A How-To Guide To Build A Successful Startup – ‘The Startup Owner’s Manual’

Pic of book: The Startup Owner's Manual by Steve Blank

4 Reasons to Buy this Book:

    1. Step-by-step instructions on how to start a business
    2. Checklists for knowing when you’ve completed each stage
    3. Distinct instructions for physical products vs. web/mobile products
    4. Recommended ‘paths’ for reading the book depending on your situation

2 Reasons Not to Buy this Book:

    1. You cannot read it in one sitting—-it’s a 600 page manual
    2. Does not explain process for scaling a successful startup


This book was written by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf, who are serial entrepreneurs. Steve wrote an earlier book called The Four Steps to the Epiphany, which was critiqued by Bob Dorf. This book was written around the concept of the Customer Development methodology developed by Steve Blank and later led to the Lean Startup phenomenon. Both Steve and Bob run a consulting firm and teach at U.S. business schools. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of Customer Development, Steve explains in this book that…

“a startup is a temporary organization built to search for the answers to what makes a repeatable and scalable business model. Customer Development is the process to organize that search.” (The Startup Owner’s Manual, pg. xxix)

The Startup Owner's Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company by Steve Blank

Read more reviews of this book on Amazon.com by clicking on the above pic.

For those that have already read The Four Steps to the Epiphany, this book is an enhancement and refinement to the concept of Customer Development as laid out in that book. Also, that earlier book was written exclusively for those starting a software business according to Ash Maurya, the author of Running Lean.

What You’ll Learn

There are four main sections to this book:

  • “Getting Started” describes the Customer Development methodology, which includes a manifesto comprising 14 guiding principles.
  • “Step 1: Customer Discovery” shows you how to write your vision on a business model canvas and develop initial hypotheses. Then, you’ll learn how to run experiments to test your hypotheses about customer problems and your proposed solutions.
  • “Step 2: Customer Validation” shows you how to run experiments to determine if you have enough sales orders/users to validate a business model that can scale and repeat.
  • “Appendix A: Customer Development Checklists” contains all the essential checklists for Steps 1 & 2 above. You’ll use these to confirm you’ve completed one stage and are ready to start the next.


The authors’ goal in writing this manual was to provide a step-by-step process complete with startup checklists that an entrepreneur could use to move their idea from vision up to the point of scaling. The authors have definitely accomplished their goal. To their credit, they admit that entrepreneurship cannot happen through strict adherence to a set of checklists. They explicitly tell you that the process of scaling a small business can be found in other books.

However, I did find a few flaws with the book. First, some of the graphs of steps can be confusing to understand at first. The authors split out the steps between physical and web/mobile products, and the shading used adds some confusion. Secondly, the authors’ claim that they are “building the first management tools specifically for startups” is a little spurious. Other organizations have been developing management tools for startups for quite some time now.

Final Comments

This is an excellent manual for building a successful startup. The step-by-step process outlined in the book is enhanced with just the right amount of explanation to show you not just the ‘what’ but also the ‘why’. If you’re serious about a new startup idea, buy this book to at least benchmark against the highly vetted process of Customer Development that according to the authors has worked well for many entrepreneurs. I haven’t found it, but I know people are searching for a version of The Startup Owner’s Manual in PDF. However, Amazon does have this book in Kindle and hardcover versions.


Click here to check out The Startup Owner’s Manual on Amazon.com


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