Do you want to start a company? Have an idea? Maybe you already know someone who wants to work on it with you? That’s a good start. What about the tools and methodology to see it through?
“A Startup is a place where you work hard to build the product that you know customers will love so much that it’ll make you rich practically overnight.” High five!
Arm yourself with the right tools and methodology, known as the Lean Startup, and your chance of becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg is looking better already. We still owe you the correct definition, so let’s try again. This one comes directly from the pioneer of the Lean Startup movement, Eric Ries:
A startup is a human institution designed to create new products and services under conditions of extreme uncertainty.
The institution is a company of any shape and size – not just Internet, mobile, and software companies. This includes Dropbox, Grockit, HP, as well as many startups that Startup Monthly helped to create and accelerate.The other term that needs to be clarified is uncertainty, which comes from your assumption that your idea or vision is actually brilliant and that your customers will love it. This is where most entrepreneurs get it wrong. Your idea is your baby, and we love our babies. It is natural to think that customers will flock to your website in record numbers; propel your app to the Apple’s Top 10 Downloads of the Year, or fork over $99 for your premium version of Notepad. You’re the CEO, so you know what’s good for the customer, right? Superpowers aside, it’s wishful thinking until you have some hard data to back up your vision, or your hypothesis.
We all worked on products that were the brainchild of the CEO, CTO, or perhaps the aggressive marketing team. Did you ever stop to think if what you were building was even remotely useful to anyone? As an entrepreneur, how can you really know – that is, how can you prove mathematically – that customers will even care about your software, mobile app, or service? Producing waste is hardly the best use of your time, and we don’t mean throw-away lines of code and useless features. We mean entire products that customers will not touch even if they were paid to use them.
On the other hand, if you can learn quickly what exactly your customers want, you will be able to adapt your business and grow it into a sustainable enterprise. This is where the Build-Measure-Learn cycle comes in. This method helps you to discover your customers and build the first version of the product; measure its success or failure, and learn from those real-world results. This first version is known as the minimum viable product, or MVP. It is the smallest, most basic product or service that you can build to present to customers and start learning from. It is not a “beta-version”, which is what some programmers might be tempted to call it. It is a demo version whose feature set is limited and the interface may be rough – all the for sake of observing how your real-world customers will behave. Your goal is to attract early adopters and collect actionable data from this real-world usage.
Then, it’s time to re-run the cycle, optimizing and enhancing your product. The quicker you are able to complete this cycle, the faster you will learn what your customers want, which in turn increases your chances of building a sustainable business. You will have a chance to present your MPV during the Demo Day where it will be evaluated by a panel of judges and invited investors.
What if your vision and your MVP is not getting the praise you expected? At some point, you will need to decide whether your business idea has a reasonable chance of success. Persistence is a great quality for an entrepreneur to have, but stubbornness and blindness are not. This is when you will either pivot or persevere. Performing a pivot allows you change your business strategy while staying true to your vision. A true entrepreneur will be working on building a sustainable business, not making a specific product idea a success. Startups may go through many pivots before they zero in on what the customer really wants. We teach many types of pivots, each applicable to a particular case. By pivoting, you avoid many pitfalls of the traditional approach to building and running startups.
Having found a product that customers like, you’ll want to decide how to increase your user base. You need sustainable growth. With one growth model, your success depends on your ability to attract new customers faster than the rate at which existing customers are leaving. Here, your retention rate is fundamental. Another engine of growth is the paid one, in which the profits you make from your old customers are invested into marketing or other means of attracting new customers. The third model is viral, which is built around your current customers spreading the word and bring in new customers.
These principles and methods we teach at StartupMonthly have been proven to work by leading companies and startups around the world. You will learn to evaluate your product idea – or join an existing team whose idea you like. We will help you find the best personal and professional fit for your unique skills and preferences. You’ll understand how to evaluate your customer’s real needs – without relying on “market research”, which only builds a wall between you and your customers. Our mentors will guide you through the entire process, and our Pitch Accelerator will teach you business and verbal techniques, down to the body language, needed to convince investors that you have what it takes to win. We expect you to work hard and we want you to succeed. Join us in our workshops and see what building a successful startup is all about!