Customer Development by the Numbers


A couple of days ago, more than two hundred founders, CEOs and marketers got together with some very sharp thinkers to talk about making startups successful under the umbrella of FutureM—a week-long series of events about what’s next in marketing.

MITX, which I’m honored to be on the board of, organized FutureM with the help of dozens of businesses. I loved the idea of FutureM and decided to put together an event on customer development because the most common problem I see in companies I work with through FastIgnite is poor linkage between product development and marketing, which is often combined with premature scaling to boot. Customer development is the best methodology I know of to deal with this problem in early- to mid-stage startups. Steve Blank coined the term 8+ years ago, and the methodology has been well-tested and much improved over the years.

I partnered up with General Catalyst Partners to organize the event because they are a venture firm that gets the combination of agile development and customer development—it’s practiced in many of their portfolio companies and plays a key role in how they engage with seed and Series A startups. (Being a part-time exec-in-residence at GC made it easier to pitch the crazy idea of putting together an excellent customer development event on a night when there were at least four other major events going on in town.)

Gus Weber from Microsoft’s NERD Center joined our group and became the event host. Next came the keynote speaker—Bob Dorf, a known marketer, six-time founder/CEO and investor in two dozen startups who is also Steve Blank’s co-author for the next version of the customer development “user guide,” tentatively titled, Customer Development: The Second Decade, due next spring.

This is how our eponymous event was born, and here it is by the numbers…

1,000+views of the live stream and video from the event
388people who wanted to attend
316tweets using hashtag #custdev2—follow the link to get a sense of what attendees thought
275people who showed up despite the rain
250minutes from the beginning of the event until the cleaning crew turned off the lights and kicked us out of the building
240seats in the room
109people who tweeted using #custdev2
50marketing mavens
42dollars; the cost of the lean startup bundle on AppSumo (thanks to Eric Ries of StartupLessonsLearned for mentioning this)
32micro-campaigns to reach out and recruit attendees (no mass mailings)
15apps and items in the lean startup bundle at AppSumo
10percent increase in @gcvp Twitter followers

  • Bob Dorf, serial entrepreneur, marketing guru & Steve Blank co-author
  • Eric Ries, serial entrepreneur and lean startup evangelist
  • David Cancel, founder of Compete, Lookery, Ghostery and Performable
  • Andy Moss, founder/CEO of ESMZone
  • Andy Greenawalt, founder and CEO of Perimeter eSecurity and
  • Healy Jones, founder of Startable and VP Marketing at OfficeDrop
3books you should read:

2new names announced:

  • Boston Internet Guild is a group where online marketing professionals can share what works. BIG will bring together Web 2.0 marketing executives and Internet startup founders for structured discussions on marketing topics, customer development, marketing tools, product marketing and networking. BIG’s founders are Healy Jones, Jeremy Levine and yours truly. If you want to go BIG, let us know.
  • FastStartup is a community-oriented partner to FastIgnite. Customer Development: The Second Decade was a FastStartup event. To get invited to future events, let us know.
1faulty network cable, which nearly prevented the live streaming of the event.


The best way to get a sense of the event is to look at Bob Dorf’s slides and the event video. If you’d like to learn more about customer development, read Steve Blank’s blog and Eric Ries’s blog.

I will close with a final comment from Bob Dorf:

“Many of the audience questions seemed to turn one way or another on the point that “gee, this is hard, pivots are hard.”  So, I accomplished my mission. Entrepreneurship is hard. Damned hard. And if you buy the recent research that one in 3,000 “cocktail napkin” business ideas turns into a business that hits out-of-the-park valuations, that sets the bar far higher for every entrepreneur in startup mode who is passionate about hitting it out of the park.  Anyone else should really go get a comfortable W-2 job someplace.  Long before I met my wife of 33 years, I lost a very serious, hot live-in girlfriend because she said (literally) “I think you love your business more than me.”  She was probably right and I hope she found a wonderful W-2 guy.  Startups are hard. I hope that the Customer Development process and lean startup discussions gave the many passionate entrepreneurs in the room a hint at a roadmap to ease their travels.”

Let me know your thoughts on the event or customer development in the comments or at @simeons.

Simeon (Sim) Simeonov is a serial entrepreneur and investor. Currently, he is founder and CTO of Shopximity where he works to make shopping better for everyone. You can read his blog at and follow him on Twitter at @simeons. Follow @

Trending on Xconomy

By posting a comment, you agree to our terms and conditions.

4 responses to “Customer Development by the Numbers”

  1. Tony Chang says:

    This was the best startup event in Boston I have gone to this year. Thanks for organizing it. When is the next event?

  2. Sim,

    Tony’s right. Top notch event and something sorely lacking in the community. There are hundreds of events every month and yet I can count the ones I truly learn at on one hand.

    Here’s hoping it won’t be too long before we can all learn some important, actionable stuff again from you, FastStartups, BIG and anyone else willing to pull some good things together.


  3. Founder/CEO says:

    I watched the video last night and was surprised to see Catalyst spend the time and effort to bring great speakers from out-of-town. Good for them. I am speaking at a FutureM event today organized by one of my investors. It’s all the same faces and all the same statements and not enough time to discuss any one topic in depth. I want to go to events where i walk away feeling i will do a couple of things differently next week.