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The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win Paperback – July 17, 2013

4.7 out of 5 stars 178 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


... a book that all technology entrepreneurs will actually want to read. Blank peppers his narrative with many concrete, realworld examples.; --TechComm The Technology Journal of Technology Commercialization Aug-Sept 2005

About the Author

Steve Blank is an entrepreneur, business strategist, and retired marketing executive in Silicon Valley. He began his career 32 years ago and has been at the heart of emerging technology industries ever since. He has been involved in numerous startups and established companies, in operational roles running the gamut from CEO to VP of marketing. The breath of his experience makes him a sought-after board member, advisor and speaker. Steve’s successes include E.piphany, an enterprise software company started in his living room; two semiconductor companies (Zilog and MIPS Computers), a workstation company (Convergent Technologies), a supercomputer firm (Ardent), a computer peripheral supplier (SuperMac), a military intelligence systems supplier (ESL) and a video game company (Rocket Science Games). These startups resulted in five IPO’s, and three very deep craters. Steve currently <P> Many of the principles presented in the book were used and fine-tuned in the creation of these companies and in Steve’s many years as a high-level advisor and company board member for companies both living and dead. Steve currently teaches entrepreneurship and customer development at Stanford University School of Engineering and at U.C. Berkeley Haas School of Business. In the classroom, his ideas, methodologies, and principles on customer development are presented and proofed each day in dialogues and analyses with the best business students as well as some of the most accomplished executives in the country. <P>Steve is an ardent conservationist and a board member of Audubon and Audubon California.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 275 pages
  • Publisher: Cafepress.com; 2nd edition (July 17, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0976470705
  • ISBN-13: 978-0976470700
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 7.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (178 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Put to a vote, I might have been chosen "least likely to succeed" in my New York City high school class. My path has taken me from repairing fighter planes in Thailand during the Vietnam War, to spook stuff in undisclosed location(s), and I was lucky enough to arrive at the beginning of the boom times of Silicon Valley in 1978.

After 21 years in 8 high technology companies, I retired in 1999. I started my last company, E.piphany, in my living room in 1996. My other startups include two semiconductor companies, Zilog and MIPS Computers, a workstation company Convergent Technologies, a consulting stint for a graphics hardware/software spinout Pixar, a supercomputer firm, Ardent, a computer peripheral supplier, SuperMac, a military intelligence systems supplier, ESL and a video game company, Rocket Science Games.

Total score: two large craters (Rocket Science and Ardent), one dot.com bubble home run (E.piphany) and several base hits.

After I retired, I took some time to reflect on my experience and wrote a book (actually my class text) about building early stage companies called Four Steps to the Epiphany.

I moved from being an entrepreneur to teaching entrepreneurship to both undergraduate and graduate students at U.C. Berkeley, Stanford University and the Columbia University/Berkeley Joint Executive MBA program. The "Customer Development" model that I developed in my book is one of the core themes in these classes. In 2009, I was awarded the Stanford University Undergraduate Teaching Award in the department of Management Science and Engineering. The same year, the San Jose Mercury News listed me as one of the 10 Influencers in Silicon Valley. In 2010, I was awarded the Earl F. Cheit Outstanding Teaching Award at U.C. Berkeley Haas School of Business.

I also followed my curiosity about why entrepreneurship blossomed in Silicon Valley and was stillborn elsewhere. It has led to several talks on The Secret History of Silicon Valley.

In 2007 Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed me to serve on the California Coastal Commission, the public body which regulates land use and public access on the California coast. In 2010 I was appointed to the Expert Advisory Panel for the California Ocean Protection Council.

I am on the board of Audubon California (and its past chair) and spent several years on the Audubon National Board. I'm also a board member of Peninsula Open Space Land Trust (POST). In 2009 I became a trustee of U.C. Santa Cruz and joined the board of the California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV).

I blog at www.steveblank.com

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is required reading at our company - even for the engineers. Following its methodology, we were able to uncover flaws in our product and business plan and correct them before they became costly. Rapid iteration, customer feedback, testing our assumptions - these are all part of our company culture, thanks in no small part to this book. Essential reading for anyone starting something new.


Above is what I wrote about this book two years ago. Here's what I wrote on my blog, after having more time to think about it:

What is customer development?

When we build products, we use a methodology. For software, we have many - you can enjoy a nice long list on Wikipedia. But too often when it's time to think about customers, marketing, positioning, or PR, we delegate it to "marketroids" or "suits." Many of us are not accustomed to thinking about markets or customers in a disciplined way. We know some products succeed and others fail, but the reasons are complex and the unpredictable. We're easily convinced by the argument that all we need to do is "build it and they will come." And when they don't come, well, we just try, try, again.

What's wrong with this picture?

Steve Blank has devoted many years now to trying to answer that question, with a theory he calls Customer Development. This theory has become so influential that I have called it one of the three pillars of the lean startup - every bit as important as the changes in technology or the advent of agile development.

You can learn about customer development, and quite a bit more, in Steve's book The Four Steps to the Epiphany. I highly recommend this book for all entrepreneurs, in startups as well as in big companies. Here's the catch.
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I had high hopes for this book. I have listened to the author speak, and while I disagreed with some of his hypotheses (such as startups don't need QA), he brings valuable experiences to his view on startups.

Since I am a direct target of the book (CEO of a startup), I was hoping that I would walk away with as many sparks as I did from reading the Innovator's Dilemma. Unfortunately, I found the book, for me at least, often struggled with getting the point across.

This book raises some very good points about the downfalls of waterfall process, and how the Agile processes for engineering apply equally or more so to marketing and sales. There are some excellent points throughout about how the CEO and other key execs need to validate the market and pivot in order to get to success.

But, there is certain snarkiness to the book that detracts, and I often felt that the material was extremely wordy. I didn't get to "aha" moments along the way. I often judge management books by how many pages I mark to follow up on, and whether I want my team to read the book. In this case, I marked two pages for follow up, but can't recommend it to my team.

There are some important pieces of information, but it is so much work to get to them.

The book is at its best when it is going through case studies, showing organizations that survived or failed, and missteps they made along the way. I wish the book had far more of such case studies in it, since for me at least, I found them much more valuable for showcasing the ideas.
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Format: Paperback
Every once in awhile you come across a book that changes how you live your life or in this case how you start and operate a company. For years people have talked about "Crossing the Chasm" as the book to read if you are building a company. What you didn't realize is that it takes a few years of hard work to get your company ready to cross the chasm. Well if you are looking for the book that provides the roadmap to the chasm, then this is the book.

What is amazing about this book is how it takes you step by step thru how to actually figure out the right product and market for you startup. It has actual steps to follow, something many books lack.

On the down side, the book needs a good edit as it seems to be a companion to the author's course at Berkeley.

All in all, if you got one idea that saves you making a mistake in the early days of your startup, this book is worth it.
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Format: Paperback
I really liked this book (a lot), and I debated whether to give it a 3 or a 4, but ultimately decided to go with 3 because it has some major problems.

First, the things I liked about the book are that it is based on tried-and-true methods from Steve Blank and many of the companies that he's coached, so the fundamentals seem solid. I really like the worksheets in the back of the book as well, so I don't have to go and reread entire chapters to remember what to include in my documents, or what I should be focusing on when talking to customers.

However; the problems with this book are numerous. I've ordered them from most to least important (IMHO):

- The book is heavily geared towards Enterprise and B2B products. There is some mention of consumer products, but it is inconsistent and insufficient coverage in my opinion. There should have been significantly more coverage on the differences of each step as it applies to a B2B vs. B2C product.

- The book largely assumes you have a team of people who already have a business plan written and have been funded. This is quite a bit to filter through if you're bootstrapping a web startup with two guys working out of a coffee shop part time.

- It is way too pricey for the quality (39.99 when I bought it)

- It was NOT PROOFREAD WELL. There are so many typos and grammatical errors in the beginning of the book, that I almost tossed it aside. It seems to get a bit better after the first few chapters.
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