Tips from a Lean Start Up Pro

I was recently honored to participate as a business mentor for an I-Corps team and learned some valuable lessons.  We at the CTC are big advocates for the Lean Startup methodology but serving on a team at the federal level was certainly eye opening and educational.  Here are some thoughts to consider for those wanting to be involved in the I-Corps programs or do Lean Startup activities at a more local level:

  1. The people that lead the company have to lead this process.  Its fine to rely on team members to help in scheduling interviews or digesting information, but only the decision makers in the company will have the authority to recognize and lead the company away from a failing idea.
  2. Identify your business hypotheses early
  3. Don’t be afraid of being initially wrong on your hypothesis….just guess even if you don’t have good solid evidence.  The whole point of the process is to be able to make pivots early and quickly.
  4. Write down the hypothesis you want to validate and some questions to lead you to the information BEFORE you walk into an interview.  It does little good to have a conversation without keeping in mind what you are trying to learn.
  5. Talk to your interviewees like you are a journalist or a student…..because that is what you are.  You are there to learn from them.
  6. DON’T pitch your idea/product to your interviewees, you aren’t there to teach them about your idea, you are there as a student to learn from them.
  7. Use your networks to find more people to talk to; ask your interviewees who else you should visit with.
  8. Focus on a particular concept, instead of several.  Its common to try to have several products that you are trying to learn about and validate market fit; but in the words of my I-Corps teaching team member; “Focus, or die!”
  9. It really does take more work than you think, but …
  10. …Its totally worth it to learn what problems the market is looking to solve

– Dr. Todd Strother, CTC

 If you are interested in putting Lean Start Up methodologies towards your business…and get some funding along the way…consider reading more about UW’s Seed Fund, Ideadvance (applications due April 19th).