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Book review

Steve Blank & Bob Dorf: The Startup Owner’s Manual

Young founders face a multitude of challenges and problems. In “The Startup Owner’s Manual”, Silicon Valley veterans Steve Blank and Bob Dorf lead the way from the first idea (almost) to the first million.

Blank and Dorf are no strangers in the entrepreneurial “scene” in the US. Blank, for example, managed a huge success as one of the founders of E.piphany in the late 1990’s. He developed the so-called “Customer Development” method, which is at the core of “The Startup Owner’s Manual”. The main idea is to not develop a product purely based on gut feelings, but rather to incorporate customer feedback early and regularly in order to solve those problems that really move customers.

Customer Development consists of four phases: Customer Discovery, Customer Validation, Customer Creation and Company Building. Of those, the first two are covered in the book, hopefully culminating in a ready-to-launch product that can be offered to the greater public. One of the main tools is the otherwise well-known “Business Model Canvas”, a document template into which founders can compile separate aspects of their business idea.

Blank and Dorf claim to cover a broad spectrum of innovative business ideas; basically from the next-best multi-functional kitchen device to an iPhone app for tying shoelaces. Of course, that raises the question of comparability. But the authors do it smart: Most explanations are very generic (without losing practical relevance), and with specific questions there are separate sections for both physical and digital channels and products.

As indicated by the book’s subtitle, Blank and Dorf offer a “step-by-step guide”. From the first business idea to a scalable corporation, everything is broken down into small steps and shown as process diagrams. The authors’ experience in numerous start-ups becomes very apparent. Of course, that means they also know that not everything will go according to plan. That is why they always give guidance how to handle unforeseen events, setbacks or necessary changes of plan – and how to know when it really is time to re-consider the business idea. There is one plea that Blank and Dorf repeat at least once per chapter: Get out of the building! Consistent and personal customer contact is the foundation of Customer Development, and the authors communicate this clearly.

This book equips founders with the right mindset and tools for successfully developing their business idea and is a clear must-read for aspiring entrepreneurs, not only in the Silicon Valley.

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The Startup Owner’s Manual
Steve Blank & Bob Dorf
K&S Ranch
ISBN: 978-0-9849993-0-9
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