Lessons for Developers from Tom Kosnik

Tom Kosnik, Professor at Stanford University, spoke at Microsoft Startup Boot Camp in Silicon Valley this week and shared his advice on how startups can successfully cater to their customers in a way that makes sense for their business goals. Here are the top 5 must-dos to help narrow your focus and get to building the app your customers actually want.

1.) Why will customers buy your product over a competitor’s?

If you’re in the early stages of development, take a break to go out and find out about your potential customers. Why are they going to use this product over what they’re using now or what they’d buy from a competitor? You must answer this question conclusively before moving on.

2.) Stop selling, start listening.

At the beginning stages you should be continuously discovering what your target customer base wants. Don’t wait until you have a finished product to do this. Remember the 80/20 rule. Listen for 80% of the conversation and talk for 20%.

3.) Test your hypotheses.

Turn customer guesses into facts through constant research and analysis.

4.) Keep a clear focus.

At some point you need to filter those customer suggestions and use only the ones that make sense for the success of your product. As Tom stated during the workshop, “customers are not product developers. It’s your job as a business owner to understand which of their asks make sense to focus on.”

5.) Don’t be afraid to pivot! Change course if required.

Great entrepreneurs realize that at some point their company needs to pivot so do not be ashamed to do so, especially when you have a strong conviction that the market is changing.  However, diminishing returns result when you pivot too frequently so make sure it is the right move to make.

Keep up with live updates from Startup Boot Camp! 

If you can follow these steps you will be able to develop iteration after iteration of your product without crisis and will have built a fast, agile and opportunistic company capable of disrupting markets.

Follow the hashtag #MSBootcamp or follow the Tech Student handle on Twitter for tips, quotes, and insights from angel investors, startup leaders, evangelists, and students between now and the end of the week. We’ll also be highlighting events and fielding questions on Facebook.

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