Chris Courtney: “Assume you’re doing it wrong. Talk to your costumers. Don’t build anything before you know who they are.”

ISOJ 2013: Chris Courtney, of the Texas Tribune, speaks during the 14th International Symposium on Online Journalism, from Knight Center on Vimeo.

Chris Courtney, mobile product manager for the Tribune Company, presents during the 14th International Symposium on Online Journalism on Apr. 20, 2013. (Erika Rich/Knight Center)

Chris Courtney’s presentation at ISOJ was Rock’n’Roll, not just because of its pop culture references. Courtney, a developer for the Chicago Tribune’s News Application team who helped to launch hundreds of media products, delivered an energetic, fast and almost furious talk, outlining the idea of a lean startup. The central point is finding and talking to the customers early on instead of spending too much time in endless meetings. “And then there is always another meeting,” Courtney said, “to discuss why this one button is blue and not green.”

Instead of circling around their ideas and plans, Courtney said that startup entrepreneurs should try to find out as early as possible what they are doing wrong – because there is always something wrong. Courtney’s message: The proof of the pudding is in the eating. “We want to hold back everything until we have the perfect product to deliver,” he said, “but we shouldn’t hold back!“

Tracking down a real problem and offering a meaningful product to solve it, he argued, is the only way to find loyal customers.

In a short interview session after his panel, Courtney summarized the key issues he addressed at ISOJ. For the most important take-home points on journalistic entrepreneurship and the successful building of startups in general, watch this video.