Category: Customer Value

“Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt me while I’m doing it.” – Ray Danner, Founder of Shoney’s

A lot of “experts” will review your business model and tell you it doesn’t make sense or they don’t get it or more likely, just simply smile and say “that’s nice”.

Success in a startup is not measured by winning pitch competitions or even being accepted in a great accelerator program.  All these institutions have people who judge your idea by preset criteria and they bring their personal biases into it.

Success in a startup is not measured by getting venture capital.  The statistics still say that less than 10% of those seeking institutional funding will find it.  Less than 2% of them will actually provide a return.

A funny thing happens along the way…  As you start to get traction and grow your customer base, the opinion of the experts starts to improve.

Only one thing matters: solving a big problem for which people are willing to pay for the solution.  There’s only one place to find that answer; the person with the problem.

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson


“Things are more like they are now than they ever were before.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

To me this quote is about reluctance to change and looking back to the past.

The one competitor everyone has the is customer’s decision to do nothing.  If I am actively managing a problem of some kind, it means I have researched potential solutions, chosen one and I invested time and energy into implementing that solution.  That means the next solution has to outweigh the time and effort I put into my current solution; plus the time and energy to learn something new.  Hence my decision to do nothing.

This is why you need to talk to me, find out how I am currently solving the problem, and understand what would entice me to try something new.

“Attack The Problem, Not The Competition” – Dharmesh Shah

A market with no clear market leader is a free for all for a lot of competition.  It’s also a sign that no one has figured out the key value proposition.

Competition tends to lead to a comparison of features and it’s an easy stretch to begin attacking the competition for their weaknesses.

This is an arrogant behavior because it takes focus away from the most important constituent, which is the customer. Attacking competitors takes time, effort and energy.  Worse yet, it is a sign of fear.

The winner in the market will be the one who solves the customer’s problem.

“Entrepreneurship is NOT egalitarian” – Rob Wiltbank

The best technologies don’t always win.  Sometimes, ideas get stolen.  There are no rules of fairness and getting the government involved with entrepreneurship will only kill innovation.

Rules define boundaries and they constrain creativity.  They focus attention toward the mainstream and their purpose is to create efficiency and yet they consume resources without adding value.  The moment a rule is created, there has to be a measuring system and an infrastructure to evaluate and enforce the rule.

The Federal Government killed the potential of Startups to exit via IPO’s because they wanted to make sure we never have another Enron.

There will be plenty of barriers.  That’s why we have pivots.  Stay focused on the customer.

Rob Wiltbank spoke at the 2013 SSTI Conference in Portland

“Gold is everywhere but it’s very rare” – Barry Goss

Understanding customer value is like panning for gold.  Of course once in a while you find a nugget of consequence but most of the time you have to collect a little dust here and there.  After a while, it adds up.

You can’t just ask 10 people what they think about your idea and then go raise funding.  If it were my money, I’d want evidence that you have interviewed a hundred or more.    Better yet, sell a prototype to a hundred or more.

Gold pans are cheap… 10 bucks or so.  And it’s designed to do the one most important thing, pan for gold.

So it is with your prototype.  Make it fast, make it cheap and give it to lots of people.

That’s where the gold is!

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” – Bill Cosbey


It’s interesting how often people predict the doom of Apple because of the iPhone.  Every version had quirks and bugs and yet we are on the 6th (?) version and Apple continues to set the standard.

Startups have plenty of “advisors” and critics.  The community is being overrun now with entrepreneurial service providers, accelerators, mentoring programs and the like.  Angels groups are growing and now we have crowd funding for investors.  All of these interests have their value in helping to shape entrepreneurs for success.

But there’s really only one measure…

Are your customers buying your product?

If the advice you’re getting does not point you to that, then it’s bad advice and a likely key to failure.

“If we did a complete financial analysis, no one would ever have children.” – Shawn Carson

Happy Labor Day!

According to CBS, it costs a quarter million dollars to raise a kid to the age of 18.  Check out the cost breakdown:$241080/

Tack on another $100k to get them through a public university.  If you did a full financial analysis complete with a discounted cash flow and IRR, there is absolutely no break-even point.

But that’s not why we have kids.

“All financial projections are lies.”  So goes the Venture Capital joke.  They have to be believable and pass the sniff test when you tell your story but no one can predict the future, nor can we predict customer behavior.  There will be a time when you must crunch the numbers, tweak the models, build the spreadsheets and analyze the scenarios.

But in the startup phase, no amount of analysis will justify the investment.  That will come from customer validation so run the numbers and then, as Guy Kawasaki would say, “go make meaning”.  If you find a way to ease the pain and create delight for your customers, the numbers will follow.

“If you’re not getting feedback from customers, it’s because they don’t like you and you’re going to die” – Jason Freedman

…perhaps it’s because you are not asking.

Customer feedback is vital to founding a startup…

Customer feedback is vital to develop the first product…

Customer is vital to growing the company…

Customer feedback is….     VITAL!

You must adopt a discipline of regular customer interaction in order to keep your finger on the pulse of your customers.  The Customer Discovery Process is a company lifelong process.  It starts early and never ends.  Customers and their technologies change and so must you.  Just ask the music recording industry…