DoorDash began as an MVP called Palo Alto Delivery

DoorDash recently IPOed in December of 2020 and I thought it would be a good time to revisit how they began.

This piece is inspired by Evan Charles Moore opening up on Twitter about what DoorDash was like in the early days, when it was called Palo Alto Delivery.

1. Interviewing Restaurant Owners

Early on, the founders went door to door interviewing restaurant owners and asked open ended questions. These interviews are useful for extracting customer jobs, pains and gains. It takes a bit of patience to stay quiet while they speak, but it can really pay off.

One of the questions they asked…

It turns out you can judge a book by testing its cover.

For the one year anniversary of Testing Business Ideas, I thought I’d share the many book covers we tested with readers before landing on the final design.

The final design (well sort of, it now has shiny transparent rays).

This was my first quick attempt to put something at the beginning of the keynote file when I began writing. I designed it in about 5 minutes.

There are so many places to look for business ideas that it can be overwhelming to decide. Always looking internally can be problematic though, as your ideas need to be tested against reality.

“A testable idea is better than a good idea — Michael Schrage

If you can get out of your own head for a moment, then I suggest seeking out ideas in the following areas.

Testing Ideas in Multiple Tabs

Think of every day scenarios where people need to open up several internet browser tabs to accomplish a customer job.

Have you booked a trip on your own? Chances are you had several…

Give us a tour of your background. How did you get started in innovation and entrepreneurship?

I’m very pleased to say that innovation is in my DNA along with creativity and I’ve been working with innovators since the late 1990s that included living in San Francisco during the first DotCom boom/bust. The primary startup philosophy or guide quoted then was Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm. And how wonderful that it retains its relevance today, some 30 years after being released.

By 2001 the startup I was managing had exhausted funds and there were close to zero investments being secured then, so I packed up and returned to Sydney.

I vividly recall being in San Francisco in…

Biases aren’t necessarily bad. They’ve helped us survive as a species, but they aren’t always beneficial when it comes to innovation and entrepreneurship.

Biases can unsuspectingly seep into our processes and lead us down a path of wasted time, effort and money.

There are several types of biases, but I repeatedly observe the same three major biases time and time again when working with anyone trying to create something new.

1. Confirmation Bias

Why design thinking is crucial for mission based organizations.

I’m often asked what types of tools and techniques help reduce risk in non-profits, governments and mission based organizations. With a few exceptions, the majority of content available online and in books applies to profit based businesses. Mission driven leaders try to adapt these profit based recommendations to their work and quickly become frustrated.

This guide is a high level overview of the tools I’ve used and adapted to help non-profits, governments and mission based teams visualize their strategy and reduce risk.

Visualize Your Strategy with a Mission Model Canvas

I first stumbled upon the Mission Model Canvas by…

Running an experiment to test a new product or business idea is a big deal. It takes a level of humility to write down your hypotheses, prioritize them and run even one experiment.

But after you run that experiment, you’ll need to do it again.. and again.. and again, because risk moves around as you make progress and learn.

We’ll use the business model canvas to frame our risk below.

At first, most of the risk is around the value proposition and your customer segment.

Desirability Risk

After you reduce uncertainty with those aspects of your idea, then the risk shifts over…

Running experiments for your product and business can be overwhelming, but there are ways to manage the process by following three simple principles.

I’ve been a fan of agile and lean principles since the late 1990’s, but it wasn’t until the third startup I had joined was failing that it dawned on me…

These principles were great for delivery, but what about discovery?

I don’t want to efficiently build things that nobody wants. Why can’t we pull these principles for delivery up into our discovery process?

That’s when I stumbled into the business model generation and lean startup movements.


How to build upon a previous experiment, without throwing it all away.

So many experiments to choose from and this is merely a few of them.

Congratulations you successfully ran an experiment. It’s a big accomplishment and should be celebrated. Not every team gets the chance to challenge the assumptions in what they are building.

But the excitement is short lived and now you are faced with new questions:

  • How do we use what we’ve just learned?
  • What do we want to try next?
  • Do we have to throw all of this away?

Many experiments I observe with teams do end up being thrown away, whether it is physical or digital. However some show…

A guide for incrementally funding your experiments.

I work with both software and hardware companies all around the world.

In all of these companies, I’ve found that the wrong funding model can drive quite a bit of dysfunction when creating new products and businesses.

For example, your team won’t need $100k for a landing page, but on the other hand, they can’t drive meaningful traffic to a page without any budget at all.

Having a funding framework that resembles a VC model, will help you avoid some of this dysfunction.

However before we dive into the details, I want to…

David J Bland

I help people test business ideas.

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