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The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win

Steven Gary Blank · 46 HN comments
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Amazon Summary
The bestselling classic that launched 10,000 startups and new corporate ventures - The Four Steps to the Epiphany is one of the most influential and practical business books of all time. The Four Steps to the Epiphany launched the Lean Startup approach to new ventures. It was the first book to offer that startups are not smaller versions of large companies and that new ventures are different than existing ones. Startups search for business models while existing companies execute them. The book offers the practical and proven four-step Customer Development process for search and offers insight into what makes some startups successful and leaves others selling off their furniture. Rather than blindly execute a plan, The Four Steps helps uncover flaws in product and business plans and correct them before they become costly. Rapid iteration, customer feedback, testing your assumptions are all explained in this book. Packed with concrete examples of what to do, how to do it and when to do it, the book will leave you with new skills to organize sales, marketing and your business for success. If your organization is starting a new venture, and you're thinking how to successfully organize sales, marketing and business development you need The Four Steps to the Epiphany. Essential reading for anyone starting something new. 3,000 fixed sentences, 10,000 new commas. Same revolutionary ideas. New edition at
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Jun 24, 2013 · chiph on The Little, Big Idea
I'm in the midst of reading this:

and while it's a bit "corporate", many of the concepts presented there are dead-on.

Read this first:

And then this:

And then go validate your idea with prospective customers.

then figure out whether you want to use Grails (Java-based) or Rails (which is written in Ruby. Ruby is a programming language). Or something else entirely.

edit: And, for all that is good and holy, don't do a marketplace as your first startup. It'll fail. And I know you won't listen, but you heard it here first. Still, good luck!

Thanks Aaron, I would love to hear from you as to why you say a marketplace will fail. just mentioned u on twitter!
Marketplaces are incredibly hard to get right, even for people who've been through this before.
Seriously from all the articles I read I am an expert when knowing what not to do. So now I am looking for an article that says what to do.

Anybody have some other good read to share?

I would say this is a more appropriate recommendation -
Would be interesting to get some additional textbook recommendations from HN. I'll start with mine:

Subject: Startups

Recommendation: The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steven Gary Blank

Reason: It's a highly practical guide/blueprint on taking new startups to market. & first three chapters:

He has just released a new book that should be the evolution of the one you cited. It should be called 'the startup's owner manual' and he said it contains what he has learned in the past ten years. you can find it on amazonn and on his site
What is your thought sequence, particuarlly in a new venture that you're thinking about or have already started.

OK, in a venture that I've already started, I go back to our mission statement[1], and decide if the new idea fits the mission. If it does, I think about whether or not it would be a feature of a project we're already working on, or would become a whole new product. In either case, it has to be prioritized relative to the existing work. In some cases, it's easy enough to say "this isn't important enough to work on right now, so it goes in the backlog." In other case, it's not so clear, so you might want to get out and talk to people. I like to bounce ideas off a select handful of people I know and trust initially, and then - depending on the feedback - I might start talking it up to a wider audience, and/or blog/tweet/g+/etc. the idea to solicit discussion.

Do cool things just randomly pop in your head after whatever things you do through life?

Sometimes, but I find that most of the cool ideas I have (well, the ones that I think are cool anyway) occur in response to reading or studying something new, or something that shifts my perspective. I'm a rabid reader anyway, and I try to stretch my boundaries by reading books that span a lot of territory. Even in terms of technical books... I mean, I'm a software guy by trade, but one of the last books I read was Beyond Boundaries[2] by Miguel Nicolelis, which deals with neuroscience and brain/machine interfaces. And lying around here somewhere are some books on nanotechnology, philosophy of mind, artificial life, economics, etc., etc. I often find inspiration from reading something seemingly fairly unrelated to my day to day work.

I also find that talking to interesting people, doing interesting stuff, with other cool ideas, can spark a new idea. As such, I hang out at the local hackerspace[3] quite often, and just listen in, talk to people, swap ideas, etc. Going to user group meetings around new technologies and talking to people there can also spark ideas.

Another neat thing to do, is to follow the "incubator"[4] discussion list at the Apache Software Foundation. Just following what new and interesting projects are being submitted there can potentially spark some cool and creative ideas.

As a follow-up, how do you actually validate whether or not you will actually move forward with it (market opportunity, personal problem, growth potential, ease/challenge of problem, customer validation)?

See above, but if something makes it as far as being seriously considered for a product / product feature, I'm a big fan of @sgblank's "Customer Development" approach. See his book The Four Steps to the Epiphany[5] for details.

[1]: Previous HN discussion on missions:

[2]: Author Website:




As was I. But in the meantime, I've been reading the three books that Steve Blank has recommended in various interviews (citation needed):




I'd still love to know what was planned for the class, but these volumes have been valuable to me.

Do we build this feature?

In a startup, that's all about customer development. Steve Blank has a book and a lot to say on the topic.

If so, how should it flow?

UX is non-trivial you will have to spend a lot of time learning about it. I always recommend Don't Make Me Think as a starting point.

How important is...

There are questions that can be answered by understanding UX patterns and anti-patterns. There are also questions that require A/B testing. When in doubt, test.

However, UX can also suffer from premature optimization. Just like in writing code where you wouldn't use a big array when you need a map, don't ignore UX, but don't try to answer details until after it is working or you could find yourself bike shedding instead of shipping.

Additionally, I HIGHLY suggest taking a look at the Business Model Generation by Alex Osterwalder and Running Lean By Ash Maurya.


We realized that our startup had two probems: A really long sales cycle (on the order of years for some clients), and a lack of the necessary sales skills on the founding team. We weren't able to address the former. But while trying to address the latter, I found the following articles useful.

In Four Steps to the Epiphany, Steve Blank has some great advice on hiring sales staff before product-market fit:

Basically, he says, "Don't do it," with the possible expection of a single "sales closer" who loves working in the field, and who has been avoiding promotions to VP of Sales. As I understand it, you're not looking to build a sales organization yet, but you may need some sales skills to close your first 3 deals and prove that the model works. But even then, he has a checklist of customer discovery tasks to do first.

There's also some amusing advice from Eric Sink on hiring sales staff in a micro-ISV:

- The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steven Blank. [1]

- Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days by Jessica Livingston. [2]



While I haven't read it (it came out after I'd left the "game"), what Four Steps.... covers is absolutely critical, I've seen and been in too many startups that failed due to failing in Customer Discovery in one way or another.

In earlier times, here are the books I found to be particularly useful:

Others have endorsed E-Myth and I'll note that what's most valuable in Walking the High-Tech High Wire is in part their Customer Discovery story....

purple cow and how is that?
^^ Great books. Also checkout the books about the lean startup by Eric Ries (there's like 3-4 of them now).

I would also recommend the ultimate sales machine. Even though I've only read 20 pages since I started reading it one month ago (yes, I run a startup), it's really interesting and helpful.

I presume this is the book:
Yes, and just in case you think I'm kidding (or exaggerating) about how good it is... look at the Amazon reviews. 79 reviews, and almost all of them are 5 star. It's an excellent book; at least in terms of content. The production qualities leave something to be desired, but that stuff can be ignored. It's basically his class notes from his class at Stanford, printed through Cafe Press. But it's excellent material.
Via Google:

Would you be able to say if this PDF is the same as the $40 book on Amazon? It is freely available on Stanford's site.

That's only the first 3 chapters.
Looks like that's just the first 33 pages of the whole book. That said, that would make a fine introduction to Steve's ideas, and then one can decide whether or not to buy the book, after reviewing that bit.

There are also a lot of videos on Youtube, where Steve talks about this stuff.

Not an article, but how about this book:

Wow, impressively positive reviews. I'll have to read it.
Have you read "The Four Steps To The Epiphany?" If not, get it, read it, then read it again.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, then check out the series of videos that starts here:

Or read some of Steve's blog posts from here:

Thanks, did not know about the book. I'll be sure to check it out. The video though was more like an interest generator than anything concrete.
Yeah, the book goes into a LOT more detail. It's actually a detailed step-by-step roadmap for how to go from and hypothesis / guess, to a validated product idea with a defined, existing and profitable market. It's oriented mostly towards enterprise software scenarios, but he does point out where the same ideas can be applied to consumer products to some extent.

Honestly, if enterprise scenarios are on your roadmap at all, I think you may find it to be one of the most valuable books you'll ever read. I'm just now in the process of putting his process into action for my own startup, and I'm solidly convinced that this is The Way To Go (esp. for enterprise software, which happens to be what I'm doing.)

One that I am surprised to not see mentioned (here at least as opposed to stackoverflow) is

4 Steps the Epiphany -

As a technical founder and general programmer + startup person, I was always told that sitting in my room coding more and more features wouldnt help a startup succeed but this is the first book that both explained exactly why that was true and what I should be doing instead.

Its not a "read this and your startup will succeed" by any means, but its the most useful and practical book along those lines I have read.

It is because it isn't relevant to developers in general. Not all developers aspire to be entrepreneurs
I made many mistakes, the common pattern in all mistakes was WISHFUL THINKING. I think a really good businessman operates without ANY wishful thinking. I came to the conclusion that a good business plan (which by the way should be typed up and hung on the wall so that it is explicit) contains no more than one "wishful" part. VC money might allow for more, I don't know.

Anyways, for me it was:

* not doing customer development at the very beginning

* concentrating on technology instead of customers

* not taking into account market forces

* not taking into account my economic environment (Eastern Europe != California), reading too many SV blogs

* not starting the company when I was younger (started at 27, should have started at 25)

I think not concentrating on customers is a common mistake, which could be avoided if for example the book "Four steps to Epiphany" would come up more often, and people would read it before spending 6 months writing code =)


I actually think reading lists like this is not that helpful, at least it wasn't for me. A technical person doens't even know what customer development is. What's technology, it's different in different contexts. What are market forces in your segment, you probably don't even know when you're starting out.

I would recommend to talk to a friend who has started a business and has experienced the realities. I have been on the advice-giving end of such a conversation a couple of days ago, and it was shocking to see my mistakes (mostly wishful thinking and lack of ecomomic realities) repeated in my good friends line of thinking. I spent a whole night (8 hours) telling him my insights, it was pretty shocking for him, several times he walked out and then came back, but I was only telling him what I learned the last 2 years. In the end it was a good deal for him.

I think pretty much everyone interested in startups knows what "customer development" is by now :)
I'm not a startup guy by any means, but I have to say that it's surprising how many well established businesses don't get it right.
Counterexample: myself 2 years ago.
"by now" != 2 years ago.

Pretty much everyone = most people, not everyone.

There is and it's called The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steven Gary Blank.

Here is the link to the book:

If you want an even quicker read, as 4 Steps can be quite redundant (or not relating to your business), check out The Entrepreneur's Guide to Customer Development:

It seems that a general consensus from feedback thus far is:

1) It is difficult to tell what the site does, and 2) Once that's figured out, few people stay because the site doesn't seem to solve a problem they actually have.

You mentioned iteration; What do you mean by it, specifically? Have you made substantive changes in functionality? Or have you simply added "most requested features"? The difference here is important, as it may be the difference between finding a problem that needs solving and adding resources to a solution searching for a problem.

My recommendation (for what that's worth) is to engage in a bit of customer development, the initial goal of which is to find who has the problem that you feel like you're solving. Hasenj noted that the calculations seem very simple (given, many contributors here are programmers and/or math nerds). That said, you do not know how many of your actual customers may be thinking the same thing.

However, if you can find (and by find, I mean specifically target, talk to and learn from) a group of people who consistently benefit from your service, you are in a much better position to move ahead. Effectively, this group will act as your cheering squad, providing feedback upon which you can grow and word-of-mouth upon which you can ultimately scale.

I consider this to be much more important than the design (although that is important as well). While better design may attract people to stay longer and/or use your service for the first time, it will not help with retention unless you're solving a problem that people legitimately have. Design doesn't provide an accurate indicator of scale-potential; Function does.

You may have known all of what I just told you. Hell, you may have already done it all. If, however, it was new to you, I would suggest checking out Steve Blank's book The Four Steps to the Epiphany, found here:

Best of luck!

Thanks for summarizing. I kinda knew about the customer development part, however, we are not able to get users to see past the design and into asking the question and seeing the Report at which point the value of the tool can be determined. We have only iterated the design, believe it or not. This tool closely mimics the popular TV show 'Can I afford it?' by Suze Orman, and so we know there are quite a few people who can benefit from these evaluations that we do. The value is in remembering to do all the checks at once.

The challenge is to find these folks who can benefit. Any ideas to reach such customers welcome.

Today's feedback has been quite beneficial, hopefully we can get past the design hump. Thanks to everyone.

They provide $6000 per founder for up to 3 founders. They get 6% equity stake in return (I'm not clear if they still get 6% if there's only one founder).

See this page:

(BTW, I'm doing a startup in Boston. I'm sure they'll get lots of applications, but this isn't for me.)

Edit: I saw someone recommend their book. Let me plug another one. I'm loving Steven Blank's Four Steps To the Epiphany (

In the past, someone here criticized that book - at least I think it was that one - as appearing to be a collection of notes rather than a fully formed book. Digging...

Hrm... can't find it. Am I remembering correctly?

I think that's too harsh. The book has more "micro" errors than I'd like to see. By "micro" errors I mean some poorly drawn diagrams and some grammar errors that break my flow. I noticed that no editor is credited, and the book would be improved with an editor. Too many micro errors can hurt a books credibility (if they didn't take the time to polish the book can I really trust the content?).

On the other hand, I think the advice in this book is fantastic. Two examples of things discussed:

1) Deciding what type of market you are entering (existing, re-segmented, new) and the consequences of each market type.

2) Confirming your hypothesis before you try to scale.

Get past the micro errors. The content really is quite good. Or I think it's good. What the hell do I know. There's a scene in Moonstruck where one of the characters seeks advice until she gets the answer she wanted to hear in the first place ('maybe they're afraid of dying?'). There may be some of that going on with me and this book.

My recollection was that the person was saying they liked the content, just that it lacked some polish.

Like I said though, that was just a vague notion I had. I haven't read the book, but do enjoy reading the stuff he posts to his site a lot.


My impression is that a lot of comments are just restatements of the usual clich├ęs: "get the first paying customer", "luck vs perseverance", "minimum viable product", "execution vs great ideas", etc.

As someone who has already asked this kind of question on HN, that type of cookie-cutter advice really isn't helpful at all (assuming you have been following HN for a while).

We need more specific, actionable advice. Here is mine:


Grab a copy of "The Four Steps to the Epiphany"[1] by Steven Blank and apply his methodology. It's broadly a "How-to" guide on discovering who your customers are, what they really want and how to make them buy. According to your story, it seems you are focusing too much on getting PR when you really should go out your office and talk with your customers directly (instead of via TC).


>As someone who has already asked this kind of question on HN, that type of cookie-cutter advice really isn't helpful at all

The problem, then, is that every time somebody is seeking this advice, they use a throw-away account and talk about their business in vague generalities.

It's impossible to give specific, actionable advice when you have no idea about the specifics of the problem.

I think there is value in reading any successful company's views on business. There is some truth there. I agree that you can't just say "meetings are toxic" but I for one try to avoid them when I can, because only a small amount of good usually comes from them (and it's usually not the exact topic of the meeting).

If you are looking for a good book applicable to businesses big and small, I have to pass on some recent advice I got from fellow HN'ers: read "The Four Steps to the Epiphany" by Steven Gary Blank:

An old edition I got my hands on looked like it had never seen a decent book editor in its life. It seemed that it could easily be chopped in half due to the repetition and mistakes in spelling/grammar. And the "Why?" is not answered on a lot of statements (need to spend 1.7x or 3x, but why? what is that based on?). I would hope that the September 2010 edition available via Amazon/Cafepress has eliminated some of these issues. But, there are some excellent cases of businesses described in the book and it gets you thinking of business in a much different way. It was for me a "skimming" book, and I plan to buy the most recent edition as my next book purchase.

By the way, for anyone interested in the question "When should I increase my startup's burnrate?" the best answer I've seen is in the book The Four Steps to the Epiphany:

The book is by Steven Gary Blank, whose weblog is often linked to from Hacker News.

You are burned out and being an entrepreneur is not a solution to being burned out. In fact, entrepreneurship is likely to cause more burn out.

I would focus on fixing the burnout first and then if you're serious about being an entrepreneur, do it later. If you do it now, you'll likely just stall out early on and be even more disillusioned.

Get out of burn-out by taking vacation, spending more and more quality time with your family, etc. Once you take some time away from the keyboard, your passion for coding and inspiration for new ideas will start to surface. Once you HAVE to stay up all night to work on an idea because you're so excited, then you'll know you are back.

Once you are serious about starting your business, read and to help you identify and verify good business ideas and take the first few steps, lean on HN once you have an idea to help you improve it and iterate on it.

Due to your family situation, you'll probably need to keep your job and work on your startup on the side (welcome to the club!). Once your startup is making some money you can consider switching to consulting or a part-time situation. It's crazy hard enough as it is, and basically impossible when you are demotivated and burned out.

Thanks. I already have been doing that. Have taken vacation, and I spend as much time with the family as possible. I have also been trying to exercise more frequently, etc.

In fact, a big part of the reason that I took the job I have now was for work-life balance. But my current job just sucks. The only motivation I have for going into work everyday is to help take care of my family. I love my family, and I want to provide for them the best I can.

I've worked for small, medium, and large businesses/organizations. I know that I'm the opposite of the career large business worker.

I want to be responsible for a business. While I don't believe my business would be perfect, I would like to decide what work I do for others. I want to somehow make this work so that I can achieve a good work-life balance. I know I can do this but I'm having trouble finding inspiration for exactly what I could be doing.

Sounds a lot like, or am I wrong?
Sure, but it's much more succinct.
I don't have one, but, as a shortcut, you can just go here:

and do the opposite.

Mar 21, 2010 · robfitz on Ask HN: How to sell?
First, go read Steve Blank's book ( It puts a comforting amount of structure around the sales process and turns what's normally a big ball o' confusion into a set of tasks with concrete steps & goals.

It also helped me to spend a lot of time in bars and cafes talking to strangers until I was comfortable with both the approach & conversation.

I'm reading this book now and highly recommend it - I think it's important to think of developing your business around your customer(s) needs, not your product development.

If you know (not guessing!) what your customer needs/is missing, you can build something that makes sense from a business perspective.

Of course, I'll definitely agree with another reply regarding hiring someone who excels in and loves sales. It will quite likely be worth the salary/commission.

Steve Blank's 4 Steps to the Epiphany is a must read for all developers and entrepreneurs. Lots of great info about creating a marketing plan that fits your product and your customers.
$40 for a ~300 page book seems like a bit much. Why is this book worth 3 or 4 others combined? (no sarcasm, serious question.)
I'm currently reading it and I love it so far.
4 Steps is a GREAT book, but you may want to take a Xanax before reading it if poor editing causes you to nerdrage.
Invest in yourself.

You've already proven that you are capable of doing great things. Work to increase your capabilities.

To generate wealth, in my opinion it's best to do things that are aligned with what you are interested in. Since you have demonstrated ability with business and technology, and some capital, start with that.

One way to generate wealth is to start a company, then sell it. There are many skills necessary, but the essential one you already have - being able to just plunge in and do it.

I'd say, dive in and see if you can learn to build a small company by bootstrapping it - without taking investment money or going into debt... take it slow and incremental, not going into debt or taking investment unless you think you have a winning team and product. Usually at that point you don't really need investment, but can use it to expand a lot.

These days, software development done by yourself or a few friends and servers in the cloud are so cheap that you can build whole software or software-as-a-service companies with your existing cash flow. Learn the technical and business skills you need. Plan experiments that help you learn - that won't kill you if you fail. You can learn much more from failure than success, so make mistakes as fast as you can.

Oh yeah, and find a good accountant and make sure you pay your taxes.

Here's some resources:

Cheat sheet on how to get people to change - and buy your products. The best summary I've read:

. . . .

My bible on how to learn customer problems and turn them into money. Also has a great annotated bibliography of other good books to read, and a methodology for becoming a self-taught entrepreneur. The author founded 5 well-known tech companies that did IPOs, generating a great deal of wealth, and now teaches at Stanford business school. I can't say enough good things about this book:

The Four Steps to the Epiphany - Steve Blank

. . . .

The inside story on nitty-gritty details of how to start a start up, do the legal work necessary to create the machinery for wealth generation. Written from the perspective of helping tech entrepreneurs protect themselves. If I would have had this book when I was starting out, I'd have held on to much more of my wealth:

High Tech Start Up - John L. Nesheim

. . . .

Last but not least, a very important short text on how money works. Written by the founder of MasterCard. Extremely helpful in thinking about money, how to work with it and think about it, what it's good for, not good for, and its capabilities and place in ones' life:

Bonus text - the classic manual on leadership - really helpful instructions on gracefully working with others. How to lead effectively and with a minimum of muss and fuss. This is my favorite translation.

Tao Te Ching - Lao Tzu, translated by Stephen Mitchell

- a serial entrepreneur

in alignment with the meta-discussion sparked by jacquesm, and after reading the actual submission, boy it sure does seem like we've been gamed.

Is a shortened regurgitation of a steve blank book sleeve really worth being on the front page? If so, why not just a link to his blog or the book on amazon?

I know why you wrote the post; to market your website, but HN front page-worthy? I should hope not.

Did you read my entire post? Is it really nothing more than a "shortened regurgitation of a steve blank book sleeve"? Do you at least see what I was trying to do?
After reading it again, yes it is regurgitation.

My intent is not to scrutinize and demean your efforts. I think we both know why you wrote the post, to market your app. I have no issue with that, so long as you are honest with yourself. I understand people repackage content all the time, it's business as usual. But this is HN, you are asking for a discussion on the merits of what _you_ have to say. And in that respect, you've said nothing.

#1, Market Assessment, is the hard problem.

That's quite hard to believe. Especially when your solution to this problem is essentially 3 links. A survey, a splash page, and your twitter app. (2 of which are free).

So how is implementing these 3 things harder than:

  2. Product Building
  3. Get product into hands of early customers
For the technical minded, building a product may not be on their "it's really hard" list but most likely just because they love to do it (myself included).

I think #3 is probably the hardest for most of us here on HN. Do you mean to tell me its easy to get lots of early adopters to actually give a damn about your product to fill out your survey in the first place? Please write a post on how to get 50 dedicated users to fill out my survey and I'll be the first one to upvote that story - I promise. Oh and if it works, I'll sign up for your app too - dead serious.

Takes pg's motto: "Built something people want." and expands on it a fair bit. This seems to be a great way to succeed ... gloriously.

These posts are a summary-level intro to Steve's book
It's unethical for you to use your affiliate link without telling us.

I bought my copy of Steve Blank's book through, and it was $10 cheaper: $29.99 instead of Amazon's $39.99. Get it for cheaper here:

I was unaware the cafepress version was $10 cheaper (I overpaid!). This book is worth it at any price, via any link :)
How is that unethical? Maybe not the best deal, but you are going a bit far calling it unethical...
Sep 01, 2009 · edw519 on What are you reading?
"The Four Steps to the Epiphany" by Steven Gary Blank

Me too. I am struggeling to get through it though.
It is poorly edited, but full of excellent content. The author should release it to a wiki so that some enthusiasts can clean up the typos and other formatting issues.

I keep referring back to it. I think it would be good to read in parallel with a business partner.

Four Steps to the Epiphany - Steve Blank

I've read tons of marketing books and went to school for business, but this one is the best for tech startups hands down.

Does anybody know how to get that book ("Four steps to Epiphany") in Europe - either as paperback or E-Book?
I second this -- I think it's what the OP is looking for.

It's published by CafePress, so the fastest and cheapest option is to get it directly from them:


I used to think that, until I found Four Steps to the Epiphany:

Great book. Read it. Two-sentence description: product development is essential, of course, but "build it and then market it" is way too risky. Instead, do customer development alongside product development, from day 1.

Absolutely - That's exactly what we've done on my second business, and exactly what we failed to do on my first business. I won't be making that mistake again.

However, the level of customer development that you need to do while you're building the product is less than what you need to do while you're in the second start-up phase of selling it.

Read the 'The 4-steps to the Epiphany' by Steven Blank (

Things to look for in a disruptive market:

1) The presence of the 'Earlyvangelist'. It does not matter if you can disrupt an industry if no one will realize the value of the innovation. This means finding real people at real companies and gathering requirements for something they will buy.

2) An existing distribution channel that is available for the new product.

3) Existing product positioning that you can leverage. As a startup, its hard to disrupt when you have to spend all your money on advertising, branding, or explaining what your product is.

4) Large existing market.

The book has a helpful framework for analyzing markets base on some of these factors, maturity, etc. This identifies the primary constraints of market risk. From there you can work with the customer to build a better product, and if you are lucky the risk shifts towards execution.

Here's a great approach along those lines (i.e., research an idea among prospective clients before investing a lot of time building it):
Instead I would recommend "Four Steps to the Epiphany" by Gary Blank

I think this book would have helped with some of the prioritization issues the author of this blog post describes.

Do you mean Blank's emphatic appeal to unconditionally fire or everybody in "bizdev" in distressed startups?

Or his emphatic appeal to iteratively build a market for your evolving product rather than over-invest in engineering, miss your sales estimate, and fail to service negative cash flow in a "Noh play" of blame and catastrophe?

hah, the 2nd one.

I think the "death spiral" scenario Blank describes in the book (using WebVan) happens less often now, but still, people don't talk to their target market enough. Maybe this is why people who are making things for themselves tend to do well, they can skip this step and still come out OK.

Steve Blank advocates this approach in his book (, though he doesn't call it "vaporware".
"Make something people want" is a necessary but not sufficient condition.

I read "The Four Steps to the Epiphany" ( this weekend, and based on that, I would rephrase it "Make something people want and will pay for".

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