customer development

A million years ago, ( early 90’s) when I was still a student at the Amsterdam University in Information Science, I bumped into a family of American tourist who asked me the way to the ‘Rijksmuseum’. I decided then and there that I would love to show ‘my’ Amsterdam and one of my favorite museums ( before the 10 year renovation) to people from a whole different continent. I offered to walk with them and show them around. It became a truly wonderful afternoon. Not only was it a joy to show off my Amsterdam, have them experience it enhanced with my stories. It also gave me insight in their world view. How they perceived ‘us’ and characterized ‘us’ as a nation through the images that they accumulated in their lives. They had constructed a conceptual model of the city and their inhabitants based on the few things they had experienced in media before. It was something I didn’t realize at the time, but it did throw us in lengthy conversations on common uses and experiences from both sides. And we enjoyed that very much. In return for my time, they offered to drive me home, just outside of the city at that time. I declined at first but they insisted, ‘”they would love to see the suburbs and the way people lived there”  they said. They dropped me of, we said our goodbyes and we never did see each other again. (There was no Facebook to keep in contact.)

But the experience is one that is still lodged as a very positive one in my mind. I sometimes wander through the city, trying to look at it through other peoples eyes. Trying to see what they see. Experience the beautiful or the unique in the commonplace. I love this wandering, contemplating on little things of beauty,  points of irritation or  weird things I didn’t realize where beautiful, irritating or weird before. It makes me see things I otherwise wouldn’t have seen.

It is good to apply that to your product as well sometimes, what is commonplace for you might be something beautiful, novel, or highly irritating to the people that use it, or look at it for the first time. Try to look through their eyes, their conceptual models, their experiences and see what they see.


Visualise; You are looking for insights

Visualise; You are looking for insights

customer development Visualization

We interview customers, and then what? Now look at the data! Treat the answers of all the interviews as one batch. Review the answers, make it visual! Did you learn anything? Did you ask the right questions? Let patterns emerge and group similar findings together.  Remember, explorative interviews will give you insights rather than clear answers. You decide what to do with those insights!

We are all biased

We are all biased

customer development Entrepreneurship

Your world view is not other peoples world view.

We all see through our own beliefs and experiences..

Now we all sort of know this is true for people in other cultures or belief circles. What we forget is that this is true for everyone, especially those we expect to be in the same circle of beliefs or experiences, you assume that they see the world like you do. We assume that their actions can be explained by your world view. Never assume anything, always clarify or validate.

Dagje Dublin; Een one-page-visual businessmodel voor Terminalfour

Dagje Dublin; Een one-page-visual businessmodel voor Terminalfour

Entrepreneurship Visualization

Terminalfour is een SAAS bedrijf dat voor Universiteiten en Colleges een oplossing aanbied dat alle verschillende sites and content van afdelingen en richtingen in 1 systeem kan vatten. Ze bieden overzicht, access management en een set aan tools voor verschillende doeleinden en afdelingen. Onlangs hebben ze een pivot in customer-segment en focus doorgevoerd. Ze wilden graag een strategy sessie waaruit een one-page-businessmodel zou voortkomen.

De sessie was een volle ochtend waarbij beide founders en een derde management team lid verantwoordelijk voor communicatie aanwezig waren. In deze sessie schetste ik uit hun woorden op een groot whiteboard hun verhaal, hun visie en de problemen die ze tegen kwamen. Daaruit ontstonden nieuwe inzichten , letterlijk omdat de schetsen ook daadwerkelijk visuele terugkoppelingen zijn. Hiermee konden we de onderdelen van het businessmodel en de focus opnieuw rangschikken en vormgeven, gepaard met nieuwe inzichten en strategisch advies. Gewapend met deze nieuwe inzichten heeft Terminalfour bijvoorbeeld de communicatie op hun site effectief kunnen aanpassen.

Het uiteindelijke visuele resultaat is een gesimplificeerde versie van het Businessmodel en de visie van Terminalfour dat het team gaat gebruiken in de communicatie naar hun sales team, de stakeholders en als visueel kader bij verdere strategie sessies en innovatie sessies. Groot uitgeprint op A0 en gelamineerd is dit een goed middel om snel overzicht te krijgen of als uitgangspunt in verdere voortgang. Plak hem vol met sticky-notes of markeer met een whiteboard stift de onderdelen die aandacht verdienen of waar nieuwe kansen liggen.

Behalve een goed geslaagde klus was het ook een erg leuke dag in Dublin, Terminalfour is een jong bedrijf met veel developers en het was super om met een team samen te werken dat met zoveel passie en energie werkt aan een mooi product.

Aren’t growth numbers ‘vanity metrics’ ?   Shouldn’t we stop to ask what we really want to know?  


Is what I tweeted while listening to another ‘growth’ and economy update. Increased market value and increased profits is what our economy seems to be based on. But is that what we want to achieve? Is increased profit and market value how we want to grow? Maybe we should redefine ‘growth’ altogether. Redefine it into something to evolve towards. Measure the things that matter if we want to really change our economy.

Vision; what is yours?

Vision; what is yours?


The one thing I ask first when visualizing business models and strategy is; “What is your Vision?” Why I ask this? Because I think that Vision is a very important part of your business. It guides you, it keeps everyone on the same road and it helps you make decisions and pivots. While in the uncertain life of a startup most things aren’t clear yet, Vision is what holds everything together. It is also a very abstract concept however, and difficult to actually formulate.

Why do we need a vision anyway?

A vision is the signpost of your roadmap. It influences strategic decisions, it helps you decide in which way to pivot, or which customer segment to choose when you are in early startup fase. It will help you unify and make strategic decisions when you start growing and it will help you set goals and tell the story when you start scaling. It will probably evolve through al those stages just as your company will, but it is the one thing that will remain more or less the same throughout all the surrounding turmoil.
A vision is difficult to formulate, while it starts out as a strong passion or pain in the head of the founder or founders, it grows and evolves into a something more clear that will keep your new employees and additions to the team see where you are going and why. Often a vision is mixed up with goals. But where a Goal is set in the near future, influences your daily activities and is something that you actually want to achieve as soon as possible. A vision is a longterm reason for why you are doing what you are doing and influences strategic decisions.


How do I formulate my vision?

It is not always easy to formulate your vision. And although it helps to have a beautifully formulated great oneliner of a vision. It is not something you have to go for right away. As I said, your vision will probably slowly evolve over time and you will have time to polish up a great oneliner over time. But it is important to have it clear to you and your founders from the beginning. How to get that passionate idea that started out your company  out of your head and onto paper?

I made a visual framework to help you do that.

Ask yourself; ‘what was the passion ( or pain) that I started on, that made me want to start this startup?’ Then go on and ask; ‘What is is that you actually do, and how you are doing it’, from those answers go on to ask ‘why?’ If the answer is world domination, take one step back. If the answer is nowhere near world domination ask ‘why?’ again. Take time and only write words if sentences do not come. Now from the ‘passion’ and the ‘why’  you should be able to formulate a vision (or crude version of a vision) to help you and your team to reach the mountain of succes.

vision canvas klein


Get a bigger printable version here


Lean mentor check-ins

Lean mentor check-ins

customer development Entrepreneurship

I have been a mentor at Rockstart since the beginning. This year I am running the Lean customer development session in the Rockstart web/mobile track. Apart from giving workshops on experiments and the principles of customer development, the introduction of an experiment canvas, I also introduced weekly sessions with the startups called lean-mentor checkins.  These sessions are really simple and straight forward but work really well. That is why I wanted to share them with you.

I basically took the ‘braintrust’ principle;  founders that check in with a small group and share problems and ideas with each other. Combined that with the fact that I wanted them to help each other, as well as me wanting to know about their customer development process. Doing this every week will hopefully keep them doing customer development and product optimization based on customer feedback. Rather than them being sucked into the daily business of bugs, problems, finances and sales.

This resulted in a weekly meetup where the startups send one of the founders ( preferably always the same one) to a meeting that is always one hour, and no longer than that hour, at the same time every single week.  I have divided the group in two so that there are 5 founders in each group. Keeping the group small helps in both trust and attention. I think 4 might even work better. Less than 3 will probably reduce some of the value by the feedback and different views of the other founders.

To keep the sessions about customer development for now, each founder has 12 minutes sharp to answer the following two questions;

What have you learned last week?

What is it you want to learn/validate this week?

The startups use the experiment canvas that I introduced ( a modified and simplified version of the evolve canvas ) to keep track off their progress during the sessions. Preferably they all have 4 minutes to tell about last week. This is something that really helps keeping at customer development. You want something to show to the others every week…It also can help having other peoples views giving feedback on the data you have collected. Next is what you want to learn this week, what do you want to validate and why, or what part of your product do you want to optimize and what data do you need for that. Sharing this can get you a lot of new ideas or expertise from the others on your next step. You will want as much time getting the views and experiences of te other founders. We keep the turns at 12 minutes each, strictly, keep notes on the feedback so you can follow up with conversations with the other founders that where cut short. Keeping it short will keep it meaningful for everyone, it only takes 1 hour of your always valuable time as a founder and you want as much dedication from everyone as possible to make it a valuable meeting to keep up with every week.

For now both groups are accompanied by a lean mentor, to give advice or ask critical questions, but in time the groups should run without the mentor. The meetup becoming a valuable hour of co-founder feedback for all of their problems, issues and successes.




“Launching is like the opening move in a chess game. It doesn’t mean that much.”

Zo groot mogelijk in de pers, of juist niet? dat is de vraag. Veel startups zoeken bij hun ‘officiële’ launch veel persaandacht. Dat zorgt tenslotte voor eyeballs en je zult toch je nieuwe service of product onder de aandacht moeten brengen. Vanuit de lean customer development gedachte wil je juist niet van dit soort korte aandacht hypes, je wilt kunnen meten of je groei zoals je die in je service of product hebt aangebracht, sticky, viral, paid ook echt werkt, of je aannames met betrekking tot je klanten, het probleem en  je oplossing ook daadwerkelijk kloppen. Een ‘spike’ met veel media aandacht zorgt dan voor veel ruis in die data. Continue reading

Interne cultuur en hoe je je intern organiseert, hierarchy of juist een hele platte organisatie is van levensbelang voor innovatie en creativiteit.

In een dit artikel vond ik een mooie uitleg, waarom grote bedrijven en hun  hierarchy  een “Nee dat lukt toch niet” mentaliteit herbergen en daardoor innovatie in de kiem smoren.

Big companies have plenty of great ideas, but they do not innovate because they need a whole hierarchy of people to agree that a new idea is good in order to pursue it. If one smart person figures out something wrong with an idea — often to show off or to consolidate power — that’s usually enough to kill it.

Absoluut de moeite waard om verder te lezen trouwens.