Going Gonzo to Build a Better Bootcamp

Hunter S. Thompson practiced Gonzo journalism, a format where the reporter participates in the story. Here’s the start of the Gonzo startup bootcamp.

In my experience, if you’re an early-stage entrepreneur and working with someone like me to learn Customer Development techniques, you will have some common troubles. One of the most common ones is to use customer interviews as a way to learn about your target customers, their problems and what they value. It will take you time to become comfortable interviewing or even with the idea of going out to talk to people. You’ll delay doing it entirely. And when I think you’ve got it (for example in the bootcamp) I won’t know how it goes out in the wild.

I’m convinced that practicing Customer Development is a set of skills that cannot be learned without active practice, so I’m going gonzo. Salim Virani brought up the participatory idea over dinner and I’m making it a part of the next bootcamp. I and a couple of other mentors will go to customer interviews with each startup in the first month of the bootcamp to observe, take notes and when needed contribute to the discussions. We’ll give direct feedback right after the interviews so that the founders can improve more quickly without us needing to guess how well it’s going.

I’ll report back later on results from going Gonzo as well as other changes coming up. (This is the first in a series.)