The Most Famous Lean Startup – EVER!



Detroit; We got our Ford, Dodge, Durant and Chrysler.  We got our Strohs, Illitch, Karmanos & Gilbert.  We got a whole slew of up-and-comers, most all had modest upbringing and rose to success through vision, risk, and hard work.  True entrepreneurs.
However, my favorite Detroiter-turned-entrepreneur of all time is the one-and-only Berry Gordy.

I am fortunate to have grown up in Detroit listening to Motown music.  I am even more fortunate to sit on the Board of Trustees for the Motown Museum and experience first-hand the history of this American icon.    I am most fortunate to experience in person the culmination of a fifty-year mutual-respect relationship between Motown and The Beatles.  I am also blessed to be able to play these great songs myself for my personal enjoyment and fun.

There are many books and articles written about Berry Gordy and Motown which you yourself can read, so let me get to my point.

Berry Gordy was an entrepreneur extraordinaire who knew the rules of the game before they were even written:

  • He understood his target audience – Everyone.  That was risky, especially when the market was becoming fragmented.
  • He mastered the compelling reason to buy, which was songs with a first-person perspective.
  • He completely understood whole product – songwriters, the ‘sound’, quality-control, talent, the ‘look’, etc…
  • He negotiated like crazy with his partners and allies, including Brian Epstein, who negotiated great royalties for the Beatles but in the end was a winning collaboration for Motown.
  • His distribution model was expansive, he knew how to make hits and get vinyl to the masses.
  • Competition?  If he couldn’t beat them, he hired them!
  • He knew that his talent had to be positioned to present themselves in a classy, professional manner.
  • He priced his product to sell and was an extremely shrewd salesman.
  • Next Target?  Do you know how many labels he started so that he could have multiples of hit records?  Check it out!

He was also a genius at running a “Lean Startup“.

  • He ran iterative sprints for the development of his agile product.
  • He constantly built MVP‘s to preview songs under production.
  • He hosted, literally, demo days which presented product to his staff for review.
  • He ran customer validation processes with his target audiences.  He gave customers what they wanted.
  • He begged to get funding and made sure that his investors, which also happened to be his family, governed their investment and got the proper return.
  • He surrounded himself not only with music talent, but also business talent, no matter what color or gender.
  • He hit the road to sell, sell, sell!
  • He pivoted.  This is where I don’t always agree with his vision.  By leaving Detroit for California, he may have enabled new relationships and opportunities, but he left ‘the sound’ behind, and it never was the same again.  Financially it may have made sense, but a lot of people, me included, were disappointed.

Want to know more?  Come visit the Motown Museum and discover for yourself!


Other Motown Resources:

Hopefully, I can tell more of the story someday at Detroit’s Lean Startup Circle!


And for some real fun, check out this Twitter-Map!! :


Top-10 Things I’m Thinking About When ‘Catching’ Your Startup Pitch


When I was a kid in little-league baseball, I played the position of catcher.  I loved being a catcher because it kept me in the action of the game.  I knew that the catcher was a very powerful position and important because I was not only evaluating the competition, but also the performance of the pitcher.  My job was to evaluate, mentor, collaborate and consult.  Don’t believe in the power of the catcher?  Just watch the movie Bull Durham!

OK. We’re today’s ‘battery’ and you’re about to throw your first pitch. I hope you find me attentive, focused and friendly.  But there are things about your strategy that you should remember  when you give your pitch because they’re the  things running through my mind as you talk.

Here we go:

  1. Target Customer – Who is the person who is going to pay you money for your solution?  Many people only have a vague concept of who is going to write a check, pull out their credit card, or use their Paypal account to send you money.  You better not balk on this!
  2. Compelling Reason to Buy – Are you solving a problem or providing obvious value to your customers?  No curve balls here, I want 100mph fastballs!
  3. Whole Product – Is there a complete whole-product?  Have you considered EVERYTHING there is to build, sell, market and deliver your product?  Many people do not realize all the moving-parts necessary to have a successful product. There is more to your product than balls & strikes.
  4. Partner Strategy – The key to success in business is relationships.  Do you have the relationships in place, or even the skill to make those relationships happen?  Business, like baseball, is a team sport!
  5. Distribution – How are you going to sell your product?  Online? Direct-sales? Franchise? Service?  Distribution decisions are critical to understand.  Don’t telegraph that pitch, control every aspect of your game.
  6. Pricing – The hardest decisions you are going to make, based on everything else in this list.  Is your price too high for the marketplace or too low to express value?  What are your profits needs and the return required to your investors?  A good ERA is nothing if you don’t win.
  7. Competition – A surprising number of times I have done a simple internet search which exposed competitors that weren’t even known to exist.  How embarrassing!  You better know every single one of your customers and understand them thoroughly.  No intentional walks, please!
  8. Positioning – What is your ‘elevator pitch’?  Is it succinct, clear and easy to grasp?  If not, your solution may be too complex or just not solving the right problem.   Sometimes you just got to be aggressive and throw a little ‘chin music’ to get their attention!
  9. What’s Next? – How will you grow?  What other adjacent markets are there available for you to exploit with your product?  Have you thought about your ‘exit-strategy’?  It is hard to focus only on the current batter, but make sure that you have enough energy for the entire game!
  10. Performance – Will your product perform?  Is it scalable?  Will YOU perform?  Are YOU scalable?  How about your partners?  Are they reliable and will work as hard as you will?  Business is a team-sport and you need to be fit to succeed.  Compuware is THE PERFORMANCE COMPANY and application, machine and human performance is always top-of-mind.  And winning!!!

So, good luck and let’s get started!