Community / Learn / Startup

Lean Startup Machine Vancouver

It took me a few days to get this drafted, mainly because I was suffering from ‘Startup Weekend Hangover’ as fellow attendee calls it.

His suggested cure? Don’t stop doing startup weekend stuff – keep doing it!

From Sept 21-23, I attended the Lean Startup Machine which focuses solely on Eric Ries principles of Lean Startup using a key tool called a Validation Board.

Many thanks to Adam and his team for putting on such an amazing event!

Now that I have attended both Startup Weekend and Lean Startup Machine, they are different in terms of structure.

Before getting into the differences, what is the purpose of a Startup Weekend?

Well for me it’s an accelerated hands-on learning of lean principles to apply to a new business, existing business or even in your current job. The main focus is on the customer – discovering, learning, listening, changing and doing it over and over again.

It’s about coming together in teams with varying skill sets to solve a problem in the world. There isn’t a lot of coding but there is a lot of learning.

Differences – The main one is Lean Startup Machine uses a very structured process and methodology. Mentors push you to make decisions fast so that you can experience as much of the hands-on aspect of the process.

What does hands-on mean?

One of the driving and repeated themes is “Get out of the building!”

We set up assumptions and decide on one key assumption that will make or break our ‘hypothesis.’ We create an experiment that involves you literally ‘getting out of the building’ on to the street and talking to total strangers. You don’t ask random questions, it’s clear, direct, open-ended, questions that get the ball rolling, so that you can find out what are the key pain points associated to the your problem assumption.

A simple concept that is very complex to execute well.

This methodology is not only about customer discovery; it’s also about personal discovery and is very humbling. It demonstrates that what we assume about the world isn’t generally true. Holding the stance that ‘I’m always right and know what’s best,’ this is quickly proven to be false and that isn’t a bad thing. Now you can get on with trying to find solutions that will effectively solve problems in the world.

A quote that pops in my mind time and time again is:

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” ~ Mark Twain

What I love most about the Lean Startup Community is all the positive support. Everyone there is rooting for you to ‘fail’ so that you can succeed. The main principle being Fail Fast, Succeed Faster.

What did I do this time around?

I did a 50 sec pitch because selling your idea is a skill that needs to be practised every chance you get. No, I didn’t pitch the same idea as last time because I wanted to learn by doing something completely new. My idea wasn’t chosen and I was happy because I could then be a member of a team versus leading a team.

I joined a team that was trying to solve the problem of those who want to blog but are just too time-strapped to type and edit it themselves. So how can we find a way for a person to share this wealth of information in their head, using blogging as a tool, but without them having to sit down and type it out.

The team came up with the name InstaBlog!

We spent Friday evening, all day Saturday and the majority of Sunday trying to discover an answer to this problem.

One of the tools we used was Unbounce – A service where you can easily create and publish A/B testing landing pages. We started out with a quick hack together just to get it out there in the world but as homework on Saturday night, we were to try our hand at making an improved version that would result in higher conversions. I was doubtful that I had the skills to use the software effectively and create a page that would bring in conversions.

After speaking with another attendee who was designer, he gave me 3 simple tips and some real life examples to ‘study.’ I went home applied the tips and presto landing page. In addition, I was surprised at how quickly and easily I was able to learn the Unbounce interface to build it. I spent more time deciding what content and idea I wanted on the page then creating the page.

And hear it is – InstaBlog!

It’s neither the most polished nor the prettiest but it gets the job done especially when you literally have just a few hours to create it.

Thanks to my super wonderful team, Evan, Jose, Kayvon, Ray and Josh, who made learning Lean really fun!

In summary – I loved Lean Startup Machine and would recommend anyone to do it. It’s a great way to meet so many positive and supportive people who will help you get out of your comfort zone.

So When’s The Next One?

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