(The NYT BestSelling Author of The Lean Entrepreneur and the Co-Founder of Moves the Needle)
Brant Cooper helps startups get started.
As a Lean Startup thought leader, he travels the world speaking to entrepreneurs at conferences, hackathons and workshops. Recent speaking events include the Kuala Lumpur Venture Capital Symposium, Lean Startup conferences in Vancouver and Michigan, the Forward Technology Conference in Wisconsin, the Lean Startup Challenge in Boston, and Lean Startup Machines in London, New York, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco. Brant also consults for and advises startups on Lean Startups and Customer Development, with clients in Silicon Valley, New York, San Diego, France, Australia and Singapore. Clients include Qualcomm, MOGL, HubKick, MotherKnows, i.TV, Lean Startup Machine, Discovr and many others.
Brant Cooper is passionate about growing the San Diego tech community.He runs the San Diego Tech Founders monthly meetup that consistently draws between 100 and 200 startup people. Speakers have included Eric Ries, Steve Blank, KISSmetrics CEO Hiten Shah, CatchFree CEO Sean Ellis and Venture Capitalist Mark Suster. He is the curator for the San Diego edition of the Startup Digest. Brant mentored at CONNECT for four years and holds open office hours at a weekly coffee meetup that draws 10-20 people a week.
Prior to becoming involved in the Lean Startup community, Brant was involved with startups in a more traditional way. He has over 20 years experience in IT and a long track record of bringing high tech products to market. As a leader in Professional Services, Product Management and Marketing, he has directed strategy, design, marketing and implementation of numerous products for a variety of startups including Tumbleweed, Timestamp, WildPackets, Incode and InfoBright.
Brant Cooper has published articles for Venture Beat and Business Insider, blogs at Market By Numbers and tweets @brantcooper.
Lean as in Lean Manufacturing is about eliminating waste in the production and delivery of a known value to a knowncustomer. Lean Startup is about eliminating waste in discovering what
value you are creating, how you deliver it, and to whom.
This is the primary theme of my book,
The Lean Entrepreneur. Co-author Patrick Vlaskovits and I break down why lean, why now, how to, and provide extraordinary examples of extraordinary entrepreneurs applying these principles inside and outside tech, in big companies and startups.
I am a happy Papa, loyal brother, and
appreciative son. I play a little guitar and
sing loudly in the car. I strive to enjoy life
and not take myself too seriously.
Websites & Social Media Links
- How did you become an another & startups experts
- What’s your background before the startups world?
- What’s your rule in Moves the Needle and what are the services that you provide?
- How visionaries create products & disrupt markets?
- How to become visionary in creating a business?
- What to do to discover a business model?
- How to develop a bigger and loyal customer base?
- How companies build passionate relationships with their audience?
- What’s the most efficient way to find the product market fit?
- Why asking the market is important and which tools you recommend for that?
- What’s a brand and How it can help shaping a better business?
- What are the top 5 lean brand tips?
- What’s the THE MYTH OF THE BRAND GENIUS?
- What’s THE LEAN BRAND FRAMEWORK?
- How to beat the past and learn to learn from our failures?
- How the idea of the Lean Entrepreneur Book started?
- How did you hit the New York Times bestseller list?
- How did you manage to get EARLY ADOPTERS for the book?
- Why you decided to use illustrations in the book? And who helped you design the book cover and illustrations?
- Which company or service do you use for the branding of your products and books?
- Publishing Vs. Self Publishing for you, which when you would pick if you have both options?
- Best advice when you sign a contract with your book publishers?
- Tell us more about your other projects that you are currently working on or planning for the future?
- Share with us some of the tools or software that make you more efficient?
- The most important factors for success in 3 words?
- What’s the biggest failure moment in your life and what did you learn from it?
- What are the Top 3 apps that you use on your smart phone?
- What are the habits that you are trying to develop to stay efficient?
- What do you do to change your mood when you are depressed?
- What’s the best advice that you ever received?
- If you have the chance, what would you say to advice your younger self?
- What are your top 3 favorite books?
- What are the top 3 people that you are inspired by?
- What makes you really happy?
- How people can contact you?
- Do you have any notes or suggestions to improve Be Efficient Tv?
Ahmed Al Kiremli: Hi everyone, this is Ahmed Al Kiremli and welcome to Be Efficient TV. The mission of this web TV show is to boost the efficiency of your business and life through tips and tricks from leading experts and today I have with me Brant Cooper he is a New York Times best-selling author of The Lean Entrepreneur and he is the cofounder of Moves the Needle, welcome to the show Brant.
Brant Cooper: Thank you. It’s good to be here.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: So how did you become an author and start this speaking and start up, became a start up expert?
Brant Cooper: Good question. Like all things, it’s a little bit of luck and the little bit of timing, but I worked in a number of startups back in the 90s during the.com boom in early 2000’s and after I left my last start up I was doing some marketing consulting and it was in the days when marketing and analytics were first becoming available so I was trying to bring some of the rigor of the engineering side of the house to the sales and marketing side of the house. So in other words, can we start tracking the return on marketing investments. So instead of in my view, what used to be this fluffy side of marketing spending all this money, whether or not you know what it results in, we were trying to bring some of this rigor that scientists, engineers tend to have over to the marketing side. So I was blogging about that in 2008 and 2009 and somebody said you should really go read Steve Blank, who had compiled some lecture notes, the 4 steps of the Epiphany and he had invented this methodology called customer development and Eric Ries was just starting to blog about the lean startup stuff and it was very similar to my sales and marketing R&D which is what I call my marketing service so I thought I don’t need to reinvent the wheel. So I jumped over to what those guys are doing and it was just a small number of us that were talking about the lean start up stuff.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: He was talking about the why you are talking about the how, right?
Brant Cooper: That’s in the book for sure but back then we were all kind of talking about everything, how does this work and doesn’t work for business to consumer, as well as business-to-business and we were all just trying to bounce ideas off. So then I ended up writing my first book, which is the entrepreneur’s guide to customer development, which was this cheat sheet to Steve’s book but also introduced concepts like lean startup and Dave McClure’s pirate metrics and the concept of product market fit and we had a very target audience, startup people, mostly concentrated in Silicon Valley. So it was a very tight market segment and the book did very well so that suddenly launched me into workshops and speaking and that both did well so than the publisher start coming after you and I had a lot of ideas in that area but also it was timing, who would’ve predicted that all of this turned into a career I certainly didn’t.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: And when now you look at your future or career do you think that you would like to be more as an author and expert or consultant or a startup guy or a founder or maybe consultant for a startup which one do you like more?
Brant Cooper: I don’t like to do consulting for startups because they don’t have much money and I don’t want to be taking money from them so I do a lot of mentoring and advising but I don’t try to take money from them, I enjoy doing speaking engagements. I love being interviewed I like being able to share some of the things that I’ve learned and written about, but I’m also a product person so that was in my startup days about building products, who knows it’s hard to predict the future. So maybe I’ll get back to that. Or maybe I’ll do both, I don’t know.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: What’s your background before that like to do fail in the startups and struggle and want to learn more about this area so you become an expert in it, take us through the story.
Brant Cooper: I’ve always been hard to pigeonhole kind of a jack of all trades, I went to college. I studied economics I also minored in English so I do a lot of creative writing and wrote a novel after school but I also took calculus and chemistry and computer programming and sociology, psychology, history, so I was taking a little bit of everything and my career sort of reflected that as well, I was the IT guy when I came out of college and got my first job so I was part analyst but also part hey, take care of the computers and the software and do a little database programming so. Then I became an IT manager and I joined my first start up as an IT manager and then I started running the professional services group helping sell the product so I was converting from IT manager into more of a marketing and sales role and when I was at my 2nd startup I helped start a company that lasted only 6 months because the.com crash and then I joined another startup and they ran product management, marketing and business development. So I think again sort of like my college career I had all of these roles inside of a startup which gave me I think a lot of perspective on how these organizations need to work together and when they have problems with those problems are so I’ve had some successes, the last start up I was at I helped grow revenue from like 3 to $6 million-$18 million so we had a good run there but I also know that I also had a lot to learn and made some mistakes there too so I think it’s combination of you learn from successes but I think you actually learn more from failures so I think that that’s combined then with my writing and my analytical ability.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: It works as a package.
Brant Cooper: Yes, it comes as a package and I think that helps me articulate in another way that people can learn and I think one of the points maybe we’ll get into this but I think one of the things about the lean startup movement is that most of the concepts are new, successful entrepreneurs have been doing some of these things forever, but I think that the timing is right again I think that the way we can implement our products and the way that we can use agile development methodologies and the way we can use social media for marketing, I think a number of factors have come together that makes us the right time for lean startup in particular and the real genius I think in the end around it is that we can put it into this teaching framework is the lexicon and allows us to write books and then go teach how people can implement this and it’s not like it’s a blueprint it’s not a one-size-fits-all but it keeps the methodology so that somebody can digest and understand it and then make it their own. So in the end, entrepreneurs will make it their own and then that’s what will lead to success. Hopefully.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: Then you cofounded moves the needle, what is with the needle and what is your role in it?
Brant Cooper: One of the nice things that’s come out of all of this lean startup is that large companies know they need to move more quickly. Now in order to compete and they need to jumpstart their innovation practices so moves the needle is really about bringing lean start up to large enterprises so we work with some of the top brands in the world to teach them lean startup techniques and to also help them build the internal systems that support innovation and even teach these skills to leadership so that’s what it’s all about, and that’s my full-time gig right now.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: So it’s like consultancy for big corporations to teach them some of the steps about startups?
Brant Cooper: That’s right. We teach them how to be startups while at the same time, how do they protect their core business. So it’s not like you can just turn a large enterprise into a start up to have existing brand, they have legal requirements and compliance and sale people that know how to sell their existing products and marketing people that know how to market and keep their brand up so those assets have to be protected, you can just turn that into a startup but on the other hand, there are different business practices in order to innovate again and move faster. So the way that we bring these methodologies in is to be able to do both of those things simultaneously.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: You talk about in your material becoming a visionary, how to become a visionary and create business?
Brant Cooper: Usually the way I introduced this is that the visionary the way we know about or understand it now is really a myth, it’s perpetuated by the media, we lost tell stories here in the United States, I don’t know where, you tell me whether this is true in your neck of the woods as well but here in the US we love to tell stories about this lone Wolf solo entrepreneur, that’s tinkering in his garage and then has this epiphany this light bulb goes off and suddenly they’ve figured out this product that’s going to be successful and all they have to do is build it and the market will be the path to the door and there’s overnight success and they become a billionaire. We tell this obviously about Steve Jobs is usually the big example of this but you can go back to Thomas Edison and Henry Ford and really fundamentally the story is not true. Usually these people are cobbling together existing technology, they do have some insight and they have a vision about how to apply that insight, but inevitably the market will tell them something different that they have to change something out of that insight, something part of the vision has to change. So I think a vision is important in order to rally the company and rally people around the idea but the real breakthroughs come when you’re able to listen to the market and choose where the market is going to pull the company to get the big success so that’s the trick.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: So the trick is to become flexible with the market and move where the way, mistaking you?
Brant Cooper: Right. It’s not that you must stick with your vision, that you must have conviction about your vision, and you do have to break down walls, it’s not being so flexible that the first when that you hear about been used to the whole company to that when that usually doesn’t work either, you’re trying to be really breakthrough innovative yes the bus down walls if it was easy, the innovation would of happened a long time ago so innovation is hard and you have to persevere but at some point, what you find with successful businesses is that you uncover the market is actually pulling you strong pull in a particular direction and that’s with a big opportunity is so in my estimation, the true visionaries are the ones that don’t stick to their original vision the true visionaries are the ones that are able to find that strong market pull and have the flexibility to move in that direction and not only that visionaries are the ones that hire brilliant people like Steve Jobs had John Ives, he was really the designer of the iPhone and you have these different, and Wozniak for that matter, you surround yourself with these people that are strong and has strong opinions and strong skills. So it’s not just this solo lone Wolf entrepreneur that comes up with these great ideas at about the team. It’s about collaboration, it’s about taking things that already exist and putting them together in a new way.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: So you have vision and hard work and luck and flexibility, and you move with the market, how about how to create the business model for this vision?
Brant Cooper: In my opinion and I’m not sure how others think about this, but in my opinion, how to get deep customer empathy understanding your customers deeply understanding the problem that you’re trying to solve will determine the other aspect of your business model. So for example, if you chose a business model from the outset you filled out your business model Canvas and you’ve got particular partners in mind and you’ve got this is the way I’m going to sell it. I’m going to sell it online. I know I’m going to reach them through social media and you have all these ideas about your business model and then what you find is that your customer segment are people that require field sales team instead of online sales and require a different set of partners may be resellers or system integrators, maybe they need hardware instead of just software those answers actually come from the market segment that you end up going towards. So, in my estimation, predicting all of those things before hand is sort of just like writing a business plan that fails and the first day of being out in the market. So it’s fine to speculate on that to document your assumptions based on all of these business model aspects, but in my estimation most things fall out of where the market pulls you that it’s the market segment that determines how you’re going to market to them how you sell to them what partners you need in order to create this whole product as Geoffrey Moore would call it.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: So it’s all about testing before putting all your money in the start up you need to be careful at the beginning, test the water survey them before you invest more and raise capital more.
Brant Cooper: Right. This was the birth of customer development, Steve Blank what describe this story where back in the day in the late 90s where you raise millions of dollars and hire your salespeople and marketing people and PR agency and you would literally be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a month of the only thing that you would have to show for it would be a bunch of code, you didn’t know whether anyone even want to the product you did not a market or sell to them so that creates a lot of waste. So the whole point of a lean startup is to eliminate the waste my doing startups in the wrong way, you need to learn what it is that you need to do first before you execute on it.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: But don’t you think, now with more competition and more perfection for the start up to show something at the beginning that you are really good, better than and especially in the online tech space now you compete with the entire world that like when you have a shopping you only compete with your neighbor or the mall so it’s tough you need to build the start up within a certain stage to show that you can satisfy customers.
Brant Cooper: But building it means getting it out to your customers right so keeping an internal have you know that you’ve built anything that’s more perfect plan, what’s out there. You only know based upon getting it in front of your customers I guess I would like to emphasize though people get this wrong about lean startup when you have your minimal viable product. The minimum features that fulfill the promise that you made to your customers. It doesn’t mean early on that you launch that everybody, it means that you are launching that too early adopters so you can learn whether you’ve built enough to actually make the product viable. So when people talk about launching your minimum viable product that doesn’t mean doing a marketing campaign and a PR campaign and trying to get it in front of as many people as possible, it means that you’ve already discovered and validated part of your ideas with your early adopters and then you putting your minimum viable product only in front of the early adopters in order to learn that you’ve created the value you think you have.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: Do you use any tools or techniques to survey the market that you can recommend?
Brant Cooper: I actually love analog tools right now, I’ve tinkered around with my own tools, so I don’t really have a lot of recommendations around ways to automate or survey your customers I really believe that feet on the street is the best way early on to really buy your customers a cup of coffee have lunch with them see them in their environment. So you can understand what issues they really phase and what is we call it a day in the life, what is a day in the life of your customer without your product and then can you imagine what a day in the life of the customer looks like with your product and hopefully the difference between this 2 is great enough that the customer will pay for that experience so early on, I’m not worried about tools are really want. I really advise people to go out there and interact directly and talk to the customers and get to know them, bring them on as allies have them co-create the product with you.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: So we started the company developed some customers, how do we make them more how do we build a loyal base of customers and build this passion and connection with the customer base?
Brant Cooper: In my framework the way I’m It is we make a promise to the customer. So I’m going to solve this problem with my products are the minimum viable product essentially is what are the minimum number of features to fulfill that promise to solve that problem for the customer, people don’t become passionate, usually there are exceptions, but they don’t become passionate about you doing what you say you’re going to do that makes you in my model satisfied yes they fulfill their promise I appreciate that. But of course that is what they told me they were going to do and they give them money for it. So that’s the way it should be how I become passionate is when you do something above and beyond the call of duty you make me feel good about myself. So the passionate part is sort of the aspirational element of your promise. So it’s what is the impact that my product is going to have in your life, is it going to make your hero inside your company because you’ve solve these major problems or dramatically reduced cost or increased network security or something like this. So is it going to make your hero inside your company. If you are selling it to a consumer is it going to make you a better spouse or feel like a better parent, what is the impact that your product is going to have in their life and it’s important to note that you can’t promise them that impact you can’t promise people will be made a hero or feel like they are a better father or something like that but you aspire for this emotional impact and that’s the journey you go on with your customer what’s important to think about in this regard is that this passion element doesn’t necessarily just, the products sometimes the user experience is so over-the-top that you get passionate about a product that often times it’s other parts of the business model and that’s why we talk about the brand, it could be the packaging even it could be how you market to them like the content marketing that you do for them. Or it could be the way that you sell to them or could be your distribution there’s a number of elements inside the business model that evokes this passion but the reason you want to get to this passionate level is because those are the people that then talk about your product, they recommend you to your peers there will be case studies are testimonials so essentially, they are putting new customers into the top of your marketing funnel without you spending any money on marketing. So I urge the audience to think about the difference between my customer being satisfied in my customer being passionate and of course you have to get to satisfied first before they become passionate but they are really 2 distinct things and you want to work and build the brand of your company. To achieve this passion level.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: When you work with these big companies do you try to turn the employees there is some movement to turn the employees more entrepreneurial, how do you see that is that not contradictory sometimes with the top management managing those employees and they are even the CEO sometimes or the VP is still in the employee mentality and also I want to know do you help these companies in the strategies as well or only marketing and how to shape their branding?
Brant Cooper: It is tough. Ahmed I think what we look for right now, we look for companies that are already decided that they are going to do this so they probably read the lean startup book and determined that this is the way they want to be faster and more agile and more customer driven and they want to jump start their innovation practices. So at this point, I’m not in the business of trying to convince them they are to do this so they come to us already ready, we’re still an early adopter territory ourselves so we sell into all different parts of the organization, it’s usually innovation teams or product teams in some of the more advanced companies, we actually are engaged with organizations like HR that is driving cultural transformation. So the engagements with all these different companies, look a little bit different typically our bread-and-butter is workshops so in a today. We actually dive real deep into the framework for running rat experiments for engaging with customers and then running experiments and it’s very hands-on so after the workshop we hope that those employees can go back and apply those principles to their regular job the very next day, that’s our hope. With other companies. We do what we call a virtual accelerator program. So it’s like a 90 day program with the product team or innovation team and on a weekly basis. We mentor them, not unlike classic accelerator programs like maybe a tech starter except that we aren’t there in person but we have specific milestones that these product teams have to achieve you will go talk to 15 customers by next week and we will check in next week to make sure that you’ve actually communicated with those customers and then finally we also do consulting around enabling the system so some of those support systems that I mentioned earlier branding legal compliance we can work with those organizations to try to help them come up with guidelines that allow innovation and rapid experimentation to happen. And of course we have to help build new leadership skills to also further, the cultural transformation. So there’s several layers of what we can actually do for these companies but I think right now the bread-and-butter is hands-on intensive workshops, what is this look like inside of an organization to do work this way?
Brant Cooper: What is a brand and why and how can it help building a better business?
Brant Cooper: This gets back to the passion discussion to me a brand is really the relationship that you have a new customer. It’s not what a customers relationship is with your brand, branding people and telling them to define brand without using the word brand. Think about brand as everything that you do and everything that you don’t do in relationship to your customers. So I like to point out, for example, Google never allows you tech support you can’t really get a hold of support people at Google, they’ve never done it that way and that is part of their brand, it’s okay but it was a conscious decision, it may be that in your startup what you decide is you’re going to provide support and as the CEO you’re going to answer the phone or the email in order for you to learn more about your customer I’m not advocating that by the way, I’m just using it as an example but that is your brand, then you are actually establishing the brand that you’re the type of company that’s going to provide that type of support. So it’s important to think of brand not just as a logo or a company name or a tagline or a color palette it’s everything that you do and even those things that you choose not to do that forms the relationship with your brand. So the most successful brands are those that start with, here’s the promise that you’re going to make that I mentioned before, this utility type promise not a big aspirational brand promise, but a very utility promise I’m going to solve this problem with my product plus what is this journey that you as a customer and me is a founder can go on. That’s going to have an impact on your life by using my product and you having a relationship with my company?
Ahmed Al Kiremli: The business model. What is the myth of the brand genius?
Brant Cooper: The myth of the brand genius is similar to the myth of the visionary, it’s that creative person that says there is no science about this, there’s no regular to apply to creativity. You must just believe in me because I have this genius level creativity and then going to come up with this marketing campaign and this advertising campaign and I know the color palette that I should use, and I know what your logo should look like and these things are going to drive the relationship, these things are going to make what customers are passionate about, I can’t tell you how untrue that is I think that was true so that during the Industrial Revolution when it was this communication was one way so big brands I can only think of these brands in the United States but it’s like the TV show the madmen it’s all about this advertising where were going to take a soap or laundry detergent and make you passionate about a laundry detergent and were going to make the mom feel special.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: It makes you stand up, that time no one was doing this stuff.
Brant Cooper: Exactly. So the idea was that mom would pass down to her daughter what soap she uses and that was really what that loyal to look like. But the world has changed, big brands can make one mistake now and social media can take down that company virtually so it’s a two-way communication, now it’s not this one-way broadcast message from corporate to consumer it’s a two-way conversation and that means brands have to be listening as much as they have to be broadcasting and that changed everything that’s what the relationship is you wouldn’t have a relationship with your spouse. If it was all one way it better be 2 ways or you’re in trouble and it’s the same thing here now with brands it’s a two-way communication and that’s why we call it a relationship.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: What are the top 5 lean brand tips?
Brant Cooper: The top 5 lean brand tips, I have no idea.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: Material from your new book. There was kind of a certain post about that. How about the framework the brand framework?
Brant Cooper: The brand framework is very similar to the lean entrepreneur it dovetails on that. But there’s 3 elements you have to think about in terms of building your brand framework and that is, there has to be this invitation. So how are you going to get customers on board with this journey that you’re going to take with them and that’s really about your first engagement with the customer and I think that going back to the myth when your startup, the first engagement is not your logo the first engagement really is around what the product is and what’s the differentiation of your product and also what is the experience going to be like, and maybe an introduction to what this emotional impact might be what this journey might be, the 2nd phase is how do you get them engaged in that relationship so is there a way for them to be consuming as well as creating part of that aspiration so this is I think if you think about this in terms of social media. It’s sort of an easy analogy that you want customers that are talking back to you, not just listening. So they are engaged, they may be uploading photos using their product on to your Facebook pages like one example of how you might measure that type of engagement. It also could be testimonials in a business-to-business world here in the United States pretty much if you want to get people on board, they have to be able to, you have to get testimonial from them. The 3rd part of it is really how do you, how do they become advocates for you so again, this is how do they invite others to join in on that journey and part of that eventually ends up becoming maybe some of those branding elements. These artifacts that we talked about and that really it’s further down the road so it’s key for entrepreneurs to think early on about what that direct relationship is so that human to human communication and then based upon discovery of what really works in that relationship. Then you can start automating it through marketing.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: How to beat the past and learn from our failures and tell me more about the biggest failure in your life and what you learn from it?
Brant Cooper: So I think that I have this theory that people confuse macro with micro so if you think about macroeconomics vs. microeconomics the macro is and this is especially true internationally but it’s true. I actually think it’s true in the United States once you get out of Silicon Valley. There’s a sort of talk about fear of failure culture that doesn’t accept failure and I think that that is from macro perspective that is probably true. I think you get out of the United States and out of Silicon Valley and out of US tech hubs I think people have that fear of failure and I think there is a culture that maybe doesn’t accept that but as long as there has been one entrepreneur, one from your local ecosystem that has succeeded it shows you that you as an individual don’t have to listen to the macro it’s really just up to you and it’s up to you as an individual to overcome whatever those obstacles are that are reflected in the macro so if you as an entrepreneur, except the story that there is a fear of failure and not an accepted failure you just did an end to that but as long as there’s one entrepreneur that has made it, that means there’s room for you to make it also so I really think entrepreneurs need to not listen to that I think that generally policymakers and people that are trying to build a community need to listen to that because there are things we can do to help overcome some of that, but as an individual entrepreneur you need to simply ignore that and go bust down in the wall that is stopping you from succeeding. So that’s point one, point two I think entrepreneurs often confuse the size of the change they want to make with the first step towards making that change. So the first step can be small, you can take 10 small steps and then look back behind you and see while I’ve gone a pretty far away and you start creating your own momentum that way. So instead of worrying about how hard it’s going to be and all of these obstacles that are there, take the small steps that actually starting you going and then take those challenges head-on as they come when you need to not worrying about them before hand. So I think those are my best tips about getting forward, I bet you everybody out there could think of one set that they could take that would start them or get them to the next up on the entrepreneurial journey and it could be as simple as calling up somebody they think are using LinkedIn or whatever works, calling somebody on the phone that they think would want their product and inviting them out for a coffee or lunch or a drink or whatever that would be one small steps that you could do and you go and meet with them and you don’t try to sell them but you try to understand does this person actually have the pain that they think they have and after you discuss that you could say well here’s my idea what you think about that idea but that’s only after you’ve discovered whether they have that pain and if they don’t have that pain ask them well do you know somebody I should talk to. It’s a small step that everybody can take today, tomorrow that starts the ball rolling.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: How about your biggest failure and what did you learn from it?
Brant Cooper: My biggest failure in life or in business? I biggest failure in business is probably the.com era startup crash they crashed miserably right as the .com crashed, the company lasted only 6 months and what kind of scary because here we thought the.com era was going to last forever. That is how foolish we were back then. So we started a new business and within the 6 months the job that I had that was very stable and the CEO did not want me to leave and asked me back but within 6 months now I have no company and now I have no job and the economy has just gone south has gone pretty bad. So it’s actually pretty scary, but I was able to land on my feet and join another start up and had a good run there for 3 or 4 years. I think what teaches you is you are your own safety net if you sort of can believe in yourself that you’re going to land on your feet because you’re going to do what it takes to press on, then that’s what you do, I was married and had 2 kids. I think one or 2 it’s stressful, but I also think you’re going to do what it takes. So it then gives you a lot of confidence moving forward and you’re able to look back and see what you did wrong and apply that to the next startup.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Brant Cooper: I have no idea.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: What would you advise your younger self if you had the chance?
Brant Cooper: I guess I would have said go for it sooner, take risks, I guess I was taking a lot of risk, but it was kind of silly because there was no money in books.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: Which book was that the first one?
Brant Cooper: It was actually a novel that has never been published and not a very good novel.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: You quit your job you switched off for a couple of years, you wrote a novel and then he moved on tell us more about that?
Brant Cooper: Well I think that I was always a very self-aware individual and it was very clear to me even after my first job that what I didn’t want was to work for other people, I was a bad employee which is a good sign that you maybe should be an entrepreneur and I don’t mean that employee in the sense of not doing work, it’s really more about.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: Not being satisfied it work.
Brant Cooper: And not being very manageable, always feeling that you know more than your managers so it’s funny, I always got along with the CEOs and it’s probably because they were entrepreneurs but ultimately whenever there were layers built between me and the CEO I became a horrible employee so I sort of knew early on that that wasn’t going to work so my first endeavor really was to go write the Great American novel. So that’s what I did for a little while and I just don’t think I was number one, I don’t think I was a very good creative writer number 2 I don’t think you really know much about the world, when you’re in your 20s, it actually takes some more time but I guess that was empowering in the sense that I knew that I could live a life without being just a cog in the wheel and that’s what drives a lot of entrepreneurs, I think then what happened was, I spent the next 6 or 7 years as an employee in a variety of companies and I think that those were years where I didn’t take as much risk as I could have, but those were also not the most, those were tough years in the US as well so it wasn’t really until a few years later that the.com stuff started happening. So maybe I could’ve made the switch a couple years earlier or started my own company, but I think when you’re young and single that’s when to go for it. I think at least you get some learning out of it.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: How did you find the difference between writing nonfiction and fiction?
Brant Cooper: It’s funny because I’ve never been a big business book reader, but the ones that I have read have really been career changing and I think I would point out Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the chasm and Clayton Christiansen’s innovators dilemma as being the 2 most important books that I read early on and they have instructed so much of what I’ve done since. I was lucky that my first book, the entrepreneurs guide to customer development really kind of sold itself, it only took 3 or 4 months because there was so much content out there, Steve blanks, 4 steps to the epiphany and Eric Ries with his blogs and what he was talking about and Dave McClure and Shaun Ellis and my co-author Patrick Moskovitz and myself and a bunch of other people that were providing writing their own content and I was coming at this from the same place so I think it was just that was a pretty easy book, what was interesting about the 2nd book filling entrepreneur is that it really came from my workshops so starting with the customer development book I did, customer workshops all around the world for 2 years and a lot of the framework and the tools and the ideas around market segmentation came from my work with customers which is very much what we say here eating your own dog food so it was very much that I was applying in my book what I was also teaching my book so it was very customer driven and it was very iterative so it was being out there in the world working with entrepreneurs that really allowed me to develop this new content that was in the book filling entrepreneur.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: How did you hit the New York Times bestseller list?
Brant Cooper: Almost the same answer it’s pre-selling the book, it’s building a platform which started with the entrepreneur’s guide to customer development, it was building and growing a platform and then pre-selling the book up until the launch.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: How many copies did it take you to the list?
Brant Cooper: I don’t remember 8 or 9000.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: Per week.
Brant Cooper: Right.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: Why did you choose to use lots of illustration when you made and designed the book?
Brant Cooper: Probably why people always illustrate I think if you can tell a story with pictures. I think it adds a layer to what you’re writing so we are really proud of those graphics in there they were done by the dinosaur fake grimlock and I actually think you can look and study those pictures and get an idea of what the story is that he’s telling those pictures just from that so I think it enhances the text and it’s fun as well.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: Publishing vs. self-publishing and if you have both options, which one would you choose?
Brant Cooper: It really depends on what you’re trying to achieve. I think if you want to make money you self publish I think that if you go back to traditional publishing, it’s a way to grow your platform that you make a lot less money, I think that right now the only way to hit the bestseller list, except for Amazon the only way to hit the other bestseller lists is through traditional publishing as Amazon continues their domination I think eventually that will change the right now the way distribution works and the way those bestseller lists work using traditional publishers is the best way to make that happen.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: Do you have any advice when signing a contract with a traditional publisher and can you keep let’s say the rights for 5 years or 10 years and then take back the rights?
Brant Cooper: I didn’t try that particular tact I think that having a good attorney that has experience in the publishing industry is a good idea so we used one who was both an agent and a lawyer, we didn’t use them for his agent part, but it also means that he understood that part of the game so I think that you might be able to negotiate that I’m not sure if that relevant because I think in 5 or 10 years down the road, it’s not likely that you’re going to make a lot of money from it anyway so I think that I didn’t find I don’t think that there is yet a lot of flexibility you’re going to find with a traditional publisher, so I really think the decision really should go back to what is it that you’re trying to achieve and if you have a great market segment that you can reach like we did with their first book, the fact that we knew how to get to Silicon Valley startups we were part of that community. I think that give us an advantage. So if authors out there can identify a market segment like that, then self-publishing is a good way to start because you can build that platform. It’s like building a mailing list it really treats the book like a start up, that’s the best advice I can give, you can still go to Our old website and see our old book it looks like a start up landing page so you have to think like a start up you have to market like a startup bundle the book in packages just like a start up, does and when you pre-sell it if you get to that point you can try crowdfunding I think that’s a good idea to raise some money to actually pay for the marketing that people don’t just buy books, if you can sell workshops interviews workbooks try to think of things that you can sell if you are self-publishing, especially but think about other things that you can sell along with the book and I think that’s where authors find traction today.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: Can you share with us the agent, attorney name if you don’t mind?
Brant Cooper: You know, I don’t have it off hand but I’d be happy to share it with you and maybe there’s another way you can get it to your audience.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: Thank you. We’ll put it under the interview. What are the tools or software that you use that makes you more efficient?
Brant Cooper: I’m not great with tools that I will tell you I’m using the beta version of mailbox, which is by the dropbox guys, this is the first email productivity software that’s actually working for me so I’m pretty excited about that actually and what’s interesting is not really the technology as much as what is that productivity tool actually going to change a behavior because it’s about changing behavior and this mailbox at is so good for me because these things are so dependent upon how individual works that there’s probably a bunch of different programs that work differently for people but that’s want to check out, I also use dropbox and it’s not made by the same people, even though it has the same name, but it’s a task management system and that one is pretty good. And then there’s another one nimble that I’m using for my CRM and my pipeline management and it’s not perfect but it is pretty easy to use and everyone is all about ease-of-use these days or you don’t fire it up in the morning so that’s another one I would check out if you’ve got contact me to manage in the pipeline you need to manage, I also like one of my hacks for people that are trying to do customer development is meet up.com, I don’t know if Meetup.com is big over there…
Ahmed Al Kiremli: It is, it is.
Brant Cooper: There’s thousands of meet ups here in every city, think about a market segment, a market segment are people who share the same pain and passion and speak the same language and I speak the same language, I mean that they are willing to refer to each other to solve that problem or address that passion, what’s great about meet up, all of those meetups are essentially people self-selecting that they are in the same market segment because by definition, people are organizing meet ups around a shared pain or passion. So everybody should check out and even do this outside your city check out Meetup.com, see if somebody is organizing a meet up around a product that you hope to build or that you are building and now you’ve automatically got a captured group of people that you can reach out to to do customer development to see if they would be willing to take a survey to see if they would be willing to try out your product so that’s my tip of the day.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: How about habits do you have any habits that you use throughout your day or try to develop so how is that make you more efficient?
Brant Cooper: I’m really bad about that too. I think some of the things that I do is I actually try to do all of my Monday morning work on Sunday because I find that Mondays bring in so much work that if I don’t do it Sunday I’m behind. So there’s a feeling of accomplishment I get that I can go to bed and rest. If I get myself done on Sunday. I sleep better, I’m not anxious about all the stuff I need to do Monday so. Then Monday morning feels less stressed when all this new stuff roles and and I’m not trying to accomplish things that were on my task list before and the 2nd thing is now with this mailbox I’m trying to stick with inbox zero and that doesn’t mean that all of my emails have been read that means they are out of my inbox. So I’m taking an action on every single email I’m trying I’m not perfect but I’m better than I was and it could be that I’m just saying send me that email again and 8 hours or could be here something that I need to schedule it’s a meeting any to schedules are not necessarily doing the final action, but I have made some mental calculation on every email and the beauty of it is that you just get rid of all the junk so quickly but then when you go back to those emails that come back again or in your scheduled or follow-up folder you now have a manageable number of emails and a number of tasks that you have to go tackle so I guess those are 2 of the biggest things working for me right now, if I talk to you in a week that might have changed.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: Most important factors for success in 3 words?
Brant Cooper: Perseverance, self-awareness, and value creation.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: Top 3 apps that you use on your smartphone, if you use a smartphone.
Brant Cooper: Smartphone apps would be would be probably my bank account, my banking app…
Ahmed Al Kiremli: Is that because you make lots of money or why?
Brant Cooper: It’s because I have to make sure that I’m not going into the red. But it’s true, I could get that if you want but it’s banking, twitter probably and mail, email.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: What do you do when you are depressed and want to change your mood?
Brant Cooper: I actually think it’s okay to be depressed. So I think it’s a normal human emotion. So I actually will allow it to go on for a while but not too long because there’s a difference between feeling sorry for yourself and being depressed. So if it gets into sort of feeling sorry for yourself, you need to get yourself out of that but I think part of being self-aware and trying to improve yourself is also it will come with a little bit of sadness and regret. So I think it’s good to digest that not spend too much time with it and then see if you can turn into a positive. I think being around family to me gets me out of that and then I also think I play a lot of sports, basketball and, soccer and football. So I think that exercise is really important for me to stay out of that I feel good after exercise. So I think having a couple of tricks or a couple of things you know will get you out of your funk get out of being too self-aware, too self-absorbed and going and spending time with friends, family, getting some exercise doing something you enjoy doing. I like to say I’m like a Labrador I have to chase the ball in order to get exercise.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: Competition so you don’t get bored like in the gym.
Brant Cooper: Right and have you ever seen anything happier than a Labrador chasing a ball, I think it’s something human something innate so I discover that so it makes me happy.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: Top 3 favorite books?
Brant Cooper: I mentioned 2, if I stay business it would be crossing the chasm, innovators dilemma and Eric’s lean startup book are the most inspirational books for me.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: 3 people you’re inspired by the most?
Brant Cooper: I don’t know I feel like I always fail on these types of questions, Martin Luther King, maybe I don’t know my father and my daughters actually.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: What makes you really happy?
Brant Cooper: I think it’s actually spending time with my daughters is probably what makes me happiest I’ve got amazing kids they are their own human beings and I really do think that it’s not cliché I really do think that I learn from them.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: Last question how can people contact you?
Brant Cooper: I really urge people to reach out to me I will respond to all emails and that sort of thing. So the best way to get a hold of me, you can just Google, Brant Cooper I’m all over but at Brant Cooper on Twitter, Brant Cooper on LinkedIn and by email, Brant@BrantCooper.com so it should be pretty easy to find me.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: Thank you so much for this interview, Brant I really appreciate this time and information you shared with us.
Brant Cooper: My pleasure, thanks for reaching out there was a fun conversation.
Ahmed Al Kiremli: Thanks everyone, be efficient and stay efficient and see you soon with another leading expert.
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