This post is a simple reminder to everyone out there starting a B2C web startup: it's risky and no framework or theory is going to change that.
Steve Blank’s Customer Discovery framework has helped an entire generation of entrepreneurs focus on the most important aspect of their business from day one: finding paying customers. But Steve Blank focuses on B2B products, and even more specifically, B2B enterprise products. These are products for which the number of potential customers is relatively small and each account is relatively large.
But what if you are building a B2C product? This business model aims to build something that a large number of customers will use, and any one customers will have a tiny impact on your bottom line. I’m talking about consumer web products, Netflix, Prezzi, and Instagram all fall into this category.
If that is what you are trying to build, the Customer Development process really only has three steps:
- Build a minimum viable product (MVP).
- Show it to people and see if they use it.
- Rinse, repeat, or pivot.
The only input the Customer Discovery process has for this type of product is to build as little as possible in step #1. But this is hardly new information. Building a minimum viable product has become de facto industry advice for entrepreneurs and was good advice before the 4 Steps to Epiphany was published.
The takeaway here isn’t that Steve Blank’s advice is flawed or that the Customer Discovery process is useless. The takeaway is that unlike B2B startups, there are no straight-forward steps you can take to validate your B2C startup idea quickly without writing code.
So if you are starting a B2C web product, remember there’s no magic bullet when getting started. The best thing you can do is just start building a stripped down minimum viable product and get people using it. Which is essentially what it’s always meant to build B2C consumer web products. The best thing you can do is get started!