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Note: The review that follows is of the Third Edition, published in 2007.

In this volume, Steven Gary Blank introduces and then explains in thorough detail the "Customer Development" model, one that he characterizes as "a paradox because it is followed by successful startups, yet has been articulated by no one [other than Blank, prior to its initial publication in 2005]. Its basic propositions are the antithesis of common wisdom yet they are followed by those who achieve success. It is the path that is hidden in plain sight." In fact, Blank insists that what he offers is a "better way to manage startups. Those that survive the first few tough years "do not follow the traditional product-centric launch model espoused by product managers of the venture capital community." And this is also true of product launches in new divisions inside larger corporations or in the "canonical" garages.

Moreover, "through trial and error, hiring and firing, successful [whatever their nature and origin] all invent a parallel process to Product Development. In particular, the winners invent and live by a process of customer learning and discovery. I call this process `Customer Development,' a sibling to `Product Development,' and each and every startup that succeeds recapitulates it, knowingly or not." Wow! This really is interesting stuff and I haven't even begun to read the first chapter.

Few start ups succeed, most don't, and Blank notes that each new company or new product startup involves (borrowing from Joseph Campbell) a "hero's journey" that begins with an almost "mythological vision - a hope of what could be, with a goal few others can see. It is this bright and burning vision that differentiates the entrepreneur from big company CEOs and startups from existing businesses." Although Blank suggests that the aforementioned "journey" involves a four-step process, it should be noted that not one but several epiphanies or at least revelations can and - hopefully - will occur during that process, one that is multi-dimensional rather than linear, from Point A to Point Z.

These are among the dozens of reader-friendly passages I found of greatest interest and value:

o Customer Discovery Step-by-Step (Page 30)
o The Customer Discovery Philosophy (33-37)
o Customer Discovery Summary (76)
o The Customer Validation Philosophy (82-83)
o Customer Validation Summary (118)
o Customer Creation Step-by-Step (120)
o Customer Creation Philosophy (123-124)
o The Four Building Blocks of Customer Creation (129-132)
o Customer Creation Summary (157)
o Company Building Step-by-Step (158)
o The Company Building Philosophy (162-163)
o Company Building Summary (205)

No brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the scope and depth of material that Steven Gary Blank provides in this volume but I hope that I have at least suggested why I think so highly of him and his work. Also, I hope that those who read this commentary will be better prepared to determine whether or not they wish to read it and, in that event, will have at least some idea of how the information, insights, and wisdom could perhaps be of substantial benefit to them and to their own organization.
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on May 4, 2017
Great book, very easy to read and with great tips
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on June 22, 2011
I learned more from reading The Four Steps to the Epiphany than any other business book that I've read. It is a powerhouse that you must read if you're working in a startup, consulting, or any role involved with driving business strategy.

Steve Blank hammers home several big ideas, the most prominent being that startups will greatly increase their chances of success by following a model called Customer Development as opposed to the traditional Product Development model.

The Customer Development concept is only one of the big ideas that Blank introduces. Other big ideas include:
- The identification of different market types and their associated impact on business strategy
- The concept of a mission-centric organization as a transition between startup / learning oriented and process-oriented organizations

Blank's experience, hard-earned through multiple successes and failures, clearly shows in the content. The book contains a step-by-step guide to each element of Customer Development, from the very earliest stages through the transition out of startup mode. He offers a nice balance of philosophy/theory and practical advice, illustrating his points with examples from his experience or well-known case studies. He demonstrates excellent breadth of knowledge, frequently offering points of view from various parts of the organization, including Marketing, Sales, Product Development, Management/Leadership, and the Board or venture capital companies.

The book is split into six chapters - two introductory chapters then one for each of the four steps in the Customer Development process. Each chapter is long and packed with information. Each chapter concludes with a one page summary that serves as a quick reference guide. The appendix contains a checklist for each step in the Customer Development process as well as a useful bibliography with Blank's comments.

Like other readers, I noted issues with the editing - words are missing, grammar is sometimes incorrect, and fonts are different throughout the book. However, these editing issues did not diminish my understanding of the content at all. I found them to be harmless compared to the quality of the concepts, ideas, and advice. In many ways, the editing reflected the spirit of Blank's message - get your product out there and try to sell it.

One of my former jobs was in consulting, where I worked with a few startup companies. I wish that I read The Four Steps to the Epiphany years ago - the knowledge I gained from this book would have helped me tremendously in working with startup clients.

The Four Steps to the Epiphany should be on the desk of every person who works for a startup company.
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on July 1, 2016
Excellent book, I learned a lot from reading it and took notes from every chapter
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on October 23, 2010
The Four Steps to the Epiphany is a must-have because too many business models fall victim to unproven assumptions that look good on paper and in a business plan.

This book will help you avoid that trap by reducing the risk and increasing the success chances of your start-up or corporate project. In The Four Steps Blank outlines a practical approach that will help you move from a business model hypothesis to a tested and scalable model in an concrete way and with low initial cash requirements.

I use Blank's method in conjunction with the Business Model Canvas to help companies reduce their risk of implementing new business models. Blank's 4-step method shows readers how to systematically test and validate business models 'by getting out of the building and talking to customers' before moving on to launching and scaling.

Blank's book convinces not only through its content, but through the author's proven entrepreneurial track record. If you are really serious about succeeding with your start-up or corporate project buy the book now.
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on October 2, 2015
Steve Blank presents an incredible treatise on building companies, especially in high-tech that, as many people know, anchored the worldwide "Lean Revolution." As a serial entrepreneur, and early customer of epiphany, I found the ideas and advice relevant and timely, even today 12 years after the first publication. Worth the investment and the time!!!
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on January 1, 2013
Launching innovative products has always been a high risk/low control activity closer to alchemy than to science. You build up your product and go to the market expecting that the magic happens.

Steve Blank's methodology represents a total change, reducing these leaps-of-faith to specific decision points well before any strong investment. Thus increasing dramatically the opportunities to learn and steer your project towards success.

Although very comprehensive and sometimes tough to read, The Four Steps is directly applicable to (almost) any product launch since it comes from years of hands-on practice.

Definitely a must have that you will use frequently as reference.
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on January 29, 2015
Very consistent content about creating a company. But I think that the starting process is a lot more practical and intuitive, so have it as a good reference book and always question in which stage you really are not being afraid of mixing and rejecting some presented contents.
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on June 1, 2015
I love the book - and what's neat about the kindle edition is that throughout the book you have hyperlinks to additional resources - blogs, youtube videos etc.

The startup I'm at is now at the Building The Company phase, and it's impressive how useful the advice in this book proved out to be.

That said - I hate that the Kindle edition is limited to a 1 time loan ! I want to spread the word, and lend this out to as many folks as I can convince to read it!
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on November 28, 2014
If you're starting a new venture, or are planning on doing so, this is the only book you'll need for getting started. The guidelines presented by the author are simple to understand, easy to follow and most importantly point out the pitfalls of not following them. Buy this book, follow the steps within, and you will increase buy ten fold your chances of successfully launching a new any new venture.
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