Last year I flew down to Boston with some colleagues and we participated in Lean Startup Machine. I’m not lying when I say it changed my life. All of a sudden, I could separate and connect the theory of customer development from its practice. But more importantly, I was stripped of the fear (and any other excuse) of finding customers and trying to sell them a product. Read more...
I also learned a ton about customer development and I've been trying to share those lessons ever since. After that experience, I immediately knew that Toronto needed this event. This year, I’ve been lucky enough to be acting as an LSMTO event organizer and participate as a mentor. And because of my prior experience attending as a participant, I’d like to share what I learned last year so you can make the most out of your weekend.
Joining a Team
This is the first big decision you’re going to make when you show up at LSM. A few people have asked me if they should try to pitch the idea they’re working on, or if they should join another project. My advice to them has always been the same; whether you’re pitching your own idea or joining another team, there are three things to keep in mind:
- Customers - Choose a product that has customers who will be accessible to you over the weekend. Definitely avoid projects that can only be sold to the VP Marketing at fortune 500 companies. They don’t work weekends.
- Agility - Choose a project you’re not afraid to change. This might be a good argument not to pitch the project you’ve been married to for the past two years. LSM is about rapid change based on validated learning. So if you’re afraid to kill your ugly baby, don’t pitch it.
- Balance - find a team with a balance of designers, developers and “marketers.” The last thing you want is to join a group where nobody can install google analytics on your landing page.
Tips for Winning
I believe the winning team will be the group of people who show the most acceleration in their pirate metrics based on the pivots they make. Each pivot should be based on validated learning. So how do you make that happen?
Once you’ve picked a product to work on and you’re ready to get started, I would suggest that you split the group into two teams: the Inside Team and the Outside Team. The main strategy is for both teams to collaborate on structuring experiments, and then run each experiment independently to accelerate the learning process. Consensus among both teams is paramount, so there are certain activities which should be done together. Namely, defining the problem, defining the solution and agreeing on each pivot.
The Inside Team is responsible for testing the viability of the online channel. They’ll be putting up landing pages and A/B testing various pricing models and value propositions. They’re going to be writing blog posts, and building out the MVP.
The Outside Team is responsible for hitting the streets, making customer contact, validating problem areas, leading solution interviews and selling the MVP face-to-face. Personally, I think this is the place where you want to be.
After each group completes a round of experiments, you should regroup, review the results, brainstorm many possible pivots, decide on which one should be implemented, and then start the experiment cycle all over again.
How Can Mentors Help?
We have some great mentors attending the event that can help you out in a few different ways. The mentors are your objective source of feedback, your fresh eyes, who can tell the forest from the trees.
They’ll let you know if they see an opportunity for you to pivot when you’re slamming your head against the desk. They’ll help you brainstorm novel ways to put yourself in front of customers, and they’ll do their best to help you structure your customer development experiments. And most importantly, they’ll motivate you, hold you accountable, and force you out of the building.
I can’t wait to see everyone out at LSMTO. Good luck to everyone, and remember to look out for me if you want to work with the most aggressive mentor on the floor. And if you want to talk more before the event, feel free to get in touch.