Steve Blank’s blog is awesome but its latest post is very well timed for me: it talks about customer validation. Customer discovery is understanding who has problems that you can solve. But customer validation confirms that these are problems that people could and would pay to solve them. Blank’s four golden questions are:
- Did the customers know they had a problem?
- If so, did they want to change the way they were doing things to solve that problem?
- If so, how much would they pay to solve the problem?
- Would they write us a Purchase Order now before our supercomputer was even complete, to be the first to solve their problems?
These are all questions I asked when considering the lead customers for my start-up, but I did so accidentally. Furthermore, only in retrospect is it clear to me the time I would have saved if I had asked these four questions to all the hospitals we approached. I had also felt irritated when talking to investors who wanted to talk to my early customers. But on reading Blank’s blog post I now understand that they wanted to ask questions like these, and that this was a valuable thing for all of us.
On Friday I attended a great conference by the World Entrepreneur Society: World Entrepreneurship Summit 2009. I took some videos of the early speeches and they are below but the most interesting session could not be captured with a camera. As these two pictures hint, the staff at Group Partners create a wall of ideas, beautifully coloured and helpfully structured to facilitate useful group work. I would love to be able to use them in the future.
Introductory speech by Dr. Rebecca Harding:
Keynote speech from Microsoft:
Keynote speech about sustanability:
Panel about “What keeps you awake at night”:
I often think about what I would like to teach my children. Aside from the lessons I hope to pass on to them that I learned from my parents – a love of learning, a respect for others, and a commitment to doing the right thing – I hope to teach my daughter (or, hopefully, daughters!) to be arrogant.
For the rest of this post you should know that I do know that everyone is different and that generalizations should not be used against individuals. But there are some worrying generalizations about women that I would hope to teach any daughter of mine to avoid.
First, Women Don’t Ask. That is the title of a book by two women who were furious when their research uncovered how rarely women ask for raises. Because they do not ask for raises as often as men do, they do not get raises as often as men do. And then it becomes a vicious cycle as these women’s contributions are automatically discounted when applying for jobs because employers measure the quality of the applicant by their previous salary, and base their salary offers on salary history.
Fortunately, this problem can be cured by education. When the authors share the data with other women about how often their male colleagues ask for raises while doing the same quality work that the women do, these women start asking for raises. And part of the wage gap begins to disappear.
The arrogance that allows men to ask for raises is more difficult for teach for entrepreneurship.
But I think it is responsible for an important phenomenon I saw at all the start-up events I attend. There are almost no women.
Over the last few months I have gone to several of these events in San Francisco, DC, Cambridge and London. Even in San Francisco, where I expected everyone to have a business plan just like every waiter in L.A. has a script, there were very few women attending Startup School. At TechCrunch UK‘s event in London Alicia Navarro was the only woman panelist and one of the very few women at the event. Later on in I heard her bemoan the underrepresentation of women in entrepreneurship.
I think this is because entrepreneurs require an inappropriately high confidence in their chances of success. The data shows that they are wrong, on average, at estimating their chances. And I think that men tend to have that inappropriate self-confidence more often than women do.
Now, this is not to say that every habit from men ought to be copied (for example, their response to urinals). But this one is important.
One of Grameen Bank‘s noble aims and notable achievements is their focus on lending to women. It is a real pleasure to hear Muhammad Yunus describe the outcomes in this interview with Ashoka. This is targeting women for entrepreneurship for poverty-reduction.
But the people who to come these events are mostly in wealthy families in wealthy countries and their entrepreneurship is for wealth-generation, not poverty-reduction. Perhaps the ratios are different for social entrepreneurship where more women might participate in the generation of social capital, and I am interested to learn how many women will attend Social Innovation Camp in London. But I want my daughters to have just as good a shot at wealth-generation as my sons would.
I do not know what the approach is, but it is important to get right. So for my daughters, it begins with teaching them to be as arrogant as men tend to be about their chances of success.