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 Lean Startup Machine Tips and Tricks
- 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?
- If you’re working on your own idea, your ego is blocking your view of the customer. Listen to your teammates. They have a better vantage point.
- Post-its are your friend. One idea per post-it. Use thick pens to constrain the amount you can write. Write so that your team mates can understand it.
- Your goal should be to learn a skill. If you came just to win the competition, you’re wasting your time.
- Bring your own supplies: Sharpies, post-its, masking tape, drafting dots, voting dots, computer, a snack, whatever. Don’t assume the organizers intuitively know everything you need. The guy who pulls out the basket of strawberries at a key moment of exhaustion wins.
- There is no such thing as a chicken and egg problem. There is a way to make it simpler.
- No one can see their own blindspots. Use your peers and mentors to find them. Don’t argue, listen and decide.
- If your target market has gone home for the evening, remember that the earth spins. Pick up the phone and call another time zone.
- Celebrate victorious failure. Invalidated an assumption? Group cheer. Killed the whole business idea? Bust out the champagne.
- If you’re debating a point for more than 30 minutes, shut up and vote. You’ll move faster by doing something stupid and figuring out that it’s wrong than by endlessly searching for the “right” decision.
- Watching the customer try and solve their problem for themselves is better than listening to them talk.
- If you don’t have a hypothesis you’re not building an MVP, you’re just building.
- Shut up. Listen actively to the customer. Listen to their gasps and sighs. Listen to their emotions.
- If the customer isn’t actively looking for a solution, then they don’t have a problem.
- Do user testing on your competition. Even if your competition is a hack / workaround.
- Mentors are there to challenge you, not tell you what to do. If you’re not willing to challenge a mentor then go home and send me a check for $10,000 while you’re at it.
- Beware the vanity metric.
- Sell something to Trevor. He’ll buy almost anything.
All in all, Lean Startup Machine is a great way to get your feet we with customer discovery interviews. It’s not the best place to practice a lot of the other lean startup techniques like smoke tests, concierge tests, and so forth, but occasionally teams really show hustle and manage to fake a product for some serious testing.
You should go to Lean Startup Machine if you want a crash course on how important it is to go out and talk to customers. You’ll leave with a great experience and meet a bunch of fun people. Don’t go expecting to know everything there is to know about lean startup.
[Update: The “Problems don’t exist” statement has proven to be the most controversial so I expanded it into a full post unsurprisingly titled Problems Don’t Exist.]
So…what should I post next? Tweet to tell me what to write:Show me how to test product market fit!
orHow can I do lean startup in my friggin' huge company?