I had the pleasure of attending Lean Startup Machine last April. I didn’t know what to expect. Coming in, I knew the theory; I had skimmed the books (Four Steps to the Epiphany and Entrepreneurs Guide to Customer Development), plus I’d attended Lean Startup day at SXSW. My exposure to those materials was an essential part of my early education on Lean. I began to understand how it was actually possible to build, measure and iterate one’s way to a successful startup.
…In theory, yes. But I had yet to learn the hands-on process and execution. Honestly – I didn’t know how to apply Lean methodologies until that weekend. Lean Startup Machine brought together all the elements of a successful startup for me in one place, and in one weekend—team, idea, rapid customer-driven iteration, and a framework of practical skills that could be applied in a real-world setting.
Everyone who had been admitted to the program was awesome— they were from a wide range of companies… from Googlers like me, to founders of hot new startups, to talented entrepreneurs running Tim Ferriss-like lifestyle companies. We were all gathered together for one purpose – to learn how to achieve startup success (while having a lot of fun along the way!). As Jason Chekofsky, a fellow LSM’er put it, “we were all rockstar entrepreneurs.”
The ideas teams worked on were fresh and addressed real needs in business and society – from improving elementary school curricula, to simplifying food calorie tracking, to improving women’s shopping experiences. My team and I worked on StyleStalkr – the fashion concept of a close friend and former Google colleague, Madhu Punjabi.
"Lean Startup Machine brought together all the elements of a successful startup for me in one place, and in one weekend—team, idea, rapid customer-driven iteration, and a framework of practical skills that could be applied in a real-world setting."
By mid-Saturday, we had internalized the tools and processes, and were practicing lean startup theory firsthand. For two days, team StyleStalkr scrummed, conducted customer interviews on the street and phone, built surveys and social media tweetathons, crafted several Unbounce page-MVPS, and ran countless Google Adwords and Facebook banner ad campaigns – all at relatively minimal cost. We did not try to perfect these strategies on the front-end. We embraced the notion of “fail fast and often” and were able to quickly invalidate several hypotheses, saving thousands of lines of code.
I was able to apply the techniques I learned at Lean Startup Machine directly to our venture, TravelTrot, starting the very next week. The TravelTrot team went to the Empire State Building to find tourists and refine our own customer development approach. But I know we can still do better. I’ll definitely attend future sessions of Lean Startup Machine to keep our ideas and execution fresh, and to stay true to Lean principles.
This is the first in a series of posts on the progress of TravelTrot as I continue to apply Lean methodologies. In the meantime, I will be returning to #LsmNYC this upcoming weekend (7/26-7/28)!
About the Author: Carolyn Simnett Branco is the co-founder and CEO of TravelTrot, Inc, which eases the common painpoints of international travel through its on-the-ground mobile travel guides. A seasoned traveler herself, Carolyn has visited 23 countries since catching the travel bug in her teens. She’s a recent Columbia MBA and a former employee of Google and Groupon.
Follow Carolyn on Twitter: @mbastartupgirl or @traveltrotco
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