The Lean Startup Machine – San Francisco

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending The Lean Startup Machine in San Francisco along with my friend Warner.  I’ve been reading a few books and watching quite a few videos on Lean Startup recently was very excited to get to go put it all into practice.

After a few awesome presentations on Lean Startup (Eric Ries), Customer Development (Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits) and business modeling (Dave McClure) we dove right into presenting our business ideas.

This is where I needed to first push myself outside my comfort zone and get in front of the group to present.  I decided to present an idea regarding creation of a gift registry for kids.  I thought it would be the perfect project to focus on for a weekend and to find customers in downtown San Francisco to interview.

It turned out my idea didn’t end up getting picked and I made my way over to one of the ideas I found very interesting which was the Social Change Log team.  The idea was to sell Twitter users a product which showed them a timeline view of their tweets, re-tweets and follows so they could correlate which actions were strengthening their community.

After an evening of debating where to start and getting comfortable with the team we decided to call it a night and hit things hard the following morning.  I went to bed really feeling like our team didn’t quite know which direction to head and was feeling that I should get up early and try to define our direction to get us on track.

That’s just what I ended up doing and where I began applying another skill I’m working on which is my leadership.  Considering I had only met my team members less than 12 hours prior I was a little apprehensive about taking charge.  Looking back, I feel I made the right decision.

We were off and conducting custdev interviews within a few hours and learning TONS about how many of the mentors were using Twitter to market their companies and personal brands.  We very quickly learned just how much we did not know about the market we were getting into.  We decided that the best way to get more data would be to put together an online survey and try to get feedback from people outside of the room.

This took up the remainder of the day and by the time we were ready to call it a night on Saturday we had about 35 responses to the survey and were ready to pivot.  We had learned that customers did not want to see the actual data or graphs, but wanted it as support to some sort of a specific recommendation.

Sunday, the final day of work before presenting what we learned was a little unnerving.  The team started to lose focus again and we decided to split into sub-teams to work on our final presentation while still trying to learn from customers.  Due to two of our members needing to catch a flight we volunteered to present our findings first.

We got up in front of all of the mentors and showed them what we had learned.  As a hook we thought it would be best to provide some specific lean-style recommendations for each of the mentors.   This hook ended up working great as we ran out of time with the presentation and the first follow-up question the mentors asked was “what are our recommendations?”.  We had obviously found something that struck a chord with the mentors!

More details soon…