The Fat Lady Cometh – Shutting Down startupSQUARE

On Dec 1st, startupSQUARE.com will thank it’s very generous alpha users and the support we’ve received from peers and mentors alike before closing our doors and shutting down. Why?

We’ve demonstrated that there is significant demand for this type of service, we have 46% product / market fit based on Sean Ellis’ suggested measurement method, and we have users so enthusiastic about the idea that they just send us money. Still we’re shutting it down. Continue reading

Eat Your Own Dog Food

Yesterday it occurred to me that although I’d been diligently conducting customer development and diligently using my own site, I had missed something important. Sure, I’ve been browsing the new ideas, making comments, looking for interesting projects I might contribute to, but was I really using our own platform the way it was intended?

No.

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Reverse Customer Development a.k.a. Thank God for Early Adopters

This week I was incredibly excited to be ambushed at Startup Waffles by a couple of users who told me how many things we needed to fix in order to make the site usable. All of the points were right on.

What thrilled me about the conversation with Ron and Eugene was that they were passionate enough about the concept of startupSQUARE to put up with all the problems and open enough to talk to me about it. I can’t stress enough how important the feedback we keep receiving is. Our site needs a commitment to feedback and constant improvement in order to be a great resource for entrepreneurs. Continue reading

$3.95? We’re Rich! First Revenue During Alpha Testing

On Friday, I received this welcome email:

Subject: Sale – Entrepreneurs Guide to CustDev- ID:5777670 Entrepreneur’s Guide to CustDev eBook

You have earned an affiliate fee of 3.95 USD for the sale (ID:5777670-686=
2856) of Entrepreneur’s Guide to CustDev eBook on Thu May 27 2010 23:52:3=
9 MST.

Sincerely,
Entrepreneurs Guide to CustDev

startupSQUARE, having not yet progressed to beta testing, now has revenue! Granted, a very small amount of revenue. Why?

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Why Get Married on the First Date?…Co-Founder Dating

In our customer development interviews with entrepreneurs looking for co-founders I’ve found many pitches follow this general course:

1) My idea is amazing, but I can’t tell you about it.
2) It’s a 100% surefire billion dollar idea, if only I had someone to do __________.
3) I will only tell you about my idea if you commit to indentured servitude for at least one year if not longer.

I find this a bit loopy. Continue reading

Customer Development with Network Effects

How does customer development differ with regards to products which require a network effect to be useful? Short answer: No one knows.

Companies offering services such as Skype, eBay, Facebook, and others have cannot really test their value proposition without having a critical mass of users. A telephone with only one person on it is pretty useless. Yet these are some of the most lucrative inventions ever. So how do you apply the principles of customer development to these situations?

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Top Takeaway – Startup Lessons Learned

On April 23rd I was able to go to the Startup Lessons Learned Conference and had my world rocked. I thought I was lean, I could be leaner. I thought I had a minimum viable product, I could have built less. Although Steve Blank, Eric Ries, Dave McClure, David Weekly etc. etc. all have written and spoken prolifically about their methods and thoughts, there is a powerful feeling to being the the same room as a thousand other people drinking the same kool-aid.

Sponsorship Helps

First off, I should mention that I wouldn’t of been able to go at all without the sponsorship of the Microsoft Bizspark program. Usually I’m not one to thank MS except sarcastically for bricking my hard drive, but there’s no way a bootstrapped company like ours could have gone. So special thanks to Adrian Perez, Joel Franusic, and Bizspark! Continue reading

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

Wow I’m tired. Tired and energized. In the past few weeks we’ve had the typical ups and downs of every startup. We’ve let in a number of alpha users, got another hundred signed up thanks to a very minor TechCrunch mention, and realized our Minimum Viable Product wasn’t minimum enough.

We started building our site with a basic premise that entrepreneurs were willing to post their pitches to attract co-founders and investment. We confirmed this hypothesis through numerous customer interviews and surveys. We test drove our site with a limited number of alpha users and despite the clunky interface we were pleased by the results. We pushed people through a rather long survey and got an 82.9% completion rate, far higher than we would’ve thought. So we knew that people were willing to fill out some forms.

So you can imagine our surprise when our first chunk of 50 alpha users decided not to post any business ideas or pitches. Oops. Continue reading

The Taxonomy of the Lean Startup Pivot

(warning: this post may be highly theoretical / geeky)

Last week I was planning for the worst. Having gone through 51 iterations of my mockups and gathered as much as feedback as I could with our primitive alpha, I feel confident about our basic customer problem hypothesis. Still, I play a lot of chess and like to think at least five moves ahead in the five most likely futures. So I decided to make a list of my potential pivots.

(note: For those not familiar with the term, pivot is a lean startup vocab word that states in it’s simplest form: If your business model isn’t working, change something. More on this below.) Continue reading

Customer Development: Fight or Flight

Motivations are unimportant if you happened to be B.F. Skinner. But since he’s dead let’s assume you’re not him. Here’s the obvious question, why do you want to start a business?

Let’s start off topic with a ridiculously simplistic dichotomy: Fight or Flight

Those are the two basic choices we all have when faced with a conflict situation and it’s deeply ingrained in our physiology. Even when faced with something as non-threatening as public speaking, our basic instincts can take over and flood us with adrenaline. Our instincts tell us we have to fight or run away. But as in so many modern day stress or conflict situations, fighting is useless (you cannot punch out a public speaking opportunity) so we generally go for the second option: escape the situation. Continue reading