Spending valuable time and energy building something nobody wants or uses is no fun. It turns out that this is also the main reason most startups fail. What tools are available to improve the odds of success?
A unique perspective comes from Steve Blank, author of the book Four Steps to the Epiphany (excerpt, video series).
Blank contends that the canonical technical startup model (funding, product development, alpha, beta, first customer ship) is doomed. This model may work in those cases where a product's market and customers are known, but it fails when the market and customer are unknown, which describes many technical startups.
Epiphany and Blank's other works on the subject of startups map out an actionable system of Customer Development that, it's claimed, greatly increases the changes of actually building a technical product that will sell.
Although aimed specifically at technical startups the basic approach can be applied anywhere, from a support group within a large organization to a small manufacturing company.