Why You Should Experiment with User Onboarding

(Kevin Dewalt, Founder of All Aboard!, is constantly helping startups 1-to-1. When he’s not angel investing or playing golf, he’s always available to help out someone just getting started with lean startup. So I reached out to him to chat about his approach to user onboarding. You can find him on Twitter, LinkedIn, or his blog)

Like Tristan, I’m a big advocate of systematically building a company using Lean Startup techniques. On the surface, they are trivially simple - like interviewing customers before building a product.

But as most Lean Startups quickly discover, identifying customer needs and building a product that satisfies them are just the beginning. You still have to get customers to find your product, understand how it fits into their lives, start using it and ... hope hope hope ... pay you for the opportunity.

That is, you have to sell. We’re advocates of a technique that bridges the gap between early Customer Development and traditional sales: concierge onboarding.

Concierge Onboarding Continues Customer Learning

**Concierge onboarding is helping a customer, 1-on-1, so he can get value from being your user.** In simpler terms, getting users on the phone so they’ll actually use your friggin’ product.

Startups Working with Large Companies & Minimum Viable Products

(This is a guest post by Sean Murphy, who coaches early stage technology firms. You can find Sean on Twitter, LinkedIn or on his blog.)

Startups have to take care to extract as much as they can of a larger firm’s understanding of a problem. Without this a startup can have "missing pieces" in their solution. Even when the larger company lays out the full problem and what's needed to solve it, a startup may mistakenly decide to address a subset of the problem. If the larger company supplies the residual pieces without complaint, the startup is lulled into a false sense of security until they have tried to sell their solution to other companies and have been turned down several times. I have personally experienced this several times from both sides of the table, here are a couple examples of what this looked like for startups.

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The Disappointing Toaster

Killed by Expectations – Customer Development & UX

(This is a guest post by Dan Toma, Senior Innovation & Product Manager at Deutsche Telekom AG and author of the upcoming The Corporate Startup Book. You can find Dan on Twitter, LinkedIn or his blog.)

How much stress, anger and frustration can one simple malfunction or a minute delay in response cause? We experience expectation related frustration on a daily basis with the objects we interact with, the products that we purchase, and the services we acquire.

In order to consistently design better product, services, and experiences for their customers, there is one critical first step any entrepreneur needs to take: understand the customer’s needs better than the customer understands themselves.

Often times, we are disappointed by our peers, by particular experiences, by products that fail to deliver the job we hired them to do, or by services which, for one reason or another, don’t match out standards.

What do we do then?

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Lean Startup Machine Tips and Tricks

10 Lean Startup Machine Tips and Tricks

I was at Lean Startup Machine in New York last weekend. (LSM is a 48 hour excursion into lean startup techniques created by Trevor Owens to push your boundaries and help you learn something about your business model.) I was so impressed by a post by Cindy Alvarez that Trevor distributed, 10 Things I've Learned, that I decided to blatantly copy her and create my own top ten list specifically for attendees of the event.

Unfortunately I'm a terrible editor. So here are...

21 Lean Startup Machine Tips and Tricks

Problems don't exist. You can't go out and talk to a problem. Focus relentlessly on people. Cash in hand beats bullshit on slide. A pretty powerpoint isn't impressive. Go get a real customer to hand you money. If your teammates don't buy in, then test fast and let reality convince them. You're not going to win by arguing, you'll just wind up working alone. If your MVP can't prove you wrong, then it can't prove you right either. Ask questions like a child. Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

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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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