Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Slow Week

Last week was pretty much a wash for being productive and meeting goals for my startup.  I kind of knew that would be the case ahead of time when I found out that I would be spending the week at CES for my day job.  The days were filled with browsing new technologies and scouting the latest trends.  Nights were filled with email, conference calls, and more email.  My plan was to spend the evenings putting together some of the details for my business plan, but that never seemed to happen.  Each night I would finish catching up on the work that had piled up through the day, and then was too exhausted to be productive at what I really needed to get done.

The week wasn't a total wash though.  On my flights to/from Las Vegas, I was able to catch up on some reading.  In particular, one of the books I read on my flight to Vegas was "The Entrepreneur's Guide to Customer Development" by Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits. The book summarizes some key points from "The Four Steps to the Epiphany" by Steven Blank, and it reminded me that I really need to take some time up front to work with actual customers.  I realized that I have been building a solution based on the feedback I have received from teachers and those affiliated to the fields of education and literacy.  All of these people have given positive feedback, but ultimately most of these people I have discussed details with are not going to be my customer.  Before I get too far in determining my business plan, I need to establish a formal hypothesis and start working with actual customers to make sure my assumptions of problem, solution, and willingness to spend money on my solution are correct.

As I was reading on the plane, I slapped myself on the forehead and had one of those "duh" moments.  How could I have overlooked this essential part of the lean startup methodology?  It is kind of embarrassing that I did not sit down and start customer interviews two months ago when I first started to refine the Reading Glue idea.  I guess it is better to figure this out now instead of later when I can't develop or maintain customers.

The next couple weeks should be interesting as I basically "cold call" customers and get critical feedback of my product.  This will help provide some initial validation that I am headed down the correct path or where I need to make adjustments to insure I am providing a solution people are willing to spend money on.  My assignment for the next couple days is to figure out the right questions to ask that will truly give me the critical feedback I am seeking.  I am open ears if anyone has any suggestions or feedback on the initial customer interview process.  I will be sure to post a follow up blog in the coming weeks with some of the results and lessons learned from this exercise.

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