Templates Suck, Here’s Our Lean Startup Template

cookie cutter lean startup

Every few weeks, someone asks me if there’s a template that they should use to define their lean startup experiments…and I say no.

I’m not a big fan of templates in the broad sense of a one size fits all template to define experiments regardless of the context.

I am a huge fan of having a repeatable process.

We (TriKro LLC & Lean Startup Circle) do use templates that work well for us. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll work well for someone else.

Templates are often a means of asserting order over the innovation process in order to measure team velocity in an overly stringent way before it’s appropriate or necessary to do so.

So in an effort to satisfy the requests and not give overly broad advice, here’s the template we use and why we designed it this way.

If you'd like to cut to the chase, you can download the template below. It's licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License so feel free to modify and hack to make your own.

helpful customer discovery with Kevin Dewalt

Being Helpful – Interview with Kevin Dewalt

Kevin Dewalt (Founder of SoHelpful) is constantly helping startups 1-to-1. When he's not angel investing, playing golf or (allegedly) mangling the Chinese language in Beijing, he's always available to help out someone just getting started with lean startup. So I reached out to him to chat about his approach to early stage customer discovery...being helpful. You can find him on Twitter, LinkedIn, or his blog)

Q:  Your SoHelpful approach to early stage startup marketing is essentially, "stop marketing and start helping people 1-on-1." What makes you favor this route when every budding entrepreneur wants to put together a DropBox type demo video, post to HackerNews, and watch the signups?

These approaches are not working for the entrepreneurs I help, mentor, and invest in.

What I teach is based on what I do and what I see working for other startups. I wasn’t working with Drew when he did the DropBox “viral video MVP”, so I don’t actually know what is myth vs. truth. Drew himself probably doesn’t remember.

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The Disappointing Toaster

Killed by Expectations

(This is a guest post by Dan Toma, Senior Innovation & Product Manager at Deutsche Telekom AG and author of the upcoming The Corporate Startup Book. You can find Dan on Twitter, LinkedIn or his blog.)

How much stress, anger and frustration can one simple malfunction or a minute delay in response cause? We experience expectation related frustration on a daily basis with the objects we interact with, the products that we purchase, and the services we acquire.

In order to consistently design better product, services, and experiences for their customers, there is one critical first step any entrepreneur needs to take: understand the customer’s needs better than the customer understands themselves.

Often times, we are disappointed by our peers, by particular experiences, by products that fail to deliver the job we hired them to do, or by services which, for one reason or another, don’t match out standards.

What do we do then?

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Lean Enterprise Straw Man vs. Tank

Straw Man Lean Enterprise

In my last post, I criticized adoption of the term Lean Enterprise and was accused of making a straw man argument.

That is 100% correct. It is a straw man argument.

It's the straw man that I'm arguing against.

The enterprise adoption of lean startup principles is following much the same course as startup ecosystems adopting lean startup. There's a lot of cargo cult buzzword adoption.

It's the Lean Hype Cycle.

That's ok. It takes some hype to get things rolling.

So let's dig deeper and deconstruct the straw man.

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umbrella - enterprise business model

Lean Enterprise & Innovation Ecosystems

Lean Startup +  Enterprise = Lean Enterprise

Compelling. Isn’t it?

The idea that an enterprise scale company with tens of thousands of employees can be as swift and nimble as a startup is enchanting...

...but it’s false.

Comparing an enterprise to a startup is like comparing an ocean to a dolphin. They simply don’t equate.

Enterprises can’t be like startups and they certainly can't be Lean Enterprises. They can however nurture startups as the ocean can hold and nurture an abundance of life.

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everyone knows someone who needs a kick in the ass

Selling a Kick in the Ass

(This is part of a series of posts about testing product/market fit. You can download the Product/Market Fit Storyboard here.)

Back to the basics.

"Everyone" is not our customer.

Neither are "Consumers" or "SMBs."

Unless the problem we are solving is death, not everyone wants our solution.

Even then, not everyone wants our Grim-Reaper-Be-Gone!™ Spray. Some people just want to check out this of this madhouse.

(In case you were thinking it, taxes aren't a problem for everyone either.)

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