Lean Startup Machine Tips and TricksI was at Lean Startup Machine in New York last weekend. (LSM is a 48 hour excursion into lean startup techniques created by Trevor Owens to push your boundaries and help you learn something about your business model.) I was so impressed by a post by Cindy Alvarez that Trevor distributed, 10 Things I’ve Learned, that I decided to blatantly copy her and create my own top ten list specifically for attendees of the event.

Unfortunately I’m a terrible editor. So here are…

21 Lean Startup Machine Tips and Tricks

Problems don't exist. You can't go out and talk to a problem. Focus relentlessly on people. Share on X Cash in hand beats bullshit on slide. A pretty powerpoint isn't impressive. Go get a real customer to hand you money. Share on X If your teammates don't buy in, then test fast and let reality convince them. You're not going to win by arguing, you'll just wind up working alone. Share on X If your MVP can't prove you wrong, then it can't prove you right either. Share on X Ask questions like a child. Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Share on X If you're working on your own idea, your ego is blocking your view of the customer. Listen to your teammates. They have a better vantage point. Share on X Post-its are your friend. One idea per post-it. Use thick pens to constrain the amount you can write. Write so that your team mates can understand it. Share on X Your goal should be to learn a skill. If you came just to win the competition, you're wasting your time. Share on X The guy who pulls out the basket of strawberries at a key moment of exhaustion wins. Share on X

Bring your own supplies: Sharpies, post-its, masking tape, drafting dots, voting dots, computer, a snack, whatever. Don’t assume the organizers intuitively know everything you need. The guy who pulls out the basket of strawberries at a key moment of exhaustion wins.

There is no such thing as a chicken and egg problem. There is a way to make it simpler. Share on X No one can see their own blindspots. Use your peers and mentors to find them. Don't argue, listen and decide. Share on X If your target market has gone home for the evening, remember that the earth spins. Pick up the phone and call another time zone. Share on X Celebrate victorious failure. Invalidated an assumption? Group cheer. Killed the whole business idea? Bust out the champagne. Share on X If you're debating a point for more than 30 minutes, shut up and vote. Share on X Watching the customer try and solve their problem for themselves is better than listening to them talk. Share on X If you don't have a hypothesis you're not building an MVP, you're just building. Share on X Shut up. Listen actively to the customer. Listen to their gasps and sighs. Listen to their emotions. Share on X If the customer isn't actively looking for a solution, then they don't have a problem. Share on X Do user testing on your competition. Even if your competition is a hack / workaround. Share on X If you're not willing to challenge a mentor then go home and send me a check for $10,000 while you're at it. Share on X Beware the vanity metric. Share on X

Bonus Tip

  • Sell something to Trevor. He’ll buy almost anything.

Final Word

All in all, Lean Startup Machine is a great way to get your feet we with customer discovery interviews. It’s not the best place to practice a lot of the other lean startup techniques like smoke tests, concierge tests, and so forth, but occasionally teams really show hustle and manage to fake a product for some serious testing.

You should go to Lean Startup Machine if you want a crash course on how important it is to go out and talk to customers. You’ll leave with a great experience and meet a bunch of fun people. Don’t go expecting to know everything there is to know about lean startup.

[Update: The “Problems don’t exist” statement has proven to be the most controversial so I expanded it into a full post unsurprisingly titled Problems Don’t Exist.]

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