Background Note | HBS Case Collection | November 2011 (Revised August 2012)

Customer Discovery and Validation for Entrepreneurs

by Frank V. Cespedes, Thomas Eisenmann and Steven G. Blank


Provides practical guidelines for conducting market research to explore and validate demand for entrepreneurial offering. Explains how the research objectives of entrepreneurs might differ from those relevant to managers evaluating product or service offerings to established markets. For each of several research techniques, specifies conditions under which the technique is most likely to yield valuable insights; describes how the technique should be adapted for use in an entrepreneurial context; and offers tips and cautions about applying the technique. The techniques include customer surveys, usability tests, market trials, split tests, and Net Promoter Score. Appendices discuss the use of focus groups and conjoint analysis in an entrepreneurial context. The Note is therefore suitable for use in MBA, Executive Education, Field Study, or project contexts where the focus is startups, new business development, product development, or innovation.

Keywords: Customer Value and Value Chain; Entrepreneurship;


Cespedes, Frank V., Thomas Eisenmann, and Steven G. Blank. "Customer Discovery and Validation for Entrepreneurs." Harvard Business School Background Note 812-097, November 2011. (Revised August 2012.)