STEVE FORM: LESSONS LEARNED FROM 35 YEARS OF WORK WITH STARTS
Entrepreneurs of Silicon (Silicon) Valley are considered the embodiment of the spirit of risky enterprises. But Steve Blank is unusual even among these stereotypical people.
A veteran of the Air Force, expelled from college at the time, he is currently experiencing the third stage of his career as the founder of the Lean Startup method, which undermines the foundations of a system aimed at creating startups taking into account primarily consumers, and only then technologies. The method has been used by companies such as Dropbox, AirBnB, and IMVU to create a product that stands out from others.
Today, Steve often talks about Lean Startup’s goals and entrepreneurial ideas, inspired by decades of business as a serial entrepreneur. In some endeavors, he failed, but four were successful (with an IPO).
Most people rarely consider entrepreneurs to be creative people, do you agree?
An entrepreneur is a real creative person. I mean the creators in the true sense of the word: they see what others do not see. Let’s look at two types of creative personalities: authors and performers. Try to find a suitable definition for the authors. This has nothing to do with programming. And this is not even related to customers. The creators see the concept, but then they need to attract high-quality specialists to help them realize this concept.
What would you tell the author who is trying to distance himself from the project and put it in automatic mode when the project begins to grow and develop?
Successful project creators are enthusiastic, motivated enthusiasts, regardless of whether they are “programmers” (developers) or “businessmen” (developers using the Customer Development methodology). Most entrepreneurs take pleasure in inventing and developing something truly grandiose, setting the company’s movement or creating a product. The most important success factor for an entrepreneur is his excitement when he “creates something”, it does not matter whether it is a product or a company that will deliver this product.
You served four years during the Vietnam War and chose not to graduate from college. How did this affect your work?
In fact, I dropped out twice. I hated school, and now I teach myself [Laughs] But it seemed to me that I was taught all sorts of nonsense, which was not particularly interesting to me.
My career has always been connected with a voluntary desire to do something and the ability to show myself. When I got into the air force, I indulged in precisely this pleasant occupation at the air base in Miami. And I volunteered for Southeast Asia, thinking that “it sounds interesting.” And still I was right.
You do not have to be the smartest, but the ability to show oneself is 80% success. My work was always connected with being in sight, and they said about me: “Who do we have? The form. Let’s choose it.” The voluntary desire to do something and the ability to show oneself always helped me. But all this time I was well able to highlight the necessary information. Detect message in noise. I was not smarter than others, but I was able to see better than others the development of events.
How did the ability to highlight the necessary information help detect the Lean Startup method?
I chose an activity that convinced me of the fearlessness of entrepreneurs. Therefore, I decided to challenge the prevailing attitudes. Startups are not smaller versions of large companies. This is something completely different. I asked: “Why do you teach us how to write business plans?” A business plan is an action plan. And we still have no idea what we are doing.
Tell us a little about “Getting out of the building”?
Let’s just imagine for a second that you are the smartest person in the office. Do you think that you are smarter than the collective mind of all your potential customers? If you really think so, then do not take the trouble to talk.
Many entrepreneurs, especially techies, think that there is no point in talking with potential customers. They just do not understand the problem. You are trying to understand how what you see (and customers do not see) will change their lives. You want to understand what happened before and what will happen after. For example, what was the world like before the appearance of the computer and what was the world like after the appearance of the computer? This will require a quality development study.
And can this approach to working with clients be applied even to disruptive innovations?
Steve Jobs worked hard in this direction. There is a story about how he sat in the production room of the headquarters, and lightning flashed in his head. This myth is detrimental to the concept of entrepreneurship. In fact, Jobs talked to many people who did all kinds of things. He was a real revolutionary. If you can’t find the information you need at the office, then gosh, go outside.