Gangplank Tucson: Lean Launchpad – Lessons Learned

On May 12, 2012 Gangplank Tucson kicked off our first Lean Launchpad course. It was modeled after the course that Steve Blank has been teaching at Stanford and other schools. The goal is to help teach entrepreneurs how to use customer development to search for a business model that they can ultimately scale. The course is intended to be extremely fast paced and requires a large investment from the student teams.

For this first pilot course our intention was to jump in, execute and learn from it rather than planning like crazy and trying to get it “right”. Because of that we pulled together 5 teams and 5 mentors. The mentors were chosen based on availability and were not assigned to a single team.

Each week we would begin by reviewing the selected reading from The Startup Owner’s Manual and Business Model Generation books. Next, we would proceed to review the associated slides from Steve Blank’s slide share. Last, we would pair each team up with a mentor to help the teams determine what they should be testing for the next week.

After eleven weeks we had two teams that really stood out. The first team was Forward Intel which started the class with the belief that they would provide a suite of big data software and services. By the end of the course they had narrowed to a very specific problem of providing actionable recommendations to marketing firms based on their web, social and related data.

The second team was Verb Club who were designing a mobile route application specifically for climbers. Due to the fact that details about routes change constantly due to weather it is extremely important for climbers to have current information. The app would primarily be supported by advertising.

All in all the course had a great impact and we will definitely be running more of them very soon.

Lessons Learned

  • There is a huge need for this type of education in Tucson as we have lots of entrepreneurs starting new businesses, but no education that focuses on this first phase of business building.
  • Some entrepreneurs have a STRONG reality distortion field. We saw one of the teams which absolutely believed that their vision was reality. They focused completely on web data and refused to get out of the building and learn from their customers one-on-one.
  • There are lots of great coaches & mentors willing to help entrepreneurs in Tucson. I was amazed at the willingness of all of the mentors to jump in and spend their personal time coaching teams for free. Thank you all for paying it forward.
  • It is important to match mentors to teams as it increases accountability for both the teams and the mentor. Additionally I believe it will be important to match based on the industries of both.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this first course a success!!