#54/111: Getting Real

What is it about?

How do you build a simple and easy product? The people at 37signals tell you how. They show you how 37signals work and how you can apply the same principles on your company and product.

What can I learn?

Half a product instead of an half-assed product: Build simple and easy products but make them great. One example is the iPod. At the beginning it lacked most functionality but it was extremely easy to use, simple and looks great.

Epicenter Design: You should start with the most important thing and then build the rest. For example, if you design a blog interface/design you should start with the headlines. Afterwards go to the actual content and at last do things like navigation, tags, etc. This approach forces you to think about the purpose of your product.

Design Blank Pages: Blank Pages are the first thing a new customer will see. They haven’t yet added content. Most designers neglect these first-time-pages. Don’t do that. Create a great welcome page for new customer with screenshots, how-to boxes and a let’s start guide.


Getting Real covers most of the topics of Rework. It is a bit more development focused and there are quotes from other authors. However, if you read Rework first, you don’t really need to read this book. If you read none yet  and you are a developer, read this one. Otherwise, Rework is the more appropriate choice.

#53/111: Running Lean

What is it about?

Ash Maurya takes Customer Development & the Business Model Canvas and applies them onto web development. He shows step for step how to find a viable market.

What can I learn?

Test hypotheses: Building your business model is about iteration, i.e. you test something, if it doesn’t work, you are going to try something different. To actually reject assumptions, you have to write these as hypotheses. For example, instead of “my blog will be a useful marketing device”, you should write: “my blog will lead to 20 conversions by the end of the month”. This allows you to actually reject your hypotheses and move to the next ones.

Talk to your customers: Do they think that you solve an important problem? Are they ready to pay for it? It’s better to know these things as soon as possible because you can easily change things at this level.

The Lean Canvas®: Above you see the Lean Canvas which will probably remind you of the Business Model Canvas. Each of these panels should be tested. You begin with the Problem and Customer Segment. Which problem of whom could be solved? And then slowly focus on the other panels. If you tested each panel successfully, you have build a sustainable business model.


After reading The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development, I was pretty impressed by Running Lean because it achieved presenting a similar topic much better. Ash Maurya took the time to show you how to go from one step to another and he supports each steps with tips. If you are interested in building a market-driven company this is definitely a book you should read. Recommendation!

#52/111: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development

What is it about?

Build a product and they will come? Sorry, probably not. Today, you have to work with your prospective customers from day one. Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits talk about the Customer Discovery, i.e. finding problems to be solved and building your MVP (Minimal Viable Product).

What can I learn?

Solve needs: You probably don’t have a billion dollars to create demand for your product. So the best thing to do is solve a real need. Why? You don’t have to educate your prospects about the problem you’re solving and they will more likely give you money for your solution.

Get out the building: But what are these real problems? The best way is to talk to your prospects. You can meet them face-to-face, phone them or even write an email. You have the role of an interviewer. Let your prospects/customers do the talking. Often they appreciate that they can talk with you about their business problems.

Test your market: Now that you have identified some problems, you should start building your MVP, i.e. something that will you bring to your next step. Your first MVP is probably a landing page to check if there is enough demand for your solution. Later you could print some mock-ups or build a product that will solve the most important problem you have encountered. This will allow to tweak your product without spending too much time and money.


The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development is OK. The title is a bit misleading because it’s only about Customer Discovery and I found it a bit too short. However, I think the next book I will review is much more appropriate if you haven’t read The Four Steps to Epiphany before.

How to Take your Start-Up to the Next Level What is it about? Aaron Patzer, founder of mint.com, tal

How to Take your Start-Up to the Next Level

How to Take your Start-Up to the Next Level from Carsonified on Vimeo.

What is it about?

Aaron Patzer, founder of mint.com, talks about how he got from an idea to $170 million in just three year.

What can I learn?

Don’t be secretive: Aarons first idea was a goal setting software. Instead of building it in stealth mode, he decided to talk to people. Only about one in eighty of these people found this idea appealing, so he discarded it. Later he hasn’t gone secretive. He showed mint’s UI to lots of people and optimized it over time.

Build a prototype: If you are raising money, looking for customers or hiring people, a prototype is real advantage. People can actually see your idea in action, click around and feel the experience. Would you rather listen to a 10 minutes sales pitch or playing around 10 minutes with a new software?

Leverage your success: If you are once in the news, try to stay there. Mint got a pretty clever idea. They gave away free mint mojitos at the Techcrunch 40 and were eventually elected as people’s choice. Then they talked to other journalists if they won’t want to interview the people’s choice winner. And so on.

(via Carsonified)