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Customer Development Cycle inside Technology Life Cycle

by Larry Chiang on May 4, 2015

Larry Chiang’s book, “What They Don’t Teach You At Stanford Business School“, has an entire chapter that argues “Everyone can be a li’l entrepreneurial”. It’s #Ch9, but the whole chapter rests on his mentor’s, Mark McCormack’s #Ch6, “Sales”. Getting Stanford engineering undergrads to self fund a ‘mini company concept’ is much easier with sales revenue and team of 2-5 undergrads with a “FICO” credit score over 780. Self-funding was made popular after IMG self-funded and sold for $3.5B. After a Harvard Law School keynote, Harvard Business wrote: “What They Don’t Teach You at Stanford Business School

NYFW also has customer development inside fashion life cycles
by Larry Chiang

Customer development and new customer creation is hard.Even sales pros, legendary executives and veteran $200k/year sales people find customer development cycles a challenge. So, of course, it is hard for us undergraduate, engineering founders who have never sold. Lead generation and customer development is so hard that it kills VC funded startups dead 90+% of the time.Selling is made even more hard when it is early in the “Technology Life Cycle”. Lead generation, is known as “Customer Development (Manifesto)” inside Silicon Valley. LeadGen is made even harder when entrepreneurs attempt to get sales early in any Technology Life Cycle. The Tech Life Cycle has an ‘innovation chasm’ where there is a wasteland of zero sales.

Up until recently, Stanford has taught, “Do Customer Development to early adopters, tech enthusiasts and visionaries”. Doing customer development cycle to the left of the Innovation Chasm will continue to have dire founder consequences.


Customer Development Cycle has 7 points of failure when ENGR 145 students attempt to develop customers on the left side of the chasm. Engineering 145 is Stanford University’s class on Technology Entrepreneurship. I curate the #ENGR145 twitter RSS feed and curate YouTube playlists
I argued as early as 2010, as Stanford University’s founding Entrepreneur in Residence, that engineering founders should practice selling in the region to the right of “The Chasm”. Selling prospects that are to the left of the chasm is verrrrry hard.

Do 'customer development' on the right side of The Chasm Do ‘customer development’ on the right side of The Chasm. It is “Region (#3)”

The Chasm

VCs, Stanford professors, Stanford EIRs, YC, 500 and me all agree, “Customer development is the responsibility of the founders.” Engineering 145 now has a fork. Everything Engineering 145 is still 100% awesome. ENGR145 now has a fork, “#ENGR145s“. The “s” is for sales on the right side of The Chasm. Stanford Engineering 145s

In short, Customer Development Cycle inside Technology Life Cycle should now be done here:

Customer Development Cycle between the orange region, inside Technology Life Cycle, to the RIGHT of the chasm Customer Development Cycle between the orange region, inside Technology Life Cycle, to the RIGHT of the chasm

The next article you should read is “Crossing the (Innovation) Chasm from the Right”. Google it.

What I am saying that is so thought provoking is that you should sell an existing thing and then attach your innovative tweak. You are trojan horsing your product on the back of an existing thing. You are Crossing the Chasm From the Right (#CTCFTR)

Customer Development Cycle (manifesto) inside Technology Life Cycle should have a set of practice drills. Low risk, low probability of failure, practical case-studies: All on the right side of the chasm. Lets call these “Pop Up Internship”

Think about doing leadGen for a ‘free credit report’ (plot spoiler, it is not easy…)

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