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You note that Steve Blank leaves room for vision in his customer development process. Eric Ries does too. Ries says that a founder should start with a vision for her startup, then translate this vision into falsifiable hypotheses that can be subjected to testing that reflects what users do (i.e., how they respond to MVPs in real world conditions) rather than what they say (i.e., their feature requests). Ries also says that with the lean startup approach, effort is pulled not by users’ stated needs, but rather by the need to test a hypothesis (note the contrast to lean manufacturing, where activity is pulled by a customer’s order). Viewed in these terms, the issue with Dropbox and Aardvark is not whether they are departing from user-centric design principles by ignoring user feature requests, but rather, whether they have subjected their original vision to rigorous testing. Dropbox’s team has received lots of validation for its vision of simplicity in the form of strong adoption of its products by a range of different types of users—both early adopter/power users and mainstream consumers. It’s less clear whether Aardvark’s team had fully validated their vision of Q&A as private conversation between parties in an extended social network, as opposed to the traditional approach of a query posted to a community where strangers can offer a archived response for all to see.
Toggle Commented Jan 28, 2012 on Steve Blank vs. Steve Jobs at Seeing Both Sides
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Entrepreneurs get lots of feedback during all phases of Gartner's hype cycle ( The counterpart to "ignore the critics" on the way down the cycle, when approaching the trough of disillusionment, is "ignore the fans" on the way up, when approaching the peak of inflated expectations earlier in the cycle. Successful entrepreneurs get lots of adulation as their startups gain traction. But it's hard to ignore this praise; stoking it drives traffic, helps with recruiting, and attracts investors at high valuations. The key is not letting the praise go to your head. When you spin a story about great momentum and a dazzling value proposition over and over, it takes real discipline to stay open to signals that things may be going off track. Likewise, when the backlash sets in, there are better and worse ways to ignore the critics. The key is to guard against what the late Yale psychologist Irving Janis called "groupthink" ( According to Janis, when a decision making group faces an external threat, there's a tendency to rally around a strong leader and suppress any opinions or data that run contrary to the leader's chosen path. There's real danger in getting your counsel from a reflecting mirror. So, entrepreneurs should probably listen to critics but not overreact to them.
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Jeff: many thanks to you for organizing and delivering a terrific learning experience for my students, to Charlie and Andrew for visiting and sharing their insights, and to the team at foursquare for letting us study the company. In our course, we're studying the challenges of scaling a startup, and as you outline above, foursquare raises some great questions on that front. Mining the tweet stream you reference, here are some additional issues: - When does a hunch-driven approach need to give way to a data-driven approach? A hunch-driven approach, fueled by Twitter, email, and face-to-face contact, worked well when foursquare's founders were similar to early adopters in terms of behavior and attitudes. As one student said, in this context, 'market aware' does not necessarily mean 'market research'. But will this be continue to be true when evolving the service to meet the needs of mainstream users? - Most foursquare users share location data with fewer friends than they connect with on Facebook, Twitter, etc. This raises the question of how network effects behave as foursquare scales. As penetration grows, will users feel pressure to share with marginal friends in ways that clutter and diminish the experience? In other words, are there diminishing returns to network effects? Can list management and privacy control tools address this concern? - Can foursquare monetize local merchants without building a big and costly local salesforce?
Toggle Commented Mar 2, 2011 on Figuring Out FourSquare at Seeing Both Sides
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Mar 2, 2011