Monday, July 22, 2013

10 Minutes with Bob Dorf: A CED Tech Venture Conference Keynote Interview

Want to hear keynote Bob Dorf live at CED Tech Venture Conference 2013? Early Registration ends Thursday, July 25!

Want a better mousetrap? Don’t start by using the same blueprints you had for the old one.

“Build, Launch, Pray.”

That’s what the CED Tech Venture Conference 2013 keynote Bob Dorf says used to work for building a startup… and worked reasonably well for 50 years. But we’re not in Kansas anymore.

“Customer development methodology short circuits that old approach,” Mr. Dorf said in a recent interview. “It says to take the time you would have sweated over building a business plan and get out and talk to customers. Kick yourself out of the building the day you start writing code, and build your business based on customer feedback.”

Mr. Dorf believes in a one page biz model. More than that and you’re spending your precious time in the wrong place. In a world where the odds against getting a real breakthrough business are at 50,000:1, there’s not time to waste:  Talk to the people who will be paying you.

Ask questions. Absorb the responses. Digest the feedback. Then, go back to the design board and change your product features to match the customer’s desires. Re-evaluate your channel partners. Take a hard look at your go-to-market strategy. It should all be based on customer feedback.

Of course that’s not what is happening. He points to VC Mark Suster’s statement that in a typical year 650,000 startups launch. Only 12 emerge that matter. Not great odds. Most of those that do not succeed spend 90% of their time focused on product development, with all other aspects of growing a business splitting the last 10%. Mr. Dorf says that’s backward.

“You can’t just have a great product,” he said. “You must understand your customer like no one else, and your go-to-market strategy has to be spot-on.”

Startup Owner’s Manual
Startup Owner’s Manual
is rapidly earning its place on entrepreneurs’ book shelves -- right at eye level. More than 100,000 copies have been sold in the US – and selling like hotcakes in Japan, Russia, Poland and China. Co-authored with Steve Blank, this book makes it clear - without saying it outright, of course - that “it’s the customer, stupid.”

After just ten minutes on the phone with him, I can honestly tell you that hearing Mr. Dorf really drives home his vision. If you don’t come to the CED Tech Venture Conference 2013, you might have to catch him in Russia, Japan, Korea – wherever he’s headed next. Or find a boot camp where you can get hands-on deep dive into the customer methodology… like the government of Columbia recently hired him to do.  Columbia brought 25 startup teams together for the event and after eight weeks, nine of them had already begun generating revenue! One had a P.O. for $50,000 in hand, and two more in draft. Yet another had 315 retail customers… in eight weeks.

So don’t miss him at CED Tech Venture Conference 2013.  It might cost you months of wasted effort!

Three hints from Bob Dorf:
1. You can’t delegate this! Founders must have personal interaction with customer.
2. It is brutally hard work… but don’t get discouraged.
3. Failure isn’t a bad thing – good feedback brings good pivots.

Mr. Dorf has 42 years of hands-on experience growing successful companies and forming strategic alliances. He proudly states that he hasn’t received a W2 in more than 40 years.

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