Doing so would have helped
the founders hone their sales
message, focus their value proposition, and develop sales discipline. It would have also earned
them candid, reliable feedback.
Just because somebody is willing
to take something rudimentary
from you for free is not proof you
have a customer. But when someone commits fnancially—even at
a major discount—that person is
serious. And he or she is going to
evaluate your product or service
much more critically. That’s the
kind of feedback you need.
You can also try to get upfront
sales, though that’s a risk if you
can’t deliver. Still, people are
getting more comfortable with
that model, thanks to Kickstarter
and Amazon. Ofer a deep discount because they’re willing to
sign on early.
Selling is the best indication
that you have a viable business.
A yes is great. No is fne too. That
tells you to move along.
Don’t pull the plug on
learning too soon
There are things you should do
in the frst 90 days. Other things
you should postpone, like trying
to raise money for your product
on Kickstarter or another crowdfunding platform. The money
is tempting, but why ask people
to fund something you don’t
know is the right thing to make?
Steve Blank is a Silicon Valley
serial entrepreneur and Stanford
professor whose customer-devel-opment methodology launched
the Lean Startup movement.
KICKS TARTER AND Indiegogo are
world-class inventions that
changed the nature of funding
for startups. But don’t use such
platforms prematurely. If you’re
trying to crowdfund your initial
idea, that almost guarantees you
are working on the wrong thing.
New entrepreneurs misun-
derstand what Kickstarter is
for. They think it’s a way to do
customer discovery, to test their
product’s appeal. In fact, going
on Kickstarter freezes customer
discovery in its tracks. The min-
ute you commit to Kickstarter, if
you get funded, you are entering
two years of indentured servi-
tude until you deliver that prod-
uct. The money isn’t worth the
sacrifce. Instead, do the hard
work of customer discovery,
which will likely take more than
90 days. Potential customers
should be grabbing your mini-
mum viable product out of your
hands and writing a check on the
spot. Once you have a product
you know solves a real customer
problem, then Kickstarter can
help you scale demand.
Kickstarter before customer
discovery is the lazy entrepre-
neur’s approach to starting up.
Don’t be a lazy entrepreneur.
LEIGH BUCHANAN is an Inc.
editor-at-large. SHEILA MARIKAR is an Inc.
I have always been interested in what drives
fnancial markets and the idea that transparency and access to information create
an equal playing feld for regular people.
Ultimately, if everyone has access to the
same information, goods and services will
trade at fair value. With eBay, I saw a real
opportunity to create a place where we could
bring the power of an interactive and egalitarian marketplace to the general public.
This idea of a level playing feld became
apparent to me when I had a little bit of extra
money and had decided to invest in a gaming
company called 3DO. I called my broker and
said I wanted to buy into this IPO coming
to market—the fact that the frst step was
having to get on the phone with my broker
says something. The IPO went public at $18
per share, but I had to pay closer to $24. This
seemed kind of imbalanced, and when I put
it together that individual investors can get
locked out of our most efcient markets, I
began to think more about how this applies
to other areas of commerce. In the end,
one great thing about eBay is that we tied
the company’s success to our constituents’
success. We wouldn’t make a dollar unless
our sellers did. —As told to S.M.
The genesis of e Bay
was Auction Web,
during a coding
session on his
over Labor Day