My guest on this episode, Steve Blank says he very well could have been chosen “least likely to succeed” by his New York City High School classmates. Yet, his story is one of incredible success including leadership of 8 high tech companies, co-founding a business from his living room, heading two startups, and serving as a consultant and educator. His book, “Four Steps To The Epiphany” has been referred to by many as the beginning of the Lean Startup movement. In this conversation, Steve and I talk about what it means to be an entrepreneur, how Lean Startup methodology and crowdfunding are similar and different, and why it’s important to build your business on facts, not beliefs.

Many companies are confusing crowdfunding with learning – and it’s a horrible mistake

Lean Startup methodology is based on the premise that a company doesn’t have to have its products or services refined perfectly before making them available to customers or clients. Steve Blank says that many lean entrepreneurs who are using crowdfunding as their means to generate revenue are trying the same approach, iterating as they go – and it’s a mistake. Steve says crowdfunding requires that most of your learning already be done so that you can provide a finished product to those who pledge support to your campaign. The Lean Startup approach, on the other hand, is built to facilitate learning all along the way. Steve says the confusion between the two has caused many to fail at their crowdfunding attempts and has some advice for how you can ensure it doesn’t happen to you.

Failure often comes from confusing a religious activity (I believe) with the facts customers reveal to you

Most entrepreneurs are powerfully motivated by their belief in the product they are creating. Belief is a wonderful thing, some might even say essential. But Steve Blank asserts that belief is not enough to carry you all the way to success. You’ve got to be open to hearing the facts as they are revealed once your customers begin using and experiencing the product or service that you provide. Those facts are what give you the kind of information needed to make your offering truly beneficial to those who use it. All the belief in the world can’t get you to that. Find out how Steve counsels startup founders and their teams to make the best use of the feedback they receive from customers, on this episode of Art of the Kickstart.

Any failure you experience in business can be redeemed if you know how to do one thing with it – learn

When I asked Steve what he thinks about the benefits of failure he was quick to say that failure sucks. It’s never fun to fail when you have put so much energy and thought behind a product or new approach to a problem in the market. But he says that failure is not the end of the story if you are willing to learn what it has to teach you. Failure lessons are the most valuable lessons any entrepreneur can receive and it takes an honest, humble person to look at them objectively and actually learn from them. This conversation is packed with insights like that – from a guy who has become synonymous with business success. Be sure you take the time to listen.

Key Takeaways

  • [1:09] Who is Steve Blank?
  • [4:07] How Lean Startup methodology relates to crowdfunding
  • [6:26] Why entrepreneurship is not a job, but rather a calling
  • [8:20] How startup failures can be redeemed – through learning
  • [10:53] Navigating the chaos between the “search” and “growth” phases of a company
  • [12:43] Entrepreneurship is a team sport and how the fact impacts success


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