Startup Weekend University: The most important skill for developing your startup

What do your customers really want?
We hope you enjoyed our first email on how to get the most out of the Startup Weekend experience and our second email on the latest thinking on launching a product or service. This email is dives into one particular skill–customer development–that will be critical for your success at Startup Weekend (and at startups in general).
This is the third of four weekly emails that we’ll be sending you to make sure that you’re 100% ready to get the most out of SWTahoe on March 7th. The content is based on our experiences at Startup Weekends and other resources that we’ve found helpful when thinking about how to launch new companies.

Here’s an agenda of what is coming in this and future emails:

  1. What is Startup Weekend going to feel like? [Feb 11th]
  2. What does it take to launch a new product/service? [Feb 18th]
  3. Customer development: the most critical skill for building a startup [this email]
  4. Tools that we think will help you during SWTahoe

Each email has three sections: “required reading” on things that will be super helpful for you to know before the event; extra resources to help you excel; and bonus material if you get really into the topic

Don’t build a product that nobody wants — become a customer development rockstar

The must-read:
One of the key activities of the lean startup (which we described in our last email) is “customer development,” and it includes the set of skills you will need in order to efficiently evaluate and develop your ideas. In a nutshell, customer development is the practice of using interviews and structured experiments to generate, test, and optimize ideas for products and services.

Okay, so you have a great idea for product or service. How do you know it’s worthwhile pursuing? Customer development will help you answer the following fundamental questions and likely help improve your idea:
  • Who are your likely customers? Is the market big enough?
  • Are you solving a real problem or forcing a fit for your particular product/service?
  • Are customers solving that problem today? If so, what is the solution and are they paying for it? If not, why not?
  • If someone could solve the problem, what would customers like to see? How much would they pay for it?

Since interviews are a key component of customer development (and vital for success at Startup Weekend), we want to share some materials that Customer Development Labs put together on how to think about the process:

  1. Which Customers Should you Interview (The SPA Treatment)
  2. How to Find Customers to Interview
  3. How I Interview Customers
  4. You’ve Interviewed Customers. Now what?

Highly recommended material:
Customer development is focused around structured interactions with people that will help you understand whether and how you can provide value to them. Although much of this information will come from interviews, sometimes very simple mockups (prototypes or Minimum Viable Products) can be helpful as well. Here are a few examples of solid customerdevelopment that we hope will help inspire you to think creatively about how to get customerfeedback on your idea:

If you want to learn more:
There is so much great content out there on customer development but here are a few more pieces that we think could be helpful (and interesting):

Thanks and please let us know if you have any feedback,
The Startup Weekend Tahoe Team