Experience, Writing

04: Deal Yourself into Entrepreneurship – The All-In Startup

January 4, 2018

I work with a lot of hopeful entrepreneurs who have ideas, who haven’t acted on them. Often they lack a starting point or a clear guide. Sometimes they just lack the confidence, and can’t be convinced otherwise, even when it’s clear they have what it takes. What do you get someone who can’t get past this block? A copy of All In Startup by Diana Kander.

This book is a rare piece of business fiction that teaches the elements of building a startup using stories about Poker. No joke. The stories are so relatable that concepts such as customer interviews, iteration, and rapid prototyping, the toolkit of modern startups, become intuitive.  This book is chock-full of helpful lessons and terminology:

  • Look for a “migraine” problem to solve. If you’re suffering a migraine, you’d do anything to make it go away. A “headache” problem is less urgent and can be solved in other (cheaper) ways.
  • Before lifting a finger to build, gather evidence from your customer that they have a problem that needs solving.
  • Adjust your product (and readjust) until it solves the customer’s problems extremely well. Your ideas don’t matter if they don’t solve problems.
  • A business plan is used to scale a product proven to fit the market. You can’t scale an assumption.

If you’re getting started as a Corporate Innovator, Intrapreneur, or you’re just curious about methods such as Customer Development and Lean Startup, this is what you need. It makes a great introduction or companion to other, more technical books.

I met the author, Diana Kander, when she was Senior Fellow at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurship in Kansas City.  Her work to make entrepreneurship accessible to everyone is both impressive and inspirational. I was lucky to review All In Startup as Diana was developing the content.

All In Startup holds a special place on my Innovator’s Bookshelf as a handbook for entrepreneurs who can’t yet see the possibility in themselves that I might see in them.

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  • Reply Tim Denney January 4, 2018 at 9:58 pm

    I wonder if it is misleading to frame every startup as an attempt to solve a problem. That method would eliminate most industries of entertainment as a viable business. Another caution is the technology adoption threshold. Many times new technology incurs more painful adoption than the current optimized local maximum, early electric cars come to mind as an example.
    I tried for years to think of business ideas by removing “pains” in my life. I never had any good ideas using that method. I think to find pains, you must first try to find a drive to change something in the world. That drive could be intrinsic or borrowed from another person/company/organization. After the drive/vision is found then all roadblocks/pains become a goldmine for new business ideas.

  • Reply skjain2 January 4, 2018 at 10:11 pm

    @Tim I think the confusion lies in who’s experiencing the pain. End user pain (problems) are different than business problems. In the case of entertainment, let’s separate the art from the business of entertainment. The entertainment business solves the end user’s need/desire to be entertained, but there is a deeper need. People will pay to relieve boredom, experience excitement, or to escape from their day. Entertainment businesses have a need to maximize distribution or earnings (in the case of casinos), etc. The pain they have is the rights distribution, etc. I’ve not run into a single idea or domain where a pain point couldn’t be articulated, then refined by talking to people. I’ve even done this for classifying moon rocks.

    The second half of what you’re talking about sounds like self-motivation. I think it’s smart to start with transforming your own pains into ideas, then projects. You’ll see opportunity literally everywhere. However, if you’re experiencing a problem, chances others are too, so it makes sense to search for that by talking to them. After all, your goldmine will come from selling to them, not yourself 😉

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