Lean Startup Machine Presentation

Giff Constable startups

As promised, here is my 20-min presentation to the Lean Startup Machine event on July 23, 2010. Regarding the event, I was pretty impressed with how much the teams accomplished over the weekend, and their willingness to get out of comfort zones.  This deck is neither as pretty nor as good as David Cancel’s recent talk, but it served the intended purpose of giving the participants a taste of customer development put into practice.  Below is some quick color commentary on the slides:

2. Who am I? Key message: all of the previous startups I’ve been involved with talked to their customers, but that isn’t enough.  “Lean startup” is about ruthless and rigorous testing of assumptions and hypotheses. Think of your startup as a giant stack of assumptions — the more you push testing those conscious or unconscious beliefs into the future, the greater the risk they will come and bite you. I wrote more about previous experiences and lessons here.

3. The Context. Our particular decisions came out of the context of Aprizi‘s customer, product, business model, etc. With that in mind…

4. The first rule of lean startup is…

5. There are no rules. Lean startup is a methodology and framework of ideas, not a playbook or roadmap. Use it to add self-awareness and rigor to your business, but make your choices based on your own context.

Aprizi’s Customer Development Steps (at which point I gave summaries of topics covered in the following older blog posts)
6. Initial Idea Validation. See this post
7. Customer Development. See this post
8. Alpha. See this post
9. Open Beta. See this post

12. Doing a Customer Development Interview. I wrote specifically about this slide here

13. Learning Comes in Waves. Focus on learning, not quotas. What I have found is that with each new step (idea, paper mockup, alpha, beta), we had an initial high burst of learning around some big decisions, and then learning started to become incremental. At that point, our efforts in customer development slowed down because we needed to make decisions, then get to work on the product so that we could get to the next wave of learning.

14. Strip Out Everything But the Core Value Proposition. On Sunday I tweeted “Many features in a young product is often a sign of not understanding the problem or customer well enough.” I was laughing at a ridiculously over-featured early Aprizi wireframe shared with the participants as an example of Balsamiq.  Needless to say, we took a serious scalpel (or hatchet) to the feature list, and of course customer development helped us focus. We simplified and tried to hone in on the point of maximum delight. When you have extremely limited resources, simplification and prioritization is a necessity, but it also just makes for a better product.

I also gave an anecdote from the very start of Aprizi. We built some code to automatically gather shopping preferences and history from a webmail account. We realized that it had nothing to do with testing the actual value proposition to the user, so we quickly tabled it.

15. Pre-PM Fit. It’s All About People. In the very early days, don’t get lost in surveys and A/B tests and optimization or even continuous deployment. That stuff is really important but gets more so as you approach and pass product-market fit. Initially, focus on people. Watch them use the product. Listen to their tone of voice. Watch their facial expressions. Remember, all business is about people. They will use your product, share your product, buy your product, or ignore your product. You need to understand why.

My last message about people was a reminder not to completely ignore business relationships that you will need later on. A bizdev deal, a PR relationship, a blogging strategy, etc, these all take time, and you don’t want to begin from a cold, standing start once you see signs of product-market fit. So focus on your customer and product, but don’t forget to plant the seeds of these future marketing needs.