The Four Steps to the Epiphany

Welcome to Techronomicon, a series about the essential books every hardware startup should have on its shelf.

This week’s is an absolute must-have according to Highway1 design lead Marcus GoslingThe Four Steps to the Epiphany, by Steve Blank.


If you’re an entrepreneur trying to launch a business, there’s a secret question that lurks in your heart whether you’ll admit it or not: “What if I’m making some dumb bullshit that nobody wants to buy?” How would you be able to tell? If you gave The Four Steps to the Epiphany a read, you might.

Simply put, Gosling says, this book is “a set of tools to help you reduce the risk that you’re building the wrong product.” It’ll teach you about customer development, providing you with a solid framework for a risk-mitigating, evidence-based approach to entrepreneurship, turning it into a science rather than a mysterious magical art.

Gosling first read it in 2004 while working at IMVU, when Blank was on the advisory board. “We were very open to his message because some of our co-founders had had some previous failures; behind closed doors, they built stuff nobody bought. We had these people with all this scar tissue from the first dot com bust, and found ourselves thinking: ‘How do we make sure we’re not building something nobody’s gonna pay for?’ We put him on our business advisory board and bought the book when it was self-published; it’s now become a total classic.” More than a classic, it’s widely regarded as the Bible of customer development.

What is customer development? The basic gist, Gosling says, is this: there’s a big difference between merely asking someone what they think of your product and asking them to actually buy it. Pose those two questions to the same person, and different parts of their brain will light up. Why? What’s driving that? What are they thinking about that’s different?

More importantly, why should you care? The simple answer is that it’ll make the difference between a thriving business and a product that sits on the shelf gathering dust. If the latter doesn’t sound great to you, consider picking up a copy of The Four Steps to the Epiphany sooner rather than later.


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