The Complete Team

Silicon Valley Startup Unicorn

Talent is in short supply.

In Silicon Valley, the common sense wisdom used to be that engineers were the most critical team members. The good ones were rare and hard to come by. Sometimes we called them ninjas or 10Xers.

More recently, the proliferation of consumer web apps made design a key differentiator. Designers became the scarce resource and salaries skyrocketed. Everyone who knew photoshop was suddenly rebranding themselves as a UX designer. No one really knew the difference between UX and UI, but we called them unicorns anyway and started the hunt.

The ideal team is often described as Hacker, Hustler & Hipster. Articles have made it into Forbes and Steve Blank posted his version back in 2011.

Even corporate teams have bought into the dogma to the degree that every innovation team must have a designer, hacker, and business person. No more than that and definitely no more than two pizzas worth of people!

The idea that there is an ideal team size and composition is...well... absurd.

(Except the pizza part. That's true from Dunbar's number.)


The Lean Startup Playbook - Which test should I run next?

Lean Startup Interns Needed!

You may know I've been slowly, slowly, slowly working on a Creative Commons project called the Real Book to help startup figure out what type of experiment/research to run and when. It's the most useful framework I have for coaching startups.

I use it to quickly identify both what they're doing wrong and a likely fix.(You can get on the download list here.)

However, the current format has been described as:

6 ambiguous scribbles. That’s a book?

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Illustration of Entrepreneurial optimism vs. Reality

Assumption vs. Hypothesis – To the Death!

Something has been irritating me: The startup community uses the words assumption and hypothesis interchangeably.

We also rarely use hypothesis correctly, often referring to laughably vague statements as hypotheses such as this gem I overheard:

Our hypothesis is that a $50k seed round will be enough to show traction.

I do the same damn thing, hence my irritation. So we should stop doing that, because it has an OVERSIZED effect on our next decision for our startup.

tl;dr: Assumptions should be challenged and clarified with research. Falsifiable hypotheses should be tested with an experiment.

Bonus: I'm writing a more complete version of how to design great experiments as an open source "Real Book", you can get on the download list here:


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“Which Experiment Should We Run?” – 8 minute video

Figuring out which experiment or research we should run starts by laying out our assumptions and learning priorities. The Unofficial Startup Real Book helps us organize our assumptions and learning priorities by asking two key questions:

Which type of information are we gathering: Generative or Evaluative? What are we learning about: Market (aka, Customer) or Product?

Here's a short 8-minute video where we walk through the different parts of the Real Book and list out relevant experiment and research techniques:

You can download a copy of The Unofficial Startup Real Book here.

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Playing Lean – Interview with Simen Fure Jørgensen

(Simen is the creator of Playing Lean, the board game about Lean Startup that is now live on Kickstarter. He’s the CEO of Iterate, a Norwegian consultancy that specialises in Lean Startup. I reached out to him to chat about his approach to teaching Lean. You can find him on Twitter and Linkedin.)

Q: How did the idea of teaching Lean Startup through a board game come up?

A: Two years ago I set up a Kanban workshop for a customer. We used the getKanban board game, and it was a great success. People were really enthusiastic about a pretty dry concept and the lessons seemed to stick afterwards. At the same time, we were having frustrations with a Lean Startup consulting gig for another customer. We would hold workshops and classroom trainings, but behaviour was slow to change afterwards. What if there was a board game to teach Lean Startup too? I Googled it quickly and saw that there was none: We would have to make it ourselves.

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Picnic in the Graveyard

Picnic in the Graveyard & Generative Research

What features should we build? What's the feature set for our MVP? There are a lot of questions we need to answer before we write a single line of code.

This isn't about testing a hypothesis, this is about generating ideas. I've mentioned the difference between Generative and Evaluative in lean startup before.

If we know our goal is to generate ideas, there a variety of methods you can use in the Unofficial Startup Real Book. One of my favorites was told to me by Sean K. Murphy and covered in his post on pretotyping:  Picnic in the Graveyard

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