Tagged Lean Startup

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Crossing the Lean Startup Chasm

As an early believer in Lean Startup movement, I can perhaps be excused for my unbridled enthusiasm for the release of Eric Ries’ new book, The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. Not however, for the reasons you might expect.

In fact, some early adopters of Lean Startups — those who have already bought into the framework to the extent that they’ve applied its practices into their high tech startup — might be a tad disappointed. They might have to look a little deeper; there’s no vanity steps to success herein.

You Are Here

You Are Here

As technologists working on new products and new markets, we tend to forget where we are on the technology adoption lifecycle curve.  That's a mistake.  Here's why: 1. Nobody cares See all that whit...Read More »

Innovation: Disruptive, Sustaining or Rippling?

The Innovator’s Dilemma not only forms the foundation of Lean Startups and Customer Development, but has brilliant analysis on the role of disruptive vs sustaining innovation in large successful businesses. In a nutshell, big successful companies successfully adopt sustaining technologies that maintain a steady trajectory of performance/cost improvements. These same companies, however, fail to adopt disruptive technologies that radically change performance/cost trajectories. The success of the former dictates the level of success of that business as long as the adopted trajectory is dominant in the marketplace. These businesses tend naturally to move “up market” to maintain or increase margins as the (IMO) traverse into late majority adoption in the technology adoption curve. If and when, however, the disruptive trajectories become dominant (for whatever reason) these same businesses fail, because they are unable to respond to the startups eating up their core business.

Lean Startup Machine – NYC

Now a couple of days away from the Lean Startup Machine startup weekend, I wanted to get down some initial thoughts on the event.  When approached about participating in the event, I was immediately intrigued by the idea, as long as it took the lean startup principles seriously.  Much to their credit, organizers Trevor Owens, Ben Fisher and Kyle Kelly were open to any and all ideas to make the event conform to Lean Startup and customer development principles.  And much to Eric Ries' credit, he threw his support behind the idea once such conformity was demonstrated.  Still, this was an experiment.

The more one adopts these principles, the more one can find ways to adopt them in all areas of life -- they become "meta," as Patrick Vlaskovits would say -- and this event was no exception.  It was Lean Startup Machine's Minimum Viable Product.

By all accounts (that I've heard), the event was a rousing success.  Here are some more or less random thoughts about the weekend, some of which I hope to cover in more depth soon:

1) I'm blown away by the people who attended: smart, opinionated, creative, dedicated team-players with some really interesting ideas.  And they all want to be startup founders.  Many will scoff at whether this is a good thing or not, but I think it's great.

2) Customer Development is a great conflict resolution tool.  When you reach a loggerhead, formulate opposing opinions as hypotheses and go test them.

3) While there was reluctance among some and a few Engineers stayed inside completely, whole teams hit the streets of NYC to engage customers.  It was awesome to see!  I can't wait for the video.

4) Clearly enterprise B2B ideas are at a disadvantage when it comes to weekend customer development.  But B2C rocked it and B2SMB took advantage of New York's vast number of local businesses.

5) Good team balance was essential.  Those teams with naturally social members kicked customer development butt.  People were making phone calls to business owners across the country, setting up Craigslist ads, conducting surveys, interviewing by telephone and pounding the pavement for person-to-person discussions.  There was more combined customer development in one weekend than most startups do in a year!

6) Customer Development is hard.  Several assumptions were crushed over the weekend and for the more brutal failings, there were no easy follow on steps.  It's one thing for a market segment to fail, it's another when a core idea is roundly  rejected.  But it happened.   It's easy to become demoralized by negative validation, but the teams pressed on.

7) We saw some amazing pivots, product mockups that reflected the changes, and then customer validation of the pivots!  That's pretty amazing for a weekend's work.

8 ) Some people had a tough time understanding the difference between seeking evidence for their idea and testing their assumptions.

9) This event has great potential.  There were some rough spots, but no major problems and the learning that went on was tremendous.

10) It will be interesting to hear more feedback, but my general impression is that this was the first real encounter with customer development for most of the participants and that the experience they gained was invaluable.  My belief is that to truly grok customer development, you must "get a win;" meaning you need to experience first hand the empowerment that comes from customer validated ideas.  I think we had a lot of that!

If there's something in particular you'd like to hear more about the weekend, please let me know in comments.

Natural Experiments in Product-Market Fit: How to know you don't have it.

I attended the most recent Startup2Startup event and after the presentation, the discussion turned to how one might define Product-Market Fit and what might serve as a proxy for Product-Market Fit, given various types of business models.

The Sean Ellis 40% rule-of-thumb was quickly invoked as were other ideas.  However, I thought it worthwhile to share one insight that came from an experienced start-up entrepreneur at the table.  While we were talking about triangulating on the various signals available to an entrepreneur as to what constitutes Product-Market Fit, he recounted a story -- really an accidental natural experiment -- on how he unequivocally learned his start-up hadn't achieved Product-Market Fit.

To wit, his site had gone down for a few hours, and he hadn't known about it.  In the interim, there had been nothing but silence.  None of his users had squawked or had made it publicly known that the site was down and they were angry/frustrated/furious/going to switch providers/fed-up-with-this etc., etc.

This lack of frustration/noise is a data-point.  In this case, it meant his start-up had a ways to go on iterating to finding Product-Market Fit.

As a contrast, we might choose to look at what happens when Twitter goes down.

So, for the more intrepid of you out there, perhaps try "accidentally unplugging" your servers and see what happens.  (Clearly, this has significant risks such as alienating users, but it may be a useful signal to know when you don' t have Product-Market Fit, if you were wondering.)

BTW, I believe Dave McClure has advocated a very similar idea with regard to features.  If I recall correctly, he suggests removing features from a web app and waiting to hear if users complain loudly.  The intensity of the complaint is likely correlated with the usefulness of the feature.

Is My Poem Lean?

Lean is not about the funding you take,

The size of your sales force, the money you make.

Lean is not how much money you spend,

That you like your product and so does your friend.

To test your guess and iterate,

To kill your favorite feature your customers hate,

To exercise ideas, removing the sheen,

That is what makes a startup lean.