Nearly all startups fail, and although failure is often awesome, I would really like to see some successful products come out of Startup Weekend TO. I’ve become engaged in the lean startup community in Toronto, I’ve run some cool experiments, and I started a workshop for early-stage startups who are interested in customer development. I think that’s why Chris asked me to address the group, and coach throughout the weekend. Read more...
In April, a few of my cohorts and I went down to Boston and participated in Lean Startup Machine, which was a weekend much like Startup Weekend TO but exclusively geared towards customer development activities. The experiments we initiated there were extremely helpful in learning not just the theory, but the practice of a lean startup.
I’m thrilled that Chris and the other Startup Weekend organizers have agreed to incorporate customer development activities into their judging criteria. I hope to see many groups adopt these values, principles and practices, because I think it will increase the odds of Startup Weekend TO launching a successful product.
Incorporating Customer Development
- Create a Lean Canvas to clearly illustrate your business model. Create a few so you can compare them and choose the best.
- Document your hypotheses and assumptions about your product and your customers.
- Make customer and/or user contact immediately and start testing your ideas.
- Learn what to build, for who, before writing a single line of code.
- Prove that your idea is worth actual money by engaging actual customers immediately.
- Pivot different aspects of your product (radically or subtly) as you learn more about your customers and their actual needs.
Who should ignore this?
Let’s be clear: if you don’t plan on making money from your product, or having it be widely adopted, do not feel pressured to make use of these activities. Itch-scratching and programming experiments should only have to satisfy one person: you.
If you’re building a website that creates gold, or the cure to cancer, or magical bottle of beer that never, ever stays empty, do not bother with customer development: people will line up to buy your product.
Who should run with it?
If market adoption is the biggest challenge your product faces, and not your ability to build it, these techniques will assist you in molding your visionary concept into a product that people will buy. It doesn’t matter if you’re an early-stage startup that is as malleable as putty, or a product that’s already in production, you’ll be able to learn a lot by getting your hands dirty and yourself out of the building.
Non-technical co-founders should be especially happy about this new track, because they can feel free to pursue the idea they’re obsessed with, instead of being at the whim of their more technical counterparts.
Coaching During Startup Weekend
In addition to speaking, I’ll be on hand to help groups that want to practice customer development all weekend long. I’ve learned a lot during the past few months, but the most important part of my workshop is giving people a few tips, and literally throwing them out of the building.
Customer development is a game of confidence. Once you start having success, it becomes easier and more rewarding. I’m really looking forward to working with you.
And if you have any questions you'd like me to answer, please ask me anytime.