The four of us just returned from Lean Startup Machine Weekend (LSM), hosted at the Microsoft office in NYC. This action-packed weekend is designed to teach and apply lean startup methodologies by pushing participants to create a startup within 2.5 days. Friday night began with a idea pitches and selection of teams. Saturday and Sunday was a blur as we were told to "Get out of the building!" and ran out into the streets to conduct experiments and test our ideas. Sunday afternoon was the pitch competition. Three of our teams placed in the judges’ top four startups of the weekend. Nick’s team was the overall winner!
Sandra (Trip 72)
This weekend, we learned the importance of being able to “pivot,” or adjust the current path based on new data or knowledge. Entering the weekend with a set solution in mind was not conducive with being able to ensure correct hypotheses, valid assumptions, or a well-defined target user, and pivot accordingly. We were pushed to prove validation of our ideas both early and constantly, through interviews on the street or online response. My team quickly learned that our target user was hardly who we thought it was, which called for an immediate customer pivot! With 2.5 days to create a startup, being prepared to adjust at any moment was critical this weekend - and it will be critical for the four of us throughout the next 10 months of this fellowship.
Though we had all read about the lean startup technique in Eric Ries’ book before attending this weekend event, there was nothing like first-hand experience to really drive home the message. Objectivity quickly became one of the most difficult principles to adhere to since it was hard to accept that what one imagined was a great idea might not be equally admired by the public. But remaining scientific about the process and detached from one’s own ideas ultimately proved effective and led to great success!
Human-centered design should be centered around humans. This seems obvious enough, but LSM reminded me that it is easy to interview people when you have a neatly set up meeting, both sides knowing each other, the agenda, the questions, and the context of the conversation. It is not so easy to approach strangers, captivate them, ask unbiased questions, obtain honest information, then ask for their contact information for a potential follow up. It can feel uncomfortable and seemingly intrusive to insert yourself into situations in which you were not explicitly invited. "Getting outside the building" and speaking to strangers was a key skill that we focused on throughout the workshop. When it's all said and done, I realized that most of the "discomfort" was in my head and that people were more than happy to share their thoughts and ideas. The HFA fellows plan to use this technique next week at the hospital.
Crafting a social good startup with the Lean Startup model is difficult. My group was unified on the topic of providing insurance to the underserved, but pivoted - well, leaped - to providing an infertility support community. A successful LSM idea should make your customer as excited as Cookie Monster is when he sees his favorite snack. Our customers, women living with infertility, were truly that excited. They craved an opportunity to talk directly with other women living with infertility. We placed well at LSM NYC because we met one of the key success criteria: our women wanted, and explicitly said they needed, our product.