I attended a very interesting event at the TiE conference center this week. Steve Blank of UC Berkeley spoke about "Customer Development for Start-ups". He is a very engaging speaker, full of stories and interesting anecdotes, and the hours flew by. If you get a chance, you should definitely hear him speak.
His point about customer development being an iterative process, and one that needs to happen starting very early on in the process, hit home. He pointed out the flaws in the conventional model where the focus is on FCS (First Customer Ship). The current processes tend to be very inward looking with not enough attention paid to customer discovery and development. Having made quite a few of the mistakes he mentioned with my first start-up, I found myself nodding vigorously when he talked about those and making mental notes about the mistakes he mentioned which I haven't yet made!
Steve's presentation will be available in the TiE archive soon. I will post a link when it's available.