On our last Global Accelerator Network Managing Directors call, we were fortunate to be joined by Steve Blank and the NEXT team at Startup Weekend. Steve was an incredible guest, sharing about entrepreneurship, the lean movement and giving us time to pick his brain about customer development.
Though the call was jam-packed with great information, Steve made three points I can’t get out of my head:
1. Accelerators Should Encourage Founder Accountability
Steve is a frequent guest at accelerators and has been surprised to find programs with little founder accountability. From week to week, founders were not held accountable for how many additional customers they gained. Instead, Steve suggested that accelerators have their founders stand in front of all of the other companies and report on their customer development statistics from the previous week. Founders may want to use a system such as Launchpad Central to help track and report progress.
2. Use Mentors to Teach Customer Development
Almost every mentor knows what customer discovery is and most mentors will be familiar with the business model canvas. Using the canvas as a tool for mentors to help founders should come as no surprise. Many times all it takes is sharing with mentors that your teams are using the canvas for their customer discovery process for mentors to jump in and use the tool as the baseline for their discussions.
3. An Accelerator Should Be An Uncomfortable Place
When asked how accelerators should think through helping companies fail quicker, Steve responded by saying, “Accelerators should be an uncomfortable place.” If this is a training ground for a company’s future success, then an accelerator should be a true “Darwinian” place where companies have to prove themselves to one another, the accelerator management and customers. If an accelerator is an easy exercise for founders, accelerators should rethink the process for supporting companies.
Read more from Steve on his blog.
NEXT is a new action-based learning experience for individuals and teams around the world (created in partnership with Startup Weekend, Udacity, TechStars, and Startup America) utilizing Steve Blanks customer development methodology. NEXT offers a 4 to 6 week program for a selected cohort of teams to apply Steve Blank’s Customer Development Methodology in a challenging and socially accountable environment. NEXT may be an opportunity for your accelerator or incubator to offer a lightweight program in your local community to meet, train and evaluate early-stage startup teams, providing you with unique exposure to teams that could become good fits for an upcoming Accelerator class. The program has already been offered in over 15 cities globally, and half of those initial NEXT programs were run or hosted by area Accelerators.