Our fellows are in New York for the Lean Startup Machine workshop. Kapil Parakh, our co-founder shares his experience from a prior one:
On Friday evening about 60 people, most of whom did not
know each other, got together. Everyone was offered the opportunity to pitch an idea (50 seconds per person) and about 30 people pitched ideas. I pitched an idea about a health app. The whole group was asked to vote and the top ideas were selected (mine was not). We were then asked to mingle and join one of the ideas to form a team of 2-5 people. This resulted in about 15 teams. Each team had to spend the rest of the weekend developing a minimum viable product and validating their customer hypothesis, with guidance from over a dozen mentors using the lean start up canvas.
Teams ranged from improving education to a platform for group travel. I joined a fun team working on a site for pop entertainment based on dreams. It seemed like a great way to learn the process rather than get stuck on technical details. Also, the project seemed more doable over a weekend.
We started by defining the problem (boredom) and the customer/user (our customers were advertisers, our users were bored 20-40 year olds online).
Then we wrote down all our assumptions - people will find dreams entertaining - people will want to contribute to the site and share dreams - people want to comment on others dreams - people would want to advertise on the site and so on
We took into account the success of existing pop-entertainment sites so did not have assumptions like people spend time on such websites and these sites raise ad revenue etc.
We then started testing these assumptions. The riskiest one was will people find dreams suitable content for a pop-entertainment website. To test this, we went out on the street and talked to a number of people asking the simple question “have you ever shared a dream?” and “why?” the answer (not surprising) was yes and often because it was ridiculous or funny or scary. Most thought this experience of sharing could form the basis of entertainment and 10 people actually gave us their email addresses to send them more information about our website. As people were willing to provide email addresses, it was validation of the hypothesis that there was legitimate interest in this area.
Our next riskiest hypothesis was “would people submit dreams?” again, we got out of the building and went on the street with just pen and paper to see if people would share dreams. In less than an hour, we had 10 stories (some were really personal, but people were willing to share them with complete strangers) and additional six email addresses. We also got another 10 dream submissions from messages to our social network. This validated our second hypothesis.
As my team included some coders, we used the content collected to put up a website by Saturday night www.loldreams.com. Sunday morning, we checked the site and saw people did not want to comment on dreams as we found few comments on the site (except for the ones our team put in). This hypothesis was invalid. We also found only one dream submission so we used www.pickfu.com to do a survey to ask “would you submit a dream to this site?” yes (why?) or no(why?). 1/3 said they would, 2/3 said would not (either because site was tacky or they felt uncomfortable with the idea). This again validated our hypothesis that people want to share dreams and we could increase this percentage by improving the quality of the site.
We spent the rest of Sunday trying to drive traffic to the site, but were unable to go beyond 100 views. We concluded that we would need to pivot the target audience from all 20-40 year olds to women 20-40 as they seemed to be the most interested based on our interviews. Also, it was hard to get good content as people had good dreams but the posts were not always compelling. We tested if anyone would advertise on our site, but ran out of time before we could get far on this.
Finally, we presented our work on Sunday evening (5 minute presentation with 5 slides). We won third prize, and Best MVP!
The whole thing was a fantastic experience and taught me a lot. Lean Startup is an incredibly fast and efficient way to test ideas and iterate as well as a tremendous team building exercise. I am excited for our Fellows to experience this and stay tuned for their highlights!