Week Two Reflection: The Product Development Model


Steven Gary Blank’s The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win is a useful resource for founders looking to create successful products for the masses and market them appropriately. The book reads more like a manual (and is oftentimes very direct, and very monotonous!!!), but it does delineate each step and further detail how each phase should be enacted to ensure the most success for your enterprise. Blank explains that initially when founders are crafting their companies, they must think of their product development as, “the path hidden in plain view.”

Quoting Joseph Campbell, “A legendary hero is usually the founder of something-the founder of a new age, the founder of a new religion, the founder of a new city, the founder of a new way of life. In order to found something new, one has to leave the old and go on a quest of the seed idea, a germinal idea that will have the potential of bringing forth that new thing.”

Blank goes on to explain that much like heroes in movies, founders must prepare a path for themselves that will allow their startup to be more prone to success. Although this will not eliminate obstacles, it will mitigate risks and increase the chances of the enterprise being profitable for a substantial period of time. Blank asserts that, “startups don’t fail because they lack a product; they fail because they lack customers and markets.” He maintains that before founders worry about first product ship dates or utilize the product development paradigm to predict the future of the enterprise; they must initially “focus on reaching a deep understanding of customers and their problems, discovering a repeatable road map of how they buy, and building a financial model that results in profitability.”

In order for individuals to successfully decimate these obstacles Blank insists that before any of the traditional functions of selling and marketing can happen, the company has to prove that a market could exist, verify that someone would pay real capital for the solutions the company provides, and then go out and create the market.
If founders have effectively answered these aforementioned questions, then they will set themselves on the “hero’s” path, learning about their customers and their problems; and, creating a market that will be lucrative and further substantiate these claims.

Blank, S. G. (2006). Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win (3rd ed.). Cafepress.com.

4 thoughts on “Product Development Model

  1. Harmony Chavis says:

    Hi TK! I am sorry that your book was monotonous. One thing I really did appreciate about my own book is that it wasn’t such a manual and text book type read. I am glad that you were still able to pull valuable tings from it!

    I was particularly interested in the part where Blank talks about the traditional functions of selling. How does one prove that the market can exist? Has one proved it if they successful sell $2000 in profit to only their friends and family? Have they been successful if they have “made” $4,000 on a product that cost $3,500 to produce. I like how these textbook books fail to really define what proving consist of or really clearly define their definitions. For instance Blank makes a reference to real capital, what is real capital? Is it only currency?

    I know the books functions is likely to get you thinking about how to answer these questions, but ultimately I feel like for some people (myself included) it provides a skeletal frame work with very little advice on how to build upon it. The way we define words is so important, it is how we derive meaning. I feel as if because the questions were posed, but the definitions weren’t as clearly portrayed as I would have preferred…thus making it difficult for me to answer those questions about my own business.

    Thank you for providing such a comprehensive and easy read of this book that seemed to be a bit challenging.

    • Hello lady!!!!
      Yes, I must admit that I was somewhat envious as I read the reflections of others and realized they actually selected a book…Although this read was extremely daunting in the beginning (we’re talking 40 page chapters with 2-3 narratives thrown in here and there to support the points), it does provide an interesting and thorough perspective on how to approach your own business. For instance, the fact that you mentioned “selling” to family and friends is an integral part of the process; being able to sell your products (no matter the consumer) is one way to validate that a profitable market could potentially exist. Although our friends and family members tend to support us out of sheer kindness and love, these first customers can also assist in the overall product (and customer) development process because they will hopefully provide genuine and valuable feedback about their experience. Furthermore, these “earlyvangelists” as Blank refers to them, can help to get the word out to others who may benefit from the product as well (and with anything else, the rest can literally be history).
      Blank encourages entrepreneurs to find their market by ascertaining whether this venture will enter an existing market, create a totally new market (i.e. a product that will do something that has never been done before), or re-segment the market (i.e. provide a niche). Blank assures us that once we have done so, we can begin to assess how we will need to proceed in attracting future customers and essentially capital. Blank like Dr. Lahm refers to real capital as anything that can be utilized in the process of building your company (i.e. social capital-people, financial capital-money, intellectual capital-your ideas/ideas of others). Despite the fact the word is thrown around rather loosely, he makes it a point to note that these things are in many instances interchangeable and can be leveraged when necessary. Hope this helps!

      As always thanks for your thoughts 🙂


  2. TK,
    Developing a new idea can be challenging for an entrepreneur, then working to turn the idea to become acceptable is where the challenge is, once the idea is accepted then the business can thrive but in an event where that is not the case and the product/service is not welcome by the projected customers, well, that failure. Therefore before a product?service can is established a market survey will give ideas of what to expect. Great post!
    Bolanle Akinyemi

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