Lean Startup Machine Tips and Tricks

10 Lean Startup Machine Tips and Tricks

I was at Lean Startup Machine in New York last weekend. (LSM is a 48 hour excursion into lean startup techniques created by Trevor Owens to push your boundaries and help you learn something about your business model.) I was so impressed by a post by Cindy Alvarez that Trevor distributed, 10 Things I've Learned, that I decided to blatantly copy her and create my own top ten list specifically for attendees of the event.

Unfortunately I'm a terrible editor. So here are 21 things:

Problems don't exist. You can't go out and talk to a problem. Focus relentlessly on people. Cash in hand beats bullshit on slide. A pretty powerpoint isn't impressive. Go get a real customer to hand you money. If your teammates don't buy in, then test fast and let reality convince them. You're not going to win by arguing, you'll just wind up working alone. If your MVP can't prove you wrong, then it can't prove you right either. Ask questions like a child. Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

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Kent Beck's Itchy Goat

Build Measure Learn vs. Learn Measure Build

The first time I saw Kent Beck speak he was going on and on about an itchy goat. I had I now idea who he was or why he was talking about this goat or why he was scratching it on the back. But he said something that struck me and keeps coming back.

The Build Measure Learn loop is backwards.

There is a presumption there that if you start building something and slap some analytics on it then you will inevitably learn something.

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Minimum Viable Lemonade

User Experience is Not a Feature

Is anyone else out there sick of signing up for on-line products that don't do what they promised?

Or more commonly, products that don't actually do anything?

Seems like every day I'm running into another landing page which requires access to all my social networks, yet provides no actual value.

Minimum Viable Product

I am a huge fan of creating Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) in order to test business ideas. I advocate it on a daily basis because too many people build too many products that no one is really interested in using. A minimum viable product is a great way to test customer interest in your solution and figure out the minimum feature set that you can build a business around.

However, even if you're running a basic smoke test just to see if anyone will sign up for your business idea, "It's only an MVP" is a poor excuse for bad user experience.

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Censorship - see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil


I'm generally not the type to go stage a sit in, but I'll be attending tomorrow's protests against SOPA / PIPA. And this site will go dark tomorrow in solidarity with Wikipedia, Reddit, and others.

For those of you who may not know, the US Congress is once again demonstrating it's complete lack of internet understanding by drafting a law that potentially opens up some lovely security holes and nice legal DoS possibilities. Perhaps they are trying to stop the kittens from clogging up the intertubes.

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Lean Startup vs. Visionary Entrepreneur

At the risk of rehashing an argument, there is an ongoing misconception that creating a company under a lean startup approach is incompatible with a big entrepreneurial vision. Paul Higgins recently published an article in Entrepreneur Country Magazine based on his blog post again suggesting that the lean and big vision were incompatible.

Some of the reasons were worth thought and response:

Customers Don't Know What They Want

Henry Ford allegedly once said, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."

So if customers can't be trusted to know what they want, what hope is there for building a company on 'lean principles' through experimentation and constant customer feedback?

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