October 20th Meeting Announcement

It’s been a few months since we’ve had a Desperately Seeking Validation event, and it’s time for another one. DSV is a group that gets together every now and again to practice Lean Startup concepts by taking raw ideas and validating or invalidating them over the course of one Saturday. It always surprises me how far we get in one day.

This event will be on Saturday, and will be at The Speak Easy. We’ll get started around 10:45 AM with some Kolaches and talk for a bit, and then get into brainstorming ideas around 11 or so. We’ll select a few to run with in a democratic fashion, and spend the next few hours figuring out the business models for the ideas and what the customer demand is. Then we will wrap up and reflect on what we did, learned, and what we might do differently the next time.

It might be interesting this time to do something more like what Alex Lopes has suggested, where we start with a market first and then determine what that market needs. I’ll leave it up to you folks if we want to explore that direction.

If you’re all charged up from Indy Tech Week and now want some practice validating your business hypotheses, this is the group for you. If you just want to hang around some other business-minded people, that works too.

If you’re interested in coming, can you drop panozzaj@gmail.com a quick email saying you’re interested so we can get an idea of the Kolache count? Thanks!

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DSV Presentation at ILSC

Trey Buck presented about the July Desperately Seeking Validation meeting at the August Indianapolis Lean Startup Circle. Here are his slides from the presentation:

(having trouble seeing this? try here)

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July 2012 Meeting Announcement

Desperately Seeking Validation is a group in Indianapolis that seeks to practice Lean Startup techniques in an effort to get more practitioners in Indy. We are trying to take some of the risk out of starting new ventures.

We’ve had several events in the last year, and July is the first event that we will advertise more widely. We brought it up at the Indy Lean Startup Circle. Here’s the event information:

Meet at the SpeakEasy from 11a-6pm(ish) on Saturday, July 21. A light breakfast (Kolaches) will be provided.

We’ll start off by introducing ourselves and brainstorming ideas or examining issues that people have with their current businesses. Then we’ll pick an idea or two, come up with a plan to validate, then do it!

Toward the end, or when we run out of steam, we’ll debrief and come up with better strategies for next time. Overall a good time will be had by all.

Not sure what to bring? You can bring:

  • a current business problem that you have and some thoughts
  • a business idea that you want to validate
  • some snacks, supplies, or just yourself :)

Please RSVP by emailing panozzaj@gmail.com so we can have an idea of how many people to expect and how much deliciousness to bring.

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New email signup

In the past we’ve had a bit of trouble contact people the day before or day of events because we weren’t sure who all might be coming. To potentially alleviate this problem, I created an email list that you can sign up for that we can send messages to on the days of events. If you haven’t gotten a formal email from me from Mailchimp yet, and are interested in coming to an event, please sign up for the list:

Desperately Seeking Validation is a group that gets together in Indianapolis to practice and discuss Lean Startup techniques.

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January 2012 DSV Meeting Summary

Here’s who showed up:
Matt DeLeon (blog) (twitter)
Anthony Panozzo (blog) (twitter)
Alex Toumey (twitter)
Kyle Shipley (twitter)

We had discussed at the January 2012 short meeting that we wanted to explore a subscription management idea.

We started by trying to get everyone on the same page by talking about a subscription actually means and discussing some Twitter feedback that we got by posting shortly after the short meeting. There were several types of recurring or generally recurring payments that people make to organizations.

Spent a few hours creating a lean canvas. The main results can be seen here:

Lean Canvas

Incomplete Lean Canvas for Subscription Management Business

Essentially, we figured cost-conscious heads of families (moms, by a guess) would be the early adopters of this product. After doing a bit of thinking on the revenue model and the non-automated fashion of doing things, it seemed like the revenue that we wanted to see was not necessarily there.

Finally, to wind down, we talked about some new ideas and wrote some of them down. Also talked for quite awhile about personal business things (quite a good time.)

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March 2012 Meeting Schedule

In March, we are repeating the one short meeting, one long meeting schedule. The short meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 13th at 6:30 PM at the Panera east of 86th and Michigan road (near the Five Guys.) We will discuss new ideas and what we want to do for the long meeting. The long meeting will be held at 11a-6p on Saturday, March 24th at someone’s house (email panozzaj@gmail.com for details.) Hope to see you at one of these events!

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The Problem Discovery Interview

If you’re following lean startups, you’re undoubtedly familiar with concepts like customer discovery and problem/solution interviews. This morning, I was reading Paul Graham’s essay from the inception of YCombinator, “Why Smart People Have Bad Ideas,” and thought of a new type of interview that smart people should try: the problem discovery interview. The concept is simple: sit down with someone for 20-30 minutes and try to identify where they spend the most time and money so that you actually solve a problem someone is willing to pay you for.

In the customer discovery phase, you have identified a particular problem space that you’d like to focus on. You target people who are likely to have your problem, unhappy with the available options, and ideally have spent toward a solution. For example, if you wanted to start a laundry pickup service, you would want to find people who had hired a housekeeper to do laundry or visited a laundromat on a regular basis. You would ask them how important it was to save time or money on laundry services, then perhaps pitch your version of the solution, depending on what stage of the process you’re in.

But how do you choose a problem space in the first place? I’m not sure how most people choose ideas, but for me, I see 3 major sources:

  1. Conversations with friends or family
  2. Articles and blog posts
  3. Solving a problem myself

The third one is a wonderful source of ideas, assuming that other people are remotely like me. (As every former girlfriend has disparaged, this does not appear to be a valid assumption.) The first two are also wellsprings of good ideas, but they present a trap long-known to UX designers — what people say they want and what they actually want are very different things.

The interview that I propose cuts through this mirage. The proposal itself is simple: sit down with someone for 20-30 minutes and review their finances and weekly schedule. For any large chunks of money or time, research the space and decide if the problem is generalizable and important to you.

It might be difficult to convince someone, particularly a stranger, to walk through relatively personal details with you. Consider the alternative, though: your interviewee stresses over budgets and schedules, forgets to pay a bill because she spent 5x longer than necessary performing a given task, or just doesn’t have time for the personal development tasks she needs to maintain a fulfilling life.

This idea could also work with businesses, particularly small businesses that couldn’t afford to bring in a consultant to help them with process efficiency. You could sit with the owner or founder of a company and walk through expenses and time sinks. How much do they spend on project management? Food? Supplies? How much time do they spend passing around Excel spreadsheets or trying to convince everyone to use a bug tracker? You are likely to discover many problems you never would’ve considered if you just sit with a passionate business owner for a few minutes.

The reason most entrepreneurs fail is because they deliver a product no one wants. Sometimes this is because they create the product that they think people want without ever talking to their customers. In a better but still fatal case, they talk to customers, but they do exactly what the customer asks for. Like behavioral economics or experimental psychology, part of entrepreneurship is separating expressed desires from actual behaviors.

If you’re struggling to decide what problem you should spend your time on, try conducting some problem discovery interviews. See what people spend their time and money on, then build a product that saves them one of those resources. And while you’re at it, share your results and save other entrepreneurs some time as well.

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October 2011 DSV Meeting Summary

Here’s who showed up:
Matt DeLeon (blog) (twitter)
Anthony Panozzo (blog) (twitter)
Alex Toumey (twitter)
Kyle Shipley (twitter)
Wes Winham (twitter)

Matt DeLeon came and pitched a few ideas and asked for feedback on how he could go about testing them. We talked about a beer kit business and another idea that eludes me at the moment. (Goes to show what happens after two months of not writing something down…)

We came up with a list of ideas and voted with a function of excitement and potential, and then set about writing down some early steps. One idea that we might pursue at the January long meeting is a product to save you money each month by giving you insight into what recurring expenses you have on your bank accounts.

I think we also agreed on having a long and short meeting each month to make it easier to attend. Feel free to join us by subscribing to this blog for updates!

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December 2011 Indy Lean Startup Circle Summary

About 20 people attended the December 2011 Indianapolis Lean Startup Circle held at Giggil.

First, Anthony Panozzo presented on the business model canvas. He drew from his experience in reading Business Model Generation and creating canvases for a few projects. He talked about the business model canvas as well as Ash Maurya’s Lean Canvas, which targets Lean Startups in the software-as-a-service space.

Importantly, the business model canvas can be thought of as a set of documented hypotheses that the entrepreneur needs to validate before having a viable business model. Each change to the canvas represents a shift in strategy, and can be regarded as a pivot. The lean startup canvas focuses on product/market fit and unique value propositions, and gives a different flavor than the standard business model canvas. Anthony appears to like to talk in the third-person.

Here are the presentation slides:

(Having trouble seeing it? Click here.)

Real-life case study
Max Yoder talked about his new startup, Quipol. Max talked about the overall idea and the development process that he went through in bootstrapping his idea. He talked about his focus on design and philosophy on getting the project out there. As many others have pointed out, the online poll market is fairly crowded. Max discussed his competitive advantage, which boils down to three major factors:

  • Simple (only yes/no polls)
  • Crisp design
  • Connection to the blogging community via customer development

He also mentioned that he sometimes has trouble disciplining himself to do customer interviews, even when he knows he should. I’m sure that’s a challenge any lean practitioner has faced, especially starting out. Finally, he talked about some metrics and considerations that might be useful going forward, like the challenges of testing when you have a tightly designed product. Thanks Max!

Finally, three groups each formed to create a canvas for an existing or well-known business. Two took the traditional business model canvas, while one group chose to experiment with the lean canvas.

The teams fairly easily came up with a business model canvas for Netflix, and we had some interesting discussion around the business model canvas for iTunes. iTunes the application is actually given away to allow the app store to function smoothly. We found it somewhat difficult to use the lean canvas for a well-established business, Craigslist. This was because its unique value proposition might have been strong at one point (classifieds on the internet) but is no longer the case. Generally, Craigslist has already been disintermediated in several areas.

Anyone who attended have any other thoughts? What did I miss? Thanks!

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DSV short January 2012 meeting and A NEW IDEA

Here’s who showed up:
Alex Toumey (twitter)
Anthony Panozzo (blog) (twitter)
Kyle Shipley (twitter)
Wes Winham (twitter)

Last night at Panera, created a Trello board that will serve as the kanban board for the near term. Bonus benefit: good for keeping notes on the ideas (also kind of fun to use). Collated all of the ideas that we have come up with thus far to put into the list. There is also a list for abandoned ideas in different states.

We talked about various new ideas.

So, the idea that we will explore at the next long event is… (drumroll…)

Recurring payment management

We think people might benefit from seeing all of their recurring subscriptions. With Netflix, Github, gaming services, phone bills, newspaper subscriptions, and other regular payments, it’s hard to keep track of everything. We think that people who see all of the services they are subscribed to will be likely to want to cancel their subscription.

The hypotheses that we are going to try to test first are:
Hypothesis: Some general consumers spend too much money on subscriptions.
Hypothesis: It is painful in terms of time to cancel a subscription.
Hypothesis: When shown their subscriptions, 10% of people want to cancel at least one subscription.

If you would be willing to have us call you next Saturday (the 21st), please email panozzaj@gmail.com with your phone number or other contact information. We will reciprocate customer interviews. :) Thanks!

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