I was reminded of the importance of starting with the customer experience while I was watching a brilliant video from WWDC 1997 of Steve Jobs. In the video, Jobs appears to be responding to attack by a troll, but is actually doing something much more interesting. Rather than take the bait and react, he thinks carefully in real time and makes a critical philosophical point about his — and Apple’s — approach to creating new products.

The punch line happens early when he says, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards for the technology.” It’s five minutes long and worth watching, if only to see how incredibly durable Jobs’ philosophy has been over the past 15 years.

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I was reminded of the importance of starting with the customer experience while I was watching a brilliant video from WWDC 1997 of Steve Jobs. In the video, Jobs appears to be responding to attack by a troll, but is actually doing something much more interesting. Rather than take the bait and react, he thinks carefully in real time and makes a critical philosophical point about his — and Apple’s — approach to creating new products.

The punch line happens early when he says, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards for the technology.” It’s five minutes long and worth watching, if only to see how incredibly durable Jobs’ philosophy has been over the past 15 years.

When I think about the companies we’ve invested in, some of them embody this philosophy deeply in their culture. Oblong, MakerBot, Orbotix, Fitbit, and Cloud Engines immediately come to mind. The entrepreneurs running these companies are completely and totally obsessed with the consumer experience of their products, even though their products embody an incredible amount of technology (in each case, both hardware and software innovations).

When I think about this abstractly, especially in the context of “software eating the world or my view that the machines have already taken over and resistance is futile, I completely buy the premise that the consumer experience trumps all technical decisions in any context. Apple has proven this throughout the entire customer experience, including being exposed to the product, buying the product, implementing the product, upgrading the product, and getting help with the product. And I think it’s going to get a lot more important going forward.
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