It’s a long time ago now, however I still remember it very well. When I first went about creating the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) for Buffer, there was something I kept very clear in my mind.
When I came across Eric Ries and his work on the Lean Startup while working on my previous…
How to “get out of the building” and come back with useful information. An interview with Tristan Kromer of Luxr.
But as Kromer explains it, reading about Lean Startups is not enough. You have to go out and do something with it. “Knowing the philosophy is not enough to succeed. The skills of lean startup and customer development are very, very practical skills. You can’t just read a blog and say: okay, I can do a minimum viable product now. I bet you’ll still put about 9 too many features in your MVP if you do it the first time. It’s not about the philosophy – it’s about the skills. It’s like basketball: you won’t become Michael Jordan by reading his biography. It doesn’t work that way.”
What does moving fast mean? Ad-hoc? Just do things following Nike just-do-it tag line? Shouldn’t we plan? Or just do things and see how they turn out? This would only break your startup; moving fast doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan and keep planning.
Entrepreneurship Management Process
Building a startup is really a difficult thing to do and not for everyone. It is wrong to think that you can achieve big things by only following the just-do-it tag line! However, you don’t have to write a long business plan in order to make it! Lean Startup and the Customer Development methodology exist exactly to help entrepreneurs and founders find the right path.
Practise is key, that’s why we invited Serneels to join us at Evolv Weekend Antwerp next weekend.
Are you launching a startup ? Like me, you think you’ve read enough about the Lean principles to start applying them ? Be careful, if you are not very much disciplined, you will eventually forget them and to put the cart before the horse.
We’ve experienced that. Here is our story.
Walter Brokx from BrokxMedia made a cool recap of our latest Evolv Weekend in Rotterdam, we like it and hope you do too.
If you’d like to do some reading, Startup Juncture has a great guest post on what Evolv Weekend Rotterdam was like by one of its winners, George Ankomah.
TNW opened by our prince Willem Alexander (soon to be king of the Netherlands). But that is not why we show you this clip, it’s because of the impressive intro that follows.
That’s what she said.
There’s talk in the startup world of needing a Minimum Viable Team - ie - the people and skills needed to get a startup off the ground. Solo-founding is often talked about as something to avoid as there is more chance of succeeding as a team.
Launching a new enterprise—whether it’s a tech start-up, a small business, or an initiative within a large corporation—has always been a hit-or-miss proposition. According to the decades-old formula, you write a business plan, pitch it to investors, assemble a team, introduce a product, and start selling as hard as you can. And somewhere in this sequence of events, you’ll probably suffer a fatal setback. The odds are not with you: As new research by Harvard Business School’s Shikhar Ghosh shows, 75% of all start-ups fail.
Yesterday night was the first-ever edition of Evolv.es. The epic team of volunteers that brought two Lean Startup Machines to Rotterdam in 2012, launched their first private “action-learning workshop” yesterday. Get ready to go out and confront your customer!
May I have your attention please?
To get the creative juices flowing yesterday evening, participants pitched their ideas for new ventures on stage. Below is a snapshot of the topics presented - the list creates a (non-complete) impression of what’s on the minds of the Dutch start-up community today:
3D-printing and customized, decentralized manufacturing. Why are our bathrooms boring? Nanning pitched an idea to enhance the quality of early morning ideas: start a company to produce colourful, customized shower heads for kids. Definitely the antithesis to water-saving showerheads!
Thinking on a systems level, Brian pitched his company 3D-hubs. 3D-hubs tries to unlock a distributed manufacturing revolution by mapping privately owned 3D-printers, enabling printer-owners to accept orders from neighbors and local friends. Peer-to-peer printing at scale!
Supply chain transparency. Around us, we notice that buying preferences shift to more local production, particularly in the area of locally grown food. For products that are not yet locally produced, we—the customers—demand improved insight into the manufacturing process. (Without transparency, we end up funding industries that lead to this.) Dominic presented his idea to offer grocery store customers supply chain visualizations as they scan a product code in the supermarket with their smart phone.
Jobs, jobs, jobs. It is hard for young people in Europe to find jobs. Particularly for people who suffer from serious illness. Colon told the crowd that a quarter of people who recover from cancer can not find a job, because employers do not want to take the risk of hiring someone who might fall seriously ill. As global happiness is correlated to finding meaning in work, providing people with jobs is a challenge much worth tackling.
Shopping. (Envision a room filled with 40 men and only 5 women). “Guys, I know this may be a tough question, but how many of you have a girlfriend? Has any of you ever bought female hygiene products?” Apparently, 40% of people feel uncomfortable buying female hygiene products in stores. Karlijn pitched an idea to sell female hygiene products online.
One problem-description stood out in its newness (and received appropriate applause). “What do we do with the 1,000s of twenty-year-olds that graduate from accelerator programs?” John from Rockstart presented the solution: a start-up decelerator! Learning from NASA’s programs for astronauts returning to earth, the start-up decelerator will take away all your adrenaline (by putting you in an old-peoples home?).
Quickly after the pitches, teams of four were formed around a dozen selected ideas. Yesterday night, the teams tried to articulate the problem they want to solve this weekend. Today, the teams will get out of the building, to find whether their models of customers’ problems are accurate (probably not). Stay tuned to read about their findings!
Evolv spreads into the community. This young man was testing the need for his product at 9am outside the Maashaven Metro stop!
Last October, I had the pleasure to participate in the precursor to Evolv, Lean Startup Machine Rotterdam. With an epic team (Jaap Ruoff, Raffi Balder & Daniël Muller), we spent the weekend working on Cool Schools: a project to crowdfund solar panels on elementary schools. After successfully shipping a pilot at the end of 2012, I decided not to further pursue the idea. This was not an easy decision, and I spent (too) much time pondering on it. Inevitably, if you decide to make ideas real, you must at times take your losses and quit a project. But why is stopping so damn hard?
Why is stopping hard?
Did I work hard enough?
Before I quit, I kept telling myself that with a little more effort, I should be able to convince another school to start a solar panel project. With a few extra calls, surely I should be able to bring on board a partner through whom I could reach out to hundreds of schools. If you attribute your venture’s success to your invested effort, the obvious response to a lack of traction is to work harder.
Personal effort is not the only ingredient to finding customers. Working hard may be a prerequisite to success, but if you fail to build something that people care about, investing more effort will only lead to false data (people buying the product to support/help/get rid off the salesman, not because they want the product or service) and wasted effort. The hard question is: “Is your lack of traction due to the lack of a strong value proposition or because you haven’t worked hard enough?”.To take an appropriate decision, it’s critical to carefully administer the information you get from the real world, and look at it as objectively as possible (where I have found the second part the hardest).
“Your idea is amazing!”
Peer pressure can be another reason to continue pouring time and effort into a venture when products don’t sell - albeit a more superficial one. In Western society, steadfastness and persistence are hailed as leadership characteristics. A person who “sticks with his plans” is regarded a powerful leader; someone who changes course is seen as fickle.
We don’t enjoy saying that we have pulled the plug from a project, because people will regularly respond with “Such a shame… Why did you stop?”. When we pitch people a new idea, the reaction is often the opposite: “That’s wonderful! How are you going to build it?”. External motivations enforce us to keep pursuing ideas as opposed to quitting ideas tha do not work. An appropriate perspective is not to care (too much) about what others think.
The guts to quit
As you try to launch ideas into the world, there will be times when you feel a project doesn’t stick. At those times, you will wonder: “Is it worth to stick with this?”. This is a difficult question, and there is no simple answer.
Next time you face this decision, keep two things in mind. First, look at your data (the responses to sales calls, the percentage of people that signed up on your website) to see whether the people you think are your users care about your solution. If your data doesn’t show this, maybe your lack of traction is not caused by a lack of effort, but by a solution that isn’t really a solution.
Second, when making up your mind, don’t listen too much to what other people say. It’s normal for empathic human beings to respond positively when another person tells you about a project they care about. That said, people will tend to support you in any project and count on your to choose what you believe is right.
I had tea yesterday with a new friend. He’s a smart guy building what sounds like a really interesting product. But while describing his product and business model, he quickly fell into a common trap - the fallacy of the hockey stick.
When I asked about the revenue model and growth plans, his…
As far as we’ve noticed, startup life is about getting it done, but don’t waste your effort on invalidated ideas or even concepts. Yes you do have to build, yes you should have a great plan, but without validation, you’re just gambling with your time.
At Le Web in December, we proudly announced that we were assisting the EU Commission in their search for Europe’s Tech Entrepreneur of the Year.
The awards have fondly be titled Europioneers.
Entrepreneurship, particularly in the tech sector, can now transform economies, drive innovation and indeed, change communities and industries. This event is a celebration of Europe’s most influential and innovative entrepreneurs, giving top entrepreneurs visibility on a national, regional and global scale.
Open for nominations!
Today the organization opens up nominations for these awards. Anyone can submit nominees via the Europioneers site and a hand picked jury of tech illuminati will pick a short list. There will be a public voting round to select five final nominees from that short list. Then the jury will select the winner of the Europioneers Award from those final five nominees.
There are two categories for the award. European Tech Entrepreneur of the Year, and Young European Tech Entrepreneur of the Year, for those entrepreneurs under the age of 30.
The award show will take place in April and will be handed out by the Vice President of the European Commission, Neelie Kroes. Exact date and location are to be announced.
We’re curious who you’ll nominate for the Europioneers Awards?