The Lean Startup Machine 2014

I had the pleasure of mentoring budding entrepreneurs at Chicago’s Lean Startup Machine weekend on June 22. It was exciting to see first-hand how valuable the lean startup model can be to an entrepreneur. It was also interesting to see that, much like in the real world of business, nearly 70% of participants had given up and closed up shop by the time I started my 5 hour mentoring session.

The first step in the lean startup methodology is to figure out a problem to be solved and develop a minimum viable product (MVP) to test the market. It is a fantastic starting point because sometimes the problems we think exist are individual problems and not market problems. Solving an individual problem is a hobby. Solving a market problem is a business.

Many of the participants who dropped out found that they either only identified an individual problem or that they didn’t have a solution to the market problem. You need a solution to create an MVP.

Once you get to the MVP, the lean startup methodology asks that you validate your assumptions regarding the market. This is where you test the market and the solution. And, this is the second opportunity to learn whether your idea is a viable business. (It was also the next big drop off point).

The ultimate philosophy of the lean startup methodology is Build-Measure-Learn. Not every business idea will be successful. The point is to learn early whether you can stick it out, pivot, and create something the market needs (whether it knew it or not). Using this methodology before you invest thousands of dollars into development, employees and attorneys’ fees is a smart way to go.

There were great ideas presented over the weekend and I hope that all the participants can build their ideas, regardless of whether they find a hobby or a business.