I attended Lean Startup Machine Los Angeles 2012. The purpose of lean startup is essentially to validate before building. The rational is that many startups fail to succeed because they don’t validate that their product/service solves a pain point for their target customers. As a developer I had to step back and resist the urge to start building. The class teaches you a very systematic approach to validating that 1) that there is a pain point for your target customer, and 2)That your method of solving it is useful to your target customer.
The structure of the class
On Friday night a group of about 60 attendes descended on Coloft Santa Monica. People were given the idea of pitching ideas of problems that they would like to solve. Everyone was then allowed to vote on two ideas that were their favorite. I selected Daina Burnes idea for creating an app that would help people decide on what to buy when they went clothes shopping. Todd had another fantastic idea that I loved that was trading in physical books for digital versions that had realtime embedded advertising. The advertising would also be user aware so it would change as the user got older. In the end I was drawn to Daina’s team because clothing is such a personal choice. That I feel like it is often overlooked as being superficial and as a tech person it would be awesome to work in this space.
The second day we had our first minor victory. We were the first ones out the door. This earned each of my team mates a signed copy of the lean startup. Super stoked about that. So we got out the door. Our first order of business was to validate that people had problems deciding what to buy. We learned that one of the tools is open ended surveys. People tend to want to be agreeable and will not tell you if your idea sucks. So it is always better to ask open ended questions that will cause them to naturally tell you in their own words what their problems are. Here is an example:
Bad: Would you use an app that helped you pick out clothes in a clothing store?
Good: What is the hardest part of buying clothes in a store?
Their response is insightful as it cannot be coached with the second question.
We took our data back to the building and did a dump and sort to organize our responses. During our interview we discovered that no one had problems with deciding what to buy. However, there was definitely a clear majority of customers that had problems with fit. This was astounding. We would have wasted so much time building something that was not interesting to customers. The mentors advised us that our market segment was too broad. So we narrowed it down to fashionable metropolitan men. We went back out and asked men that looked like they were outside of the “fashion model body range” if fit were a problem. We had a very resounding yes. The next step was to ask if they bought clothes online. We found that the ones that said no said no because of fit. And that if fit were not a problem they would gladly buy clothes online.
In the end we had a rather successful presentation where we were able to clearly show the lean startup principles as well as explain why we pivoted when we did. In the end we won! We were given free passes to Angel Hack in Palo Alto.