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Lean Start-up, Part V – MVP Fail

(To view prior posts in this series, click here.)

I think I've mostly failed to limit product development to minimum viable product (MVP).  The essence of MVP is counter-intuitive to entrepreneurs who know what needs to be built.  MVP is downright anathema to some  wh have actually confirmed suspicions by speaking to customers, e.g. through customer development. Why limit what is built if you've confirmed with customers they want it all?

The problem is that the fact that customers tell you they want a feature doesn't prove anything.  The proof is in the payment.  Read More »

Lean Start-up Part IV

It has been awhile since I've updated the progress on a very lean startup I'm helping out.  Last time out I briefly discuss our first engagement with customers through personal interviews and surveys.

I am pleased to report our first failure.  : )

According to our surveys and interviews, our assumptions regarding who will be willing to pay for what appear to be wrong.  (I might add, too, that the feedback seems to be running exactly opposite of the expert advice the company heard while going through a local mentoring process.)

So now that we've got our answers, we're ready to go to market, right?
Read More »

OK, fail fast, but fail smart!

While on my way home from buying a lottery ticket today (I am sure to buy from the store that has sold the most winning tickets), I got to thinking about failure.  We've been hearing a lot about it recently:

Failure breeds success. Fail fast, Fail often, or fail early, but just fail!  That way, you can be sure VCs will respect you in the morning.

It is interesting to me that a concept that seems precise -- failure -- can actually have a variety of meanings.  A story passed around a campfire loses its original meaning because words have different connotations depending on context.

Failing fast, early and often without learning from your mistakes -- without a process for learning -- is merely falling flat on your face.  The cheer "failure breeds success" is a self-help gimmick, typically called by MLMers leaning upon metaphysical beliefs Read More »

Lean Start-up Part III

A little background is in order.

"Lean Start-up" is a phrase, I believe, coined by Eric Ries of Lessons Learned. This is a great blog and well worth you spending time with it. In a nutshell, a Lean Start-up is one that combines fast-release, iterative development methodologies (e.g., Agile) with Steve Blank's "Customer Development" concepts.  The objective is to efficiently create customer-driven products quickly and with a low burn rate.

Though I believe these principles are likely to fare well for software and even hardware products, it appears that most of those implementing the Lean Start-up are Internet-based products.   Without getting too deep into the specific practices, Internet products offer several advantages:
Read More »

Lean Start-up: Part II

I have a great opportunity to test out some theories about customer development, process-oriented, and metrics-driven marketing. I thought I’d keep a running blog on our progress.

Week 1 is here.

By now we have completed the following:

  • documented business hypotheses;
  • identified 100+ potential users -- primarily through personal networks;
  • identified partners;
  • created interview process, objectives, and questions;

MRD is now in the hands of Engineering who is preparing wireframes.   Part of our completed assumptions include the features we believe are required to secure memberships, subscriptions, and advertisers.

We have chosen our temporary blogging platform.  I now need to get the "visionary" comfortable blogging.

We have discussed metrics.  We have a couple of phases defined, similar to phases of customer and product development.  Our primary objective at this point is to get more funding.  To do so, we must go as far as we can to prove the business model. It is interesting, that even at this juncture in company development, there is difference in opinion about how to define progress.  Some would like to measure progress by deliverables, which is a classic project management approach.  And there's nothing wrong with that.

But how do deliverables tie to our objectives? If our objective is to earn additional funding, the "deliverable" is not "a functional web site," but rather proof of the business model. So while proof requires a functional web site, what we actually need to achieve with existing funds is much greater.

So, what we are doing now:

  • scheduling interviews with users and partners;
  • developing online survey to gather more detail;
  • finalizing 1st phase of product development;
  • defining 1st phase metrics

Comments welcome.

Lean Start-up: Part 1

I have a great opportunity to test out some theories and to follow the principles advocated by the likes of Eric Ries, Andrew Chen, Sean O'Malley, Dave McClure and Sean Ellis.  I thought I'd keep a running blog on our progress.

I won't name the company until the time is right, but I'll tell you a little about it:

- Company is self-funded.  This is a good thing.  Not only is it a bad time to seek funding, it's a great time to prove the business model prior to funding.

- Product is barely started.  This is a good thing, as well.   This should enable us to run customer development principles in parallel with development.  The days of figuring out who your customers are after product completion (often after funding) hopefully will soon be over.

- Team of 3:  vision guy, domain expert and business development (CEO); developer; marketing guy (me, FWIW).

- Business plan assumes a Freemium model, with additional revenue from highly targeted advertising, lead selling, and a la carte purchases.

Week 1 Tasks:

  • Document Business Hypotheses - market segment, customers, pain, acquisition methods, etc.
  • Identify 100 potential users to interview.
  • Identify 50 potential partners to interview.
  • Create interview process and objectives.
  • Create MRD based on "vision."
  • Identify key metrics for proving model.
  • Prepare blog launch using company domain.

Comments welcome