the tank. Sales reps don't generate a certain amount of revenue. Here comes the tank.

As I noted in the comments, I could not disagree more strongly.

There is a huge difference between responsibility and taking the blame

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National Endowment for Open Source

Is there any doubt right now about the strength and power of open source software for accelerating technological innovation?

In the past, companies have had to invest huge amounts of capital in developing proprietary software while another company might have already had a comparable technology sitting on the shelf, disused.

Today, there are over 300,000 open source projects on alone.

While there are coherent arguments against open sourcing in certain areas such as pharmaceuticals, it's hard to deny that in the software industry open sourcing provides enough of a boost to the reputation of companies and individuals that offsets any direct economic loss that the individuals might have. Furthermore, other developers and companies are permitted to stand on the shoulders of open source to make incremental improvements in the stability and infrastructure of the technology.

So what is the government doing to support this common good?

Nothing that I'm aware of. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

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rock star

Top 3 Ways to Fail at Customer Development

The squarest disco ball you'll ever see

The customer confirmed all of our hypotheses! We're awesome! I mean really, who wouldn't want a square disco ball? Let's go build it!


In the unlikely event that your revolutionary new product, the square disco ball, is actually a customer need, the customer will still challenge your expectations of what the product should be with either:

Pricing discrepancies - "I would've paid more than $2000 for that." Unexpected use cases - "This will make a great piñata!" Marketing material miscommunication - "What is this disco thing of which you speak?" Ridiculous feature requests that no one else will want - "Why doesn't this disco ball come in a nice plaid?"

If you take the time to talk to customers and learn absolutely nothing new about your product, even if only a few random brainstorm ideas, then you probably were talking to not with the customer.

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