Apple, Customer Development, & the iPod

In my previous post, I mentioned why I believed start-ups might only work for tech, online, or social network companies, but that was before I took Steve Blank’s online course on how to build a startup!

So as Steve Blank mentioned, “companies need a customer development process that complements its product development process.” He went into details explaining the four processes of customer development, which are:

Customer discovery (look into customer problems),

Customer validation (look into a solution),

Customer creation, and

Company building.

So at the end of the day, the customer development process basically teaches you how to sell your product/service before building it.


An interesting example of how a company used the process of customer development within its products is Apple. Steve jobs knows what the customers want before the customers do! For instance when they introduced the iPad, everyone already had at least a computer/laptop or an iPhone/smartphone, so why come up with a device that no one actually needs? That’s what Steve Jobs was famous for, creating products that customers want before they themselves even know that they do! Now nearly everyone owns an iPad!

The iPod touch example in specific, explains how Apple implemented the customer development process. Apple changed the “positioning” of the iPod Touch twice, which was derived from the steps of Sean Ellis’s Startup Pyramid. Steve Blank has already developed a model for positioning products based on market types, which apple has gone through with its iPod, being initially positioned in a re-segmented market (as a multi-touch iPod), then positioned in an existing market (as a portable game to players), then in a new market (a way to the App store.)


Another interesting example I found was Ash Maurya’s article on customer development. He mentioned that Steve Blank’s process was built for Enterprise software and does not translate to other types of startups. Same as my thoughts when I first read about Lean Startups? Maybe. Anyway he decided to use David Binetti’s put together “Customer Development Checklist” for his web startup and gave details how it was done. Here’s the link for his article:


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