Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

It’s been a year since I’ve been blogging.   The 100 or so posts add up to about 300 pages of text.

One of the downsides to a large number of blog posts is that older stories tend to get buried and hidden. Categories and indexes on the web pages aren’t quite the right metaphor or substitute for random access.  So bowing to popular demand the 2009 blog posts are now available on Amazon on a portable device which provides instant and random access to any post and does not require power or an internet connection.

Now available on Amazon

Recursive History
These blogs began as an attempt to explain why a “book” I wrote wasn’t a book.  And now they’re a book of their own. (Confused? Read on.)

After I retired, I began teaching Customer Development, a theory of how to reduce early stage risk in entrepreneurial ventures. The first time I taught the class at the Haas Business School, U.C. Berkeley, I had a few hundred pages of course notes. Students began to ask for copies of the notes so I threw a cover on them and self-published the notes as a “book” at Cafepress.com.

As a pun on my last company as an entrepreneur, E.piphany, I called the book The Four Steps to the Epiphany.

Two years later, Eric Ries mentioned that I could list the book on Amazon. I never imagined more than a few hundred copies would be sold to my students. 15,000 copies later, the horrifically bad proofreading, design and layout is now a badge of honor. You most definitely read the book for the content. (Congratulations to all of you who actually managed to slog through it.)

You tell much better stories than you write
A few years later my teaching assistants at Stanford and Berkeley said, “You tell much better stories than you write.”  They suggested that sharing those stories on the web was the best way to illustrate some of the more salient points of what even I will admit is a difficult text.

My blog also allowed me to indulge my interest in a few other subjects: The Secret History of Silicon Valley, thoughts on a career as an entrepreneur, observations about family and startups, etc.

It Wasn’t Just Me
It’s possible to read this past year of posts and think that I was the only one at these companies. Nothing could be further from the truth.  I’ve been lucky enough to work with, around and near some extraordinary people: Bill Perry, Allen Michels, Rob Van Naarden, John Moussouris, John Hennessy, Skip Stritter, Jon Rubenstein, Gordon Bell, Glen Miranker, Cleve Moler, Tom McMurray, John Sanguinetti, Alvy Ray Smith, Chris Kryzan, Karen Dillon, Margaret Hughes, Peter Barrett, Bruce Leak, Jim Wickett, Karen Richardson, Ben Wegbreit, Greg Walsh, John McCaskey, Roger Siboni, Bob Dorf, Steve Weinstein, Fred Amoroso, Fred Durham, Maheesh Jain, Will Harvey, Eric Ries, Kathryn Gould, Jon Feiber, Mike Maples, Ann Miura-Ko and many, many more.

Getting Organized
These blog posts were written as I thought about them, with little thought about organization by topic.

This new “book,” Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost, attempts to remedy that by organizing the 2009 blog posts in a coherent fashion.

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost:

Table of Contents

Startup Culture
Am I a Founder? The Adventure of a Lifetime…………….. 3
Agile Opportunism – Entrepreneurial DNA………………..5
Faith-Based versus Fact-Based Decision Making……….. 8
The Sharp End of the Stick…………………………………… 12
Preparing for Chaos – the Life of a Startup……………….. 15
Speed and Tempo – Fearless Decision Making for Startups….. 16
Killing Innovation with Corner Cases and Consensus….. 18
The “Good” Student……….. 20
Touching the Hot Stove – Experiential versus Theoretical Learning……. 22
Burnout……….. 24
The Road Not Taken……….. 28
Ask and It Shall be Given……….. 31
Selling with Sports Scores……….. 34
Love/Hate Business Plan Competitions……….. 39
The Elves Leave Middle Earth – Sodas Are No Longer Free……….. 41

Stories from the Trenches
Raising Money Using Customer Development……….. 47
Lessons Learned – A New Type of Venture Capital Pitch……….. 52
Can You Trust Any VC’s Under 40?………………. 56
Are Those My Initials?……………………………… 60
They Raised Money With My Slides?!……………. 62
The Best Defense is a Good IP Strategy………….. 65
Elephants Can Dance – Reinventing HP……….. 69

Customer Development Manifesto
The Leading Cause of Startup Death: The Product Development Diagram. 75
Reasons for the Revolution (Part 1)……….. 79
Reasons for the Revolution (part 2)……….. 84
The Startup Death Spiral……….. 87
Market Type……….. 90
The Path of Warriors and Winners……….. 93

Customer Development In the Real World
Customer Development is Not a Focus Group……….. 99
Lean Startups aren’t Cheap Startups……….. 102
Times Square Strategy Session – Web Startups and Customer Development……….. 105
Coffee With Startups……….. 108
He’s Only in Field Service……….. 110
Let’s Fire Our Customers……….. 113
Durant Versus Sloan……….. 116

Family – This Life Isn’t Practice For the Next One
Lies Entrepreneurs Tell Themselves……….. 121
Epitaph for an Entrepreneur……….. 124
Thanksgiving Day……….. 129
Unintended Lessons……….. 137

Ardent – Learning How To Get Out of the Building
Supercomputers Get Personal……….. 141
Get Out of My Building……….. 145
Supercomputer Porn……….. 148
You Know You’re Getting Close to Your Customers When They Offer You a Job……….. 151
The Best Marketers Are Engineers……….. 154
Listen more, talk less……….. 157
Closure……….. 160

SuperMac – Learning How To Build A Startup Team
Joining SuperMac……….. 165
Facts Exist Outside the Building, Opinions Reside Within –……….. 167
Customer Insight Is Everyone’s Job……….. 174
Repositioning SuperMac – “Market Type” at Work……….. 176
Strategy versus Relentless Tactical Execution —  the Potrero Benchmarks… 179
Building The Killer Team – Mission, Intent and Values……….. 184
Rabbits Out of the Hat – Product Line Extensions……….. 189
Cats and Dogs – Admitting a Mistake……….. 194
Sales, Not Awards……….. 196
The Video Spigot……….. 200
The Curse of a New Building……….. 205

Rocket Science Games – Hubris and the Fall
Drinking the Kool-Aid……….. 211
Hollywood Meets Silicon Valley……….. 214
The Press is Our Best Product……….. 216
Who Needs Domain Experts……….. 219
Rocks in the Rocket Science Lobby……….. 223

The Secret History of Silicon Valley
If I Told You I’d Have to Kill You……….. 227
Library Hours at an Undisclosed Location……….. 248
Happy 100th Birthday Silicon Valley……….. 254
Every World War II Movie was Wrong……….. 258
We Fought a War You Never Heard Of……….. 263
A Wilderness of Mirrors……….. 270
The Rise of Entrepreneurship……….. 271
Stanford Crosses the Rubicon……….. 279
The Rise of “Risk Capital” Part 1……….. 285
The Rise of “Risk Capital” Part 2……….. 289

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost” is now available on Amazon

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14 Responses

  1. [...] In this post he explains how it all took off: [...]

  2. Already got one on Cafe Press. Looking forward to it as well as the end to some of the stories you’ve started.

  3. Great initiative Steve!
    Will this book have a Kindle version as well?

  4. Wish there was a way to get both of your books in quantities to Russia. I just showed it last week to my junior year students in Innovation Workshop class and said “This is going to be your bible from now on”. Too bad mine is the only copy in Russia.

  5. Appreciate the blog to ebook editing effort Steve. I had planned on doing the same but after my first one I haven’t conjured the time (300 more posts since that first ebook).

    You and I share a blog birthday of sorts, my first post was Feb 22, 2009. It feels like a lifetime ago, as time has graciously slowed to a crawl while I feverishly search for traction with my first web startup, Victus Media.

    Grateful for all your shared wisdom, and perspective.

  6. Great title, but now I can’t use it for turning my blog into a book and will have to go with our beta testers suggestion of “The Cure for Insomnia.”

    You should be able to use other verses from Tolkien’s “The Riddle of Strider” for others in the series:

    All that is gold does not glitter,
    Not all those who wander are lost;
    The old that is strong does not wither,
    Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

    From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
    A light from the shadows shall spring;
    Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
    The crownless again shall be king.

  7. Steve,

    thank you so much for your incredible posts. I believe that this is one of the most important blogs i read.

    brgds and congrats.

  8. Steve: Looking forward to reading “Not all who wander are lost!” I am a recent fan and this will be a great way for me to catch up. The title sounds like the “trials” part of the Campbell monomyth.

    But your meta-comment grabbed me:

    “One of the downsides to a large number of blog posts is that older stories tend to get buried and hidden. Categories and indexes on the web pages aren’t quite the right metaphor or substitute for random access.”

    Steve — if only you self-hosted, you could use the “Trailmeme for WordPress” plugin, built by my team, to comprehensively solve this problem :). The words you use are pretty much EXACTLY the “blogger problem hypothesis” for us!

    See it in action on my blog. We are trying to get wordpress.com to support it, but that could take a ‘discovery’ iteration or two. If you are curious/interested, I can tell you more offline and maybe help improvise a solution somehow, for next time, using the hosted version of trailmeme at trailmeme.com (here, for example, is a trail on lean startups and product-market fit which includes your book :)

    Your 4S2TE book, which I recently began using for the Trailmeme project (an incubator venture within Xerox), has been a lifesaver. While I’ve been using an ad hoc and improvised personal version of “customer development” since the beginning, the lack of discipline and conscious self-awareness around why what I was doing by instinct made sense, was hurting us quite a bit. I was doing more “random acts of marketing” than I like to admit. Thank you for writing it.

    One area where it was illuminating was in helping me make sense of the “Grabowksi ratio” (marketing/engineering spend in early-stage product launches). Historical stats show that launches are nearly certain to fail when M/E <0.1 and pretty much free of all controllable risk when M/E = 1. M/E has been another lighthouse concept for me, like CD. The problem I had was figuring out where/how to spend the M part of the budget to get it to match E. Simply trying to match engineering to marketing dollar for dollar any old way is dumb, obviously, so I was navigating by gut trying to get M/E to 1. Your CD process came as a relief, since it made it clear where the scarce resources should go: M=CD.

    Venkat

  9. I wonder how many other nerds like me got all excited when we read about “a portable device which provides instant and random access to any post and does not require power or an internet connection” and if the realization took me more or less time than average.

  10. [...] Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost (steveblank.com) [...]

  11. [...] 1. Not all those who wander are lost: posts from an entrepreneurial career Steve Blank Cafepress, 2010. 288 pages ISBN: 0976470748 Предприниматель в области технологий и профессор университета из Кремниевой Долины Стив Бланк собирает посты своего блога для издания полноценной книги. С помощью заметок типа «Я только что наткнулся на четыре больших стартапа за последние три дня» Стив делится идеями о том, что нужно, чтобы стать успешным предпринимателем. Он описывает свое жесткое погружение в маркетинг: исполнительный директор велел ему не возвращаться без фактов и понимания рынка; рассказывает об успешном определении ориентиров для компаний, принимаемых в качестве отраслевого стандарта, а также говорит о важном умении признавать ошибки и просить о помощи. В блогах также описана культура стартапа, процесс зарабатывания денег, развитие клиентов, тимбилдинг и, конечно, «секретная история Кремниевой Долины», предоставленная для ЦРУ. [...]

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