Minimal Viable Bio:
Entrepreneur + author. Founded two startups. Both dead-pooled. Wrote a book called The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development. Working on a few startup projects right now, and am also a co-organizer of the Los Angeles Lean Startup Circle. Contact me or view my LinkedIn profile or Twitter stream.
After graduating from UC Santa Barbara, I teamed up with my college roommate, Jonathan Siegel, and we formed ELC Technologies, based on an existing company of his known at the time as The Electric Connection. Back in 2000, ELC Tech was one of the few companies that did embedded Linux integration. We did quite a few interesting projects in the embedded systems, web and mobile spaces, that were, I believe, ahead of their time and ELC Tech also contributed to the burgeoning open-source movement. Seeing the current state of technology and looking back now at some of the projects we did, but did not build into scalable businesses, I can only shake my head and hope that I don’t make the same mistakes in the future. (For example, we, very manually, ran email campaigns for good-sized businesses — had we the foresight, we could have built a legitimate contender in the email campaign management business.)
Some time later, I went back to UC Santa Barbara to do a Master’s in economics (with emphases in finance and econometrics). After finishing grad school, I went to live and work in Budapest, Hungary. While living in Hungary, I worked for The Economist Intelligence Unit (a division of The Economist Group) opening Hungary as a new market for their business intelligence data products and services.
A few years later, I came back to the States and did a short stint at an investment bank in Los Angeles, after which I moved to Orange County, California and worked as an analyst for The Concord Group creating financial models. While at The Concord Group I spear-headed multiple technology initiatives ranging from managing the development of a fairly sophisticated and intelligent Excel macro that increased the firms’ productivity dramatically to leveraging custom-built scripts to scrape huge amounts of web-based real estate data for pricing studies.
I left The Concord Group to found a startup (think evite meets calendaring meets internationalization/localization) with a very good friend of mine. We hadn’t the faintest clue of what we were doing and burned through a decent amount of bootstrapped money with nothing to show for it. We made every single mistake you could possibly make. Threw features upon features. Had no contact with any potential customers. Disaster, but we learned a lot from failing.
Building upon the painful lessons learned and based upon the needs of what I saw at my wife’s work, I founded another startup that offered event-based social-networking for professional and trade associations. This was about the same time I read Steve Blank’s book, The Four Steps to the Epiphany. Reading it, I very quickly realized that everything I thought I knew about how building a startup should work — was totally wrong. And not only that, all the ostensibly smart people I looked up to in the startup world, were completely wrong about a few fundamental things as well.
In an effort to rectify the situation, I undertook some hard-core guerilla Customer Development. Our MVP (Minimal Viable Product) consisted of Photoshop PSDs and Letters of Intent. I wrote up my experience anonymously and submitted it to the Lean Startup Circle Google Group. Some time later, Eric Ries revisited it on his blog, it was also quite popular on Hacker News for some time.
The startup ended up flaming out, but I was astounded by the power of Customer Development, and addicted. After sharing my experiences, I began to get to know some of the personalities around the emergent idea of Lean Startups being developed and defined by Eric Ries — based on our mutual passion for Steve’s book, I partnered with Brant Cooper on co-authoring The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development: A Cheat Sheet to The Four Steps to the Epiphany.
We approached Steve Blank about it and he graciously agreed to support it and write the foreword to it. Currently, I am working on a few projects of my own. I am also a co-organizer at the Los Angeles Lean Startup Circle. For fun, I maintain PaleoHacks.com, one of the most popular StackExchange 1.0 sites.