Put this Hammer Down – Why do Customer Discovery ?


“When you have a hammer everything looks like a nail” -Bernard Baruch

Here, the hammer is your solution and the nails are your customers. I am sure you have already found lots of nails for your hammer. But please take a closer look at those nails. They are screws.

Put the hammer down and look at that poor screw. If it’s actually a nail, take the hammer back and take a swing, but if it’s a screw, you will need something else.

Many entrepreneurs start by building the solution they have imagined (a hammer) and then come up with a list of potential customers that could be interested (screws that look like nails) and hit them with their solution.

And the screw says ouch. The entrepreneur don’t hear the screw and hit harder, ouch, and then try to hit another screw. But the end of the day, the entrepreneur is exhausted that the nothing has being build.

The entrepreneur should really look at the screw, understand what type of screw it is, how the head is, the thread, the length, the alloy. And then think about the tool he can use for the job.

So put the hammer down and take a close look at that screw and decide what the solution should be. Don’t hit the screw on the head.

That’s called Customer Discovery. Remember, no hammer allowed.

What Ash Maurya told us in Paris

Startup people in Paris had a dilemma this week – choosing between two events on the same night: hear the good words from Ash Maurya author of Running Lean or listen to Heidi Isern and Blaise Bertrand from IDEO.
I ended up going to listen to Ash Maurya.

Here is what he said that I liked:

Most startups fail (still). Startup that succeed change along the way. They never end-up when they wanted to go.

The biggest risk is not finding customers.

If you cant get 10 customer off line. You can’t get 1000 online.

Ash runs a program where in 8 weeks, startups get paying customers and – here is the trick – they can’t write a line of code.

About validating assumptions: getting 2 positives answers out of 10 is not good enough. Change something and try to get 8 out of 10.

While doing customer development, most of the time spent on interviews is actually between interviews.

Referring to his book Running Lean, he said he can’t tell when the launch date was. It was the result of a continuous process. It’s concept ‘no launch date’ that I like, forcing you to be live with your poor product on day one.

Finally, he remained the limits of the methodology: it’s about getting feedback fast and being able to know if you are on the wrong path quicker. It does not guarantee success.

I suspect IDEO might have the rest of secret sauce…

Thank you for signing the book too :)
Thanks for signing my book too 🙂

Lean Startup Machine experience

I recently attended the Lean Startup Machine workshop in London.

WOW. What an experience. 2.5 days of immersion to develop an idea into a viable and meaningful product, searching potential customers and refining the idea. A lot more excitement than what many of us get in our day job.

This workshop provides an opportunity to work on a real case, in the safety of the sandbox, guided by very helpful and insightful mentors. In teams, we practice the running experiments, building MVP, invalidation assumptions, pivoting, and ultimately doing customer development.

If you have read the Lean Startup book, this workshop is very much in the continuity and applying the theory to a practical business idea. Definitely recommend for anyone who has enjoyed the book.

Here are photo photos of the event:

Rafael explaining why you get out of the building and talk to people.
Rafael explaining why you get out of the building and talk to people.
Tim and the mentors
Tim and the mentors
My Team, working on the Public Democracy concept, with Luca and Stuart.
My team (Public Democracy concept) with Luca and Stuart and our Validation board.

Confucius said, twitter is growing

Time for a quite update on how Confucius140 is growing on twitter. It is a experimental account that tweet twice a day a famous quote.

Growth is steady, about 8 new followers per day. The account is now reaching 4.000 followers.

According the retweet.co.uk it’s getting about 8 retweet for each quote. This is a 0.2% retweet per follower.

The most retweeted tweet resulted of Enrique Bunbury retweet. Thank you Enrique and your 150k followers.

Tweetreach provided nicely presented stats but I struggled to make anything out of it and found the number confusing.

The Confucius experiment is now spreading to Facebook – as the Confucius Wisdom fan page. This simple tweet allowed the page to get started with 7 likes. Let’s wait and observe how virality works on Facebook now.

Confucius still tweeting

Confucius is still tweeting – or the bot behind Confucius140 twitter account is. I adapted it recently to support the new twitter API and just fixed the auto-follow of followers. After a year an a half of activity, confucius140 has now 772 followers and is in 51 lists. Follower progression was fast between Oct’09 and July’10 and is now back to a lower more steady rate.

I hope to be able to celebrate the first 1000 soon. But more interesting that the number of followers is the amount of re-tweet. Most of the Confucius tweets seems to be re-tweeted once or twice. A re-tweet means that someone actually read the tweet and decided to share it with the rest of their followers. Quite an endorsement.

According to retweetrank.com the retweet rank is an indicator of how frequently you are retweeted. @confucius140 is 91481st most-retweeted user on Twitter. Out of about 50m active users, that’s pretty good.

Confucius said: I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand. So the experiment continues…

Launching newspage.me

I am very pleased to tell you that the news site I have been working on, Newspage.me is finally ready to be taken for a test drive.

Please, have a look at it and tell me what you think – if anything :)

The main features for this version are:

Clean design, providing a simple clear relaxed way to look and scan the news, including the videos.
– Compare and switch between the different main news providers, all in one place. In this version: CNN, FoxNews, ABCNews, CBS for the USA, BBC, the guardian, the telegraph, for the UK and Le Monde, Figaro and Liberation for France

The url: http://newspage.me/

I would like to thank very much both Sam Peck and Cedric Houvenagel for the time and brainpower they put into this.


next: the FAQs.

Confucius progress on twitter

Time for a quick update on confucius140, my little Chinese wisdom experiment on twitter. To make Confucius more findable, I added hash tags to each quote when room allowed it. I still didn’t promote the account in anyway.
Follower and re-tweets, the 2 metrics I am looking at, have been progressing slowly.

Confucius Twitter progress, Sept09

Confucius Twitter progress, Sept’09

Number of followers is now 45, some of them are marketing spam but some of them are relevant users that re-tweet and engage with the proposition.

Not sure what is the best way to count effectively the number of re-tweet. This is a good indicator to measure the engagement of the followers (a re-tweet/tweet ratio). Another good indicator is the number of followfriday / recommendations is the account getting. A few sites are providing some analysis and ranking:

Checkretweet is ranking the account as: Retweet rank: 6571- approx 86.33 percentile.

TwitterGrader is ranking the account as 75 over 100.

Twinfluence is giving some insight about the social network linked to the account:

2nd-order followers: 318,935
Velocity: 5,407 second-order followers/day
Social Capital: 7,087.4 +1.1 High
Centralization: 18.00% / 0.0 Average – Resilient

The definitions of the term, and how they are computed are explained here.

Most of those stats are missing a clear engagement metrics. From my perspective user or follower engagement can be measured with number of re-tweets, mentions and direct replies that the account is getting. Or may be I just haven’t found the service measuring this.

Rethinking News

Today there are lots of Internet news sites, reporting, delivering and presenting news, each in different ways, each applying their own touch every step of the process.
I think it will be great to have a single place where you could watch and read all the news from the different providers around the world, with a clear and simple interface, free from intrusive advertising.

Confucius on Twitter – first findings

Let’s revisit that Confucius experiment with some numbers.

Confucius has 16 followers. He is following them all back. Without planned promotion this wont go very far and growth will be organic. To gain in popularity, Confucius needs to be promoted. This is very much confirming a early Internet web 1.0 moto: ‘If you build it, they won’t automatically come.’

In an attempt to promote or make Confucius more findable, I added the tags #quote and #Confucius when they could fit, which probaly helped a bit.

Interestingly his quotes were re-tweeted 6 times (one quote re-tweeted 4 times). He follows the users re-tweeting. This prompts me to think that we are seeing a little bit of the viral effect here, where the quote are being re-tweeted. Number of re-tweet if a good endorsement metric. It is actual human interaction, as followers sometimes can be simple spam. This is a good indication that the user liked or found value in following Confucius.

Today, I changed the name to Confucius140, which I find a bit more clever.

Next steps are to pro-actively promote Confucius on twitter. Stay tuned.

Confucius on Twitter

This is a quick experiment on Twitter. The idea is simple. Create a twitter account where the tweets are relevant to the followers and updated regularly. To start with: no promotion or buzz, no tags, 2 updates per days.  Then play with some of those settings and see how this influence the number of followers / retweet etc…

Tweeting famous quotes seems like a good of providing the relevant regular content updates. Confucius must be one of the most quoted and less controversial person. So I created the @confucious__says twitter account, wired it to the TweetLater service and populated some tweets.

With the TweetLater service I also added an auto-follow and ‘auto direct message response’ to new followers, to make this a little more interactive.

I hope to make interesting observations on the number of follower, how it does increase (or not) and how often the updates are retweeted.

Similar services are already existing on twitter:

  • @justquoted with over 1700 followers and a quote every hour, tagged with #quote and linking back to the site.
  • @Quotweet 137 followers and irregular updates.
  • @TheBestQuotes over 1200 followers: “We bring you the best, worst, funniest and most inspiring Quotes ever uttered.”
  • @Confucius_Says (996 followers)
  • @tinyConfucius – the most successfull with 1900 followers have a similar concept
  • @KongQiu (140 followers)

Let’s see where this one goes. Next will be to push the feed to Facebook :)

As Confucius says: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”