How to do a startup company analysis – Calacanis style

People have all kinds of reactions to Jason Calacanis, but none of them mild.  I happen to enjoy his cut-to-the-chase way of looking at things, and his east coast bluster.  It’s like he is challenging me as reader/listener to an argument, knowing that the results will be better for our disagreements – as opposed to the wunderkind Silicon Valley bloggers who just want to show how smart (and rich) they are and how little they care about what you think.

Anyway, I provide this introduction because I think his short company analyses based around his “Launch” conference/business are as good as it gets, and we can learn a lot from his approach and style.

Like this one for a new company called Color:  short, dirty but effective analysis

Some valuable links to help with the customer discovery process

Lots of talk about “getting out of the building” as we test all of our hypotheses about who is our customer and what does he/she want or need. The following links are a helpful way to put some meat on the bones, especially if this is the first time you have engaged in such a process. This can also help us avoid ones natural tendency to conduct an impersonal “survey” to avoid the process.  The real challenge is keeping your biases to a minimum impact – more on that later.

How to think about customer development interviews

Some tips on how to find folks to interview

How to think about what you should be learning (and thus the questions . . . )

Why work at a startup?

I have students ask me this a lot and I sometimes have a hard time capturing the incredibly different feel between a startup and a “real” company. In the end, I think it is the ability to make decisions that actually create a difference, which this recent grad describes so well. Recommended reading, and share with your parents if they are afraid that you are passing up that once in a lifetime opportunity to rise up through the ranks at BDC.**

** Big Dumb Company

Some tips for your customer development interviews

These are just some common sense tips to help you get started:

  1. Schedule a time for the interview in advance.  Let the person know that you only need 15-20 minutes if it is over the phone, 20 or so if in person.  If the interview goes well, you can always run over, but you don’t want to put people off from the start.
  2. Make it clear why you are doing this.  If you are a student, play that card. Explain briefly the area you are trying to learn about and why?
  3. Do not call a potential “competitor” and be deceitful about your purpose.
  4. Prepare a “line of questioning” in advance.  You don’t need to stick exactly to it, but it can serve as a good framework.
  5. Ask “open-ended” questions.  Follow-up with “why,” or “tell me more about that,” etc.
  6. Don’t guide people into the answer you hope to get.  Give them freedom to give their opinion and use their expertise.
  7. Whenever possible, do this in teams of two – one to lead the discussion and the other to take notes and to insure in the end that you have covered what you set out to learn.
  8. Write out your notes immediately after the interview – don’t let it get stale.
  9. If you are a member, post your interview notes to LeanLaunchLab right away as well.
  10. Ask if they would mind if you followed up in case there are soother questions or to share the “results” of the process in the form of your product offering or whatever.
  11. Also, ask if there is anyone else they think you should talk to that they feel would be helpful.