By Simon Cocking review of The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win by Steve Blank
The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win (ISBN: 9781119690351), the book that launched the Lean Startup revolution, was originally written a decade ago. In it, author Steve Blank’s observation then that startups are not smaller versions of large companies, that they search for a scalable business model (while existing companies execute a known business model), is now a mainstream concept.
The Customer Development process which is laid out in this book and detailed in follow-up title, The Start-Up Owner’s Manual: A Step by Step Guide for Building a Great Company is now used by startups across all sectors and these ideas have become the Lean Startup movement.
The Four Steps – Customer Discovery, Customer Validation, Customer Creation, and Company Building – have now spread from startups to large corporations and the Lean Startup methodology has become the standard for commercialising scienfic research in the US. It’s taught in most major universities and in thousands of entrepreneurial programmes around the world.
Review of The Four Steps to the Epiphany
We studied the works of Steve Blank in college, over half a decade ago, and even then this book was already another decade older again. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, the book still holds value. It is a considered, methodical walk through everything that you need to do to try and ensure the greatest possible chance of success for your own startup. The fact that this is the 5th edition of the book highlights its enduring value.
If you haven’t dipped your toe into this book before the six chapters that Blank covers are as follows; Chapter 1, The Path to Disaster : The product development model. Chapter 2, The Path to Epiphany : The customer development model. Chapter 3 Customer Discovery. Chapter 4 Customer Validation. Chapter 5 Customer Creation, and Chapter 6, Company Building. This book is now also complemented by his other classic The Startup Owner’s Manual, which has also been updated and re-released, and which we will be reviewing also.
This book provides a useful starting point as it enables you to ask yourself a series of important and relevant questions. Better to find out now, with hard questions, rather than finding out later after millions have been spent. Some of the examples are a little historical based on when the book was written and it might achieve greater value if there were more examples drawn from the time that has passed since it was written. But maybe that is not the goal of releasing a fifth edition of the book, and perhaps failures from ‘olden times’ (the early 2000s) still offer the same relevant insights, without us being clouded by association with more recent companies that have failed.
There is a lot to be learned by reading this book, and it won’t be time wasted even if your company has already gained traction and is seemingly on the road to success. Blank also has a useful Youtube channel where you can dig into many of his concepts in more details. Well worth watching some of them.
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