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This book will teach you how to create your own startup, nail the problem it solves, and scale it.

Nail it Then Scale it

Nail it Then Scale it

by Nathan R. Furr, Paul B. Ahlstrom


2.48K reads


"Make something people want."

The Three Myths of Entrepreneurship

  • The hero myth - What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur? We all hear the same list of qualities: passion, determination and vision. But the same qualities that are heralded as traits of the successful may lead to your startup’s demise.
  • The process...

  • Get out into the field - Get out of the building, outside the company, outside your circle of friends... validate assumptions like scientists. Don't be attached to your vision.
  • Fail fast and embrace change - Do not waste time pursuing an idea that'...

It is the ability to recognize new information and then change the way you view the world. It can help you be more agile and beat out your competitors who are stuck in the old way of doing business.

Sunk cost leads to irrational decision-making. when entrepreneurs stake their hopes and dreams on a startup, the resulting motivation can make it all but impossible for them to learn in an intellectually honest way - overconfidence trap: research shows experienced individuals tend to be overconfi...

Recognize our weaknesses and blind spots. We tend to try and reuse ideas from other settings that may not be appropriate.  For example, A CEO with a marketing background may see the world through the lens of the "go big" marketing blitz strategy.

  • Become an "expert-novice": hold knowledge and confidence, but always maintain a seed of doubt and thirst for more knowledge.
  • Reframe your startup's purpose: reframe the purpose of your venture to be learning about what the market wants, rather than proving that your idea works. this ...

The goal of this phase is to clearly define and understand the customer pain and determine whether the customer pain is a market opportunity.

The test of nailing the pain is whether customers return your cold calls. In this first step, we want to answer the question "Is this a pain worth so...

  • Write down a monetizable pain statement - A monetizable pain represents a pain that customers recognize, have money to pay for, and are overly interested and eager to solve.
  • Write down a big idea hypothesis - An idea for a solution to the pain you ...

If 50% of customers return your call, you have found the monetizable pain and a potential beachhead for your product.

If it is less than 50%, the low response rate may mean that you just haven't found the right customer niche or the right words to describe the pain to the customer. By talki...

Once you've validated a customer pain, it's time to ask yourself "how big is the pain I'm trying to solve and is it worth it?"

Many entrepreneurs we have talked to discover a customer pain, build a solution for the pain and then realize after the fact that they are actually tackling a rathe...

In this stage, you cultivate a minimum feature set that you develop iteratively while validating with customers.

As you iterate, in addition to refining the solution based on customer feedback, you should be improving your understanding of the market and defining the best segment for an ini...

Write down a MFS Hypothesis

The minimum feature set represents the smallest, most focused set of features that will drive a customer purchase.  There are a few tests that can be conducted:

  • Test 1: The Virtual Prototype Test
  • Test 2: The Prototype Test
  • ...


"Since only one in every five to ten ideas works out, the strategy of limiting the time we have to prove that an idea works allows us to try out more ideas, increasing our odds of success."

Detach yourself from your biases, get on the customer's side of the table, look at the problem from their perspective, and make them feel that you truly want to learn how they feel about this problem and potential solutions

Do you have this problem? Does this solution solve your problem? Wh...

  • Develop an inexpensive, rapid prototype — something your customers can use and give them a picture of the solution you are proposing.
  • Be resourceful — ask suppliers for samples. Find partners. Avoid investment.
  • Prototype Road Show

The price your customers are willing to pay is the measure of the degree to which you have nailed the solution.

Breakthrough questions:

  1. "How much would you expect to pay or a solution like this?"
  2. "Would you be willing to prepay for this product?"
  3. "Would you be wil...

Partner with your customers, usually through a pilot program, to take your solution through a final round of iteration to refine it into the solution customers want. At this point, your customers should be willing to begin paying for the product. You should begin closing paid pilots or be selling...

The goal is to understand the process by which customers find out about and decide to purchase our product and to use our findings to develop a repeatable sales model and optimize our marketing and sales strategy. We should be continuing to explore and validate price points while closing paid pil...

The customer buying process is the map of your customers' activities from the moment they find out about your product through the purchase and use to the ultimate disposal of your product.

It is defined by the job your customer is trying to get done and all the relevant activities that sur...

Look for leverage points within the buying process at which you can influence customers' purchase decisions.

Example: Apple didn't just revolutionalize the sale of MP3 players by making a better MP3 player. They also reinvented the entire buying process for digital music, which before i...

  • Map the key categories of the market infrastructure
  • Identify the top three partnerships in each category
  • Understand the motivations and needs of each player
  • Create measurable and time-bound objectives for each potential partner and a strategy to leverage the infrastru...

Close and launch paid pilot-customer relationships and utilize them to refine the product, go-to-market strategy, and serve as references.

If you properly nurture reference customers, at the end of the pilot you will have a robust solution, a deep understanding of your go-to-market strategy...

  • Your business model is the map of how you create value and deliver it to customers. In this phase, we will conduct financial analysis to verify business viability, launch your product and go-to-market strategy, and then develop a dashboard to monitor your progress forward.

The very process of growing will change your company in fundamental ways that will make what you did in the early days obsolete in the later days.

The process of "nailing it" is recursive.

As startups grow, the nature of how they operate begins to change. As a company grows, a shift o...

New markets are created by a disruptive technology that serves new customers or an opportunity that was previously unnoticed or underserved. Whether or not it is a new market doesn't necessarily depend on your technology or product, but rather how the technology or product is applied. For example...

Established markets are markets where products exist and where you intend to compete by offering a product that serves a niche within the existing market or is a complement to an existing product.

Consider attacking the low end of the market first. Customers at the top of the market aren't ...

Many investors and entrepreneurs will admit that most successful companies faced a crisis before they succeeded.

The value of a good crisis is that it forces you to focus and renew your commitment to make the time to really nail the product and reshape the company.

  • Models - intelligent, well-spoken, credentialed. pays lip service to the process but under the surface believe they already have the answer.
  • Packrats - chases down and tries to satisfy every last customer. unable to fire the customers that distract...

When it comes to the image you create as a startup, once you start selling, go big or stay home within the niche you have targeted. This doesn’t mean you have to burn all your capital, but you do want to communicate that you are established and reliable when you start trying to capture the early ...

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