Customer # 1: The Man From ABBA

The call came in early one evening a few weeks ago. My wife, Laurie, picked up. She covered the phone and skeptically whispered something about “…a guy who used to play guitar with ABBA wants to talk about your electronic tuning fork”.  Really?  A musician who played with Swedish super group ABBA wants to chat about my new gadget. Not a typical call for a weeknight.

I took the call despite a truly incredulous look from Laurie. The first thing he told me, besides his name, was that he played studio guitar with ABBA back in the 70’s. Obviously, this claim to fame had served him well over the years. Turns out he was a professional studio guitarist and inventor. He wanted to slap NeuroCheck onto his guitar and …rock ‘n’ roll!  As improbable as it sounds, this was the first customer request I had for the product.


Following on my last post, this illustrates the importance of customer discovery and validation as described by Steve Blank. I would never (as in spanning across the infinite void of eternity) have thought NeuroCheck would be used for embellishing guitar riffs. You just don’t know who may be your customer until you get it out there. My new friend from ABBA had seen UMaine’s You Tube video on the device and tracked me down. Now if Edge from U2 would get in touch, we might have a market segment worth pursuing.

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About Todd O’Brien

Dr. O’Brien graduated from Bates College with a BS in biology in 1986. He then attended the Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine and graduated summa cum laude with a DPM degree in 1990. After completing a podiatric surgical residency at VAMC Palo Alto and Stanford, Dr. O’Brien was employed at Sgarlato Labs, a biomedical start-up then based in San Jose, CA. He served in a variety roles there including product developer, project manager, technical writer and sales presenter. After three years at Sgarlato Labs, he returned to the full-time practice of podiatry until founding O’Brien Medical, LLC in 1999. He has since divided his time between running a podiatry practice and developing medical products. He has successfully licensed six surgical products and holds four issued patents. Writing credits include several articles in peer-reviewed medical journals, a chapter in a surgical text and a book on entrepreneurship for inventors. He is a past-president of the medical staff at Penobscot Valley Hospital as well as the Maine Podiatric Medical Association. He is a graduate of the 2012 class of the Top Gun entrepreneurship acceleration program administered by the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development.