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The 4 Questions

4 questions

With Passover approaching, this refrain may be familiar to some of you. The Four Questions that get asked during the Passover reading of the haggadah are:

Why is this night different from all other nights?

  1. On all other nights, we eat leavened products and matzah, and on this night only matzah.
  2. On all other nights, we eat all vegetables, and on this night only bitter herbs.
  3. On all other nights, we don’t dip our food even once, and on this night we dip twice.
  4. On all other nights, we eat sitting or reclining, and on this night we only recline.

As long as we’re on the theme, don’t forget about the Four Fundamental Questions of Economics:

  1. What will be produced?
  2. How will the goods and services be produced?
  3. Who will get the goods and services?
  4. How will the system accommodate changes?

In my classes to university students, I’ve distilled the startup principles to a pithy set of questions, as well. It’s amazing to me how many pitches I see that don’t answer even these most elementary questions. In the Passover Seder, it is the youngest son (i.e., the least educated) who asks the obvious questions. If you’re starting a business, get answers to these questions before you start pitching your idea. Just as the above sets of questions provide useful rubrics to guide Jews or economists, so too answering the four questions below will guide you to the Promised Land.

  1. What are you selling?
  2. To whom?
  3. How will they know about it?
  4. How will you make money?

Nowhere is it written that getting answers to these questions will be easy, but they are necessary. Whether you follow lean startup principles, are writing a traditional business plan, are asking for a bank loan, or are on the verge of going public, you must answer these four questions. Until you have answers to these questions, you don’t have a business. Once you do, you’re on your way.

 The rest is detail….

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About the Author

Neil Kane, founder and president of Illinois Partners, is a leading authority on technology commercialization and innovation and has the battle scars to prove it. He specializes in bringing innovations to market that come from research labs and university research programs. Based in Chicago, he has started or been part of the founding team of over 12 startups in addition to doing time at IBM and Microsoft. He was named a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum in 2007. His Twitter handle is @neildkane. He’s also on Google+ and LinkedIn.

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