My Crazy Experience at Lean Startup Machine

Posted by Matthew Hensrud on

Matthew HensrudSo if I were to describe the Lean Startup Machine with a metaphor, it would probably involve a Russian epic — where all of the main characters die in the first 250 pages, and their descendants carry on in the fields telling stories of what it was like back in the day — then in the end, the Bolsheviks arrive and birth an era of shorter bread lines. In other words, heady days of hopes and dreams (original hypothesis), a descent into dismay and fear (idea slaughtering), followed by epiphany and hopefully, success (your customer-development-tested new shiny hypothesis). Lean Startup Machine’s mission is to: [be the] world’s leading bootcamp on Lean Startup methodologies. We provide founders with a framework of tools, techniques and resources designed to help identify key customers and iterate their products quickly. Leaders Ryan MacCarrigan and Trevor Owens made good on the above, assembling an impressive array of mentors from a wide swath of fields. From Kelley “Terminator” Boyd, to Nate “Eye on the Prize” Berkopec, every team was berated, torn down, built back up, and generally encouraged to take their ideas from “sounds good” to “might just work maybe”. Every team went through this process: problem/hypothesis, supporting assumptions, and testing.  The vast majority of  teams changed their hypothesis dramatically at least once, and impressively, nearly all ended up with a company concept that was defensible and worth investigation.  My team, for instance, started out building a competition site where early-stage startups would compete for labor and venture capital introductions. It was called CreateGreat; we had a website, some sample videos, and even 300 fliers. Fortunately, we found out quickly that:
  1. There’s no market
  2. Entrepreneurs who can’t figure out how to get their product built should probably return to share cropping
  3. Venture Capitalists would rather bathe a cat than accept help from some scrappy kids

Our solution? To ‘iterate’ until our idea was so different we got a pin for “taking the dog out and shooting it”. But this was a good thing! One of the best things that could’ve happened to our idea. You see, one of Lean Startup’s founding principles is to “fail fast”, and fail we did.

The road to failure is an interesting thing, even in a 48 hour bootcamp, it’s a bit like turning an aircraft carrier.  It was up to the mentors’ yogic persistence to repeat the below until it sunk in.
“I don’t think the problem you’re trying to solve actually exists.” (Every Mentor at #LsmNYC)
Then again, we wouldn’t be following ‘lean methodologies’ if we just took their word for it! The weekend was packed with creative market tests, from creating dummy websites attached to Google Adwords, to passing around mockups, to man-on-the-street interviews. As a group, we definitely achieved a lot, or at the very least, prevented a ton of money from being spent on non-problems. After accepting defeat on our first concept, my team was dead set on finding a concept that actually addressed a real problem in the entrepreneurial community — we landed on the perceived fact that startups and other tech companies actually have a difficult time finding tech workers (especially engineers) to work their problems.  In a flash, nycHired was formed. Finally, I’d like to congratulate the winners on their excellent work: RoundTable, and Traveltrot. To many more Lean Startup Machine's in the future!