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The Lean Startup Machine Experience

The Lean Startup Machine Experience

Aspiring entrepreneur Ranga Yarlagadda had a rare  opportunity to attend a “Lean Startup Machine” event this past weekend in LA. He tells us that it was a mind-blowing experience that really altered his perspective in several ways.

He put together a quick note sharing his thoughts and insights. We felt that this would be of great utility to anyone about to start-up and hence, here it is:

What was the event about?

  • According to the website “Lean Startup Machine is a three-day workshop where attendees use Customer Development and Lean Startup principles to validate an idea for a new product or service”
  • The goal is to build a Minimum Viable Product – the minimum amount of effort you have to do to complete exactly one turn of the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop.
  • The winner of the event is defined as “The team that shows, through evidence, the most customer validation for a new product or service.”

What did I learn?

  • SO, YOU HAVE AN IDEA? An idea in itself is worth NOTHING. Ideas are dime a dozen these days, lots of people have lots of ideas, and everything you ever possibly thought of, someone has for sure thought about it. ACT on your idea, let it take a life of its own a.k.a let it out and see what is possible!
  • YOU THINK YOU KNOW THE CUSTOMER? Trying to really really understand the customer is imperative. If you can get a customer to really explain to you what the problem is, what he thinks should be done about it, that is GOLD. We all think we know how to do market research (at least I did), by fielding surveys and questionnaires, but go talk to REAL people on the street and they will almost always have some interesting insights. Folks in the lean community call it, “Get Out of The Building” or GOOBing. Cliched but rarely ever taken care of before building something.
  • DON’T SPEND YOUR LIFE ON SOMETHING NO ONE WANTS! Do NOT persevere if what you’re solving/building is not painful enough. People love telling stories about how they ate frozen food, slept on friends couches, roughed it out when it was tough and went on to strike GOLD. These make for amazing media stories that people love to read, but the real trick is to know when to walk away and when to persevere.
  • BE A PIRATE! Do whatever it takes to make it, because the only time anyone cares is when you make it, otherwise no one gives a damn! Just to give you an example, we created fake landing pages among other things that were endorsed by reputed brands and names, did they sue us? Of course not! Do they know? I doubt! Did it drive traffic? Maybe! Like my friend said, I am not promising you that I will take you to the moon, but as long as it’s in the “possible” realm, DO IT!
  • TOO MANY COOKS SPOIL THE BROTH! We were a team of five, all smart and insightful in our own unique way, but it is a nightmare to quickly agree on something and execute! Agreed, there wasn’t enough time to gel, but I think it’s best to have lots of advisors (it’s free and you don’t have to take them seriously if you think otherwise) initially and 2-3 people at the most involved in building a company.
  • YOU CAN BUILD A COMPANY OVER THE WEEKEND! Yes, that is right, you heard me, if I did it over the weekend, anyone can. It really is that simple. What a lot of people (with fulltime jobs) struggle with is this notion that they are busy in their “real” jobs and that they need to quit to start something substantial. Complete BS! So stop giving yourself (and the rest of the world) excuses and commit to doing something. I’m not saying it’s easy, but a little commitment goes a long way you know!
  • YOU CAN GET CUSTOMERS TO PAY WITHOUT HAVING DONE ANYTHING! Say what? That is correct! Don’t spend six months building the “latest and greatest” version. Stick to the basics and always ask yourself, what is the least I can do to satisfy/acquire a customer? And then, always exceed their expectations, get their feedback, and iterate.

What do I plan to do?

  • TAKE ACTION! Easier said than done, but this is at the heart of LEAN. It is a call to action to quickly run “business experiments” to test your hypothesis. And this can be done without a team!
  • INVALIDATE MY ASSUMPTIONS! This one is hard to swallow, but you have to learn to quickly know if your assumptions are right or wrong. And if they are wrong, just move on to your next big idea. Trust me the world will be a better place!
  • NETWORK! NETWORK! Go out and actively seek the people you aspire to become one day. The community thrives on this! No matter how busy their lives are, they always WANT to everyone around them to succeed. It is incredible how much you can learn over a cup of coffee from a few folks.
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