Month: March 2012

“You have to be present in order to be there.” – Shawn Carson

This particular non sequitur applies well to market validation.  When it comes to understanding customer pain and how your customers would use your product…or even buy it, there’s really only one way; TALK TO THEM!

Survey’s won’t get, interns won’t get it, Google won’t get it.

“I’ve never let my school interfere with my education.” – Mark Twain

I enjoyed my MBA experience immensely.  On reflection of that experience two thoughts emerge.  The first… I’m glad I came in with many years experience in the ‘real world”.  I was able to draw from that knowledge and think critically about what I was being taught.  Second, the theories from the great thinkers tell you what but not how.  That’s up to you.  And the theories don’t always work they way they were portrayed in the book or lecture.  The biggest take away was that I learned new frameworks to guide my thinking. But it’s the thinking that reveals truth in business situations.

School may open doors and expose you to new ideas but school won’t make you successful.  You still have to do that for yourself.

“The worst outcome for startups is not failure – it’s mediocrity.” – Dharmesh Shah

In order to”dent the universe” (with deference to Steve Jobs), you have to think big.  If you think big, its is highly possible you will fail…big.  You’ll work just as hard making a small idea successful so you might as well go for the dent.

The other side of this is that entrepreneurship is not a part-time job.  You have to be all in, what ever you do or you’ll be in the no man’s land between success and failure.

Dharmesh Shah writes a very fine blog: OnStartups at


“The capitalist system is brutal; it takes no prisoners and has no regard for how much energy you have invested in your business.” – Rob Adams

Value is created in the market.  This is tough news for the inventor.  The technology, the patent, the idea all are worth very little until someone is will willing to exchange their cash for it.  You are better off finding a need in the market BEFORE you spend a lot of time and money inventing something no one will buy.  In that case, you just have an expensive hobby.

“Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement.” – Jim Horning

Failure is a risk.

I’ve heard that in Silicon Valley, you’re not going to score an investment unless you have had at least one meteoric failure.  The thinks of the proverb is that unless you have had some failures in your experience, you haven’t truly learned enough lessons to be successful in the future.  This was certainly true in my electronics class.  I learned a lot more when my radio didn’t work.  The best electronics people are the ones who can figure out why things don’t work.

The other implication is that investors want you to learn on someone else’s nickel.

Regardless, you’ll never know everything in time to get started.  So go ahead and get started.  You’ll figure it out.


“Adaptation is quicker and more cost effective than invention” – Joel Barker

I saw a running shoe design that was modeled after a suspension bridge. (I wonder if…) A company that made robots that look for bombs in war zones created the robotic vacuum cleaner. (I wonder if…) There are companies mining data on social networks to predict moves in the stock market. (I wonder if…)

You don’t need to be an engineer or a PHD scientist to have a killer idea for a company. Look for problems.  Their solutions may have already been applied to something else.

Be aware of your surroundings and embrace those three words.

“There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.” – Ken Olsen, President, Digital Equipment, 1977

So… what happened to Digital Equipment Corporation?

The giants who control mature markets always bear the burden of supporting those markets, long after they quit growing and being profitable.  Inevitably, they begin charging customers more for less and stealing customers from their competitors.  Market cannibalism.  There are no more new food sources so they begin eating their own.

This is a perfect opportunity for innovators to find opportunities.  The early group of disgruntled customers are looking for a new solution to the pain they are feeling.  They are often willing to try new things, just to spite their existing providers.

The truly visionary innovators create the platforms people migrate toward in advance of any hint the existing market is poised for failure.  That is where iPad, Netflix, Vonage and Roku came from.

Go find a market where the leaders are saying negative things about the new players.  Better yet, go find a market where they are screwing their customers.  There’s opportunity!