On an average, there are about 300 million people trying to establish about 150 million businesses worldwide. One third of them will be launched, so we can safely assume 50 million new firms being born per year, making it 137,000 new businesses – worldwide, every single day!
To an entrepreneur, his startup is always a million-dollar-idea and has every potential to be the next “unicorn”. However, perception and reality are two different things, facts state that 3 out of every 4 startups fail and the investment goes down the drain. But what if there is a mechanism to stop this, to better the success rate of these entrepreneurs, and give them the power to validate their ideas before they actually make their investments? With this motive, Trevor Owens and Grace NG, co-founded a global mentorship program for seed stage ideas – The Lean StartUp Machine! This intensive three day workshop is NOT a hackathon. It is an aggressive method that teaches entrepreneurs and innovators to build disruptive products by implementing various lean methodologies.
This April, Microsoft brought The Lean Startup Machine to one of the top cities in the Indian Startup Ecosystem – Hyderabad! By stroke of luck, I was glad to be a part of the process and befriend 40 odd people participating with me and learn from their experiences.
Day 1 : The Javelin Board
The workshop kicked off with interesting pitches for 50 seconds by each participant, portraying the problem they wanted to solve. In awe inspiring interiors of T-Hub, ideas started pouring in. From simple solutions like letting clothes on rent, to more tech-heavy ideas like giving weather forecasts for the aviation industry – in no time there were myriad of ideas with different colors and flavors in that single room. By show of hands, the top 9 ideas made it through and all teams were given the fastest tool to go lean – The Javelin Board!
Being an ardent sports lover, I chose an idea that catered my interest. I happen to play badminton with my coach every morning and we often end up fighting whether the shuttle touched the boundary or not. What if we play with a shuttle that blinked every time it went out of the court? I pondered over the solution – and ‘YES’ was my answer. All geared up with my team, I ran my first lean experiment in 5 minutes! Just like the other teams, we developed on our problem hypothesis, solution hypothesis and marked out a series of assumptions which were core to the success of our business idea. I left for the day with the memory of new names, new partners and an idea in mind!
Day 2: Get out of the Building!
It was time for me to run the experiment live! The difficulty lied in going up to a random person, figuring out his pain point and extracting information about his experience. Under the guidance of Rohith Veerajappa, Co-Founder at Wow Labs, I crafted the art of talking to our customers and how to use the data from customer exploration. And then – I got out of the building!
With the sun right above my head, my team and I headed to all those places where we could possibly find badminton players. We spoke to them, trying to understand the schedule of their practice sessions, how they wished to make the sessions better, and how important it is for them to know if the shuttle touched the boundary. After interviewing 15 odd players, we realized that none would actually wish to use an electronic shuttle. Having invalidated our idea, we came back to the building, hoping for the next solution.
Our food sponsors, ‘Built2Cook’ made sure to keep our tummies full, and I sat with my team again to analyze the next solution : What if the boundary blinked??
For this validation, we stepped out of the building again and repeated the process. With intriguing interviews and chit chats with players, our results proved that 13 out of 16 players wished to play in a court with electronic boundaries that actually blinked! Conclusion : Our idea turned into customers!
Day 3 : Show me the Money!
Heading out of the interiors again, our task this time was to collect cash, emails, or any substantial record that people would want to pay for our service. We approached the Gopichand Badminton Academy for our final validation. Making our success criteria stronger, 3/4th of the players we interviewed wished to pay Rs 500 more on their memberships to implement our product. Conclusion : We got the money!
My day ended with delivering a presentation on the entire process and sharing the learnings.
While entrepreneurs have their perceptions about customer problems, the Lean methodology helps get a reality check and validate the idea with real world customers before you invest into it. Once you have identified a genuine problem, that is when you focus on finding a solution, a solution that is also commercially viable.
I went into the program without any induction into the startup space. However, The Lean Startup Machine resonated with me. It offered me an entrepreneurial and energizing atmosphere to learn about startups and how to do it right. I was surrounded by others who were similarly engaged, mentors who understand Lean Methodology, and a fun atmosphere to sum it up as a memorable experience, igniting the passion of entrepreneurship in you. You not just enjoy the LSM experience but you come out of it as a more mature and confident entrepreneur.
Today I have an idea of developing life hack products. But I’ll have to test that hypothesis first.