Life of FBi | Non-Tech Start-up Founder

Looks like a Chinaman, Sounds like an Aussie, Utterly Confusing

Posts Tagged ‘mentor

what #leanstartup means to me

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having spent most of the past 15 startup months not being lean, when i was introduced to the #leanstartup philosophy by friend, mentor and blank label advisor, dan marques, my entire view of the world changed. dan first introduced me to 37 signal‘s getting real: the smarter, faster, easier way to build a successful web application, and i was later referred to eric ries‘s startup blog . i used to think that bootstrapping was the most undertaught startup lesson, but i now realize it’s the ability to be lean that will make or break a startup in it’s infancy.

my interpretation of a lean startup philosophy is the ability to identify and differentiate, both strategically and tactically, what is essentially important and what can be deferred to later. one of the most underrated milestones in a startup is the ability to launch. it’s obviously on the mind of all startups, but it should be driving every decision pre-launch. is this task going to help us launch, or is it merely a distraction, and can we do it later? eric ries has this minimum viable product stipulation that helps determine this: the mvp = version of new product which allows startup to collect maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort. another way i look at it, within the various components of the startup, what are the 20% effort – 80% reward sweet spots. the very title of getting real is titled, build less: underdo your competition.

how has this helped blank label? the fact that after f***ing around for quite a few months until late last month when we outlined a roadmap for a stripped down, lean launch, and that we’re on target to launch october 31, is an exciting change in company mood. we’re not looking to make a big deal about october 31. it’ll be important to us, but we know the exciting stuff happens after october 31. we’ll be iterating and building every week. we’ve even held back on reaching out to too many relationships in the blogosphere as we’ll have a much better product two weeks into november, and then two weeks after that, and we want to be uniques growth to be stimulated along the way, rather than putting all our eggs in one basket. instead of trying to predict the market, we’re going to keep a close eye on analytics and let the market tell us. people ask about whether we’re going to have this feature, or that idea they think would be great for us. we take it down, and it goes onto the ‘ideas board’.

in such a hot space as ‘mass-customization’ where the barriers to entry are fairly low, we didn’t have the billion dollar idea. like many other ideas, it was spawned from context, and a context that was not unique to me. the money is really to be made in the execution, and execution is really valuable when you’re actually in the marketplace. so this isn’t even about first mover advantage, but rather about making life easier and better for you and your startup. there are too many founders trying to predict exactly what the market will want. it’s all in research reports and opinions and being mostly computed in heads. i have a terrible habit of doing this. now i just say, it’s close enough, let the market tell us. being in the marketplace and making real sales, getting real feedback is the best research you can do. also, the momentum and excitement level your team works at when it can see getting to market, or when it’s in market, is completely different to something that you’re hacking away at with no identifiable time of people ever using it.

this is fundamentally important to most first-time student entrepreneurs. if you’re stagnant and not making much progress, the risk tolerance starts wearing. being young, we may not have patience or experience to do the long-haul kind of deal. i see so many student founded startups fail because they aren’t excited about the progress they’re making, and that’s in large part because they are day one trying to attack something that is so broad. this gets compounded by other school distractions which creep in and the killer of all startups, internship season. the ability to be lean, determine what is important, make traction towards it, get to market, is probably the most critical thing to overcome the first-time risk hurdles.  i keep telling the team, the most important lesson for us to keep in mind is fix time, fix budget, flex scope.

*you’ve probably noticed that i wrote this article exclusively in lower case. i’ve started doing that of late b/c i couldn’t figure out why we still use capitalization.

**listening to pandora radio station ‘i’ve got a feeling’ by black eyed peas

Written by Fan Bi

October 14, 2009 at 11:36 am


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