Humaginarium is flourishing in the Winter 2018 cohort of Introduction to Customer Discovery. Flourishing, as in beating our heads against a wall until the wall breaks.
The Introduction to Customer Discovery Course runs from the MWIN Midwest I-Corps Node at the University of Michigan. Humaginarium founders arrive from Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Georgia for half-day workshops in Ann Arbor. We’re joined there by coaches, facilitators, and fellow climbers on the slopes of ingenuity. We also meet online for tough love with examiners.
Customer Discovery is the first and most soul-crushing step in The Four Steps of the Epiphany, a bible for tech startups by Stanford professor Steve Blank. He designed Innovation Corps for the National Science Foundation as an entrepreneurial boot camp for nerds and geeks. Ahem.
So what is customer discovery? It’s a methodical investigation that answers the question “Who cares?”
- You have breakthrough ideas. Who cares?
- You make things better. Who cares?
- You change lives. Who cares?
- You monetize like Midas. Who cares?
The starting point of inquiry is always the same: Nobody cares. If you manage to find somebody who does, voila you found a customer. If you find a lot more, you may be on to something. You’re chances are maybe 10%.
The fascination of customer discovery is the way it deconstructs entrepreneurs. The things they value — their stories, beliefs, expectations, assumptions, knowledge, practice, experience, titles, prerogatives, certificates, hubris — all of that is reframed as baggage. Most baggage gets tossed aside as the litter of past lives, not the building blocks of the future.
So is customer discovery about finding customers? No, not really. It’s more about finding and making ourselves worthy of customers. We see a snow-capped summit of innovation gleaming in the distance, getting closer with every anxious step we take. And soldier on.