Lean Startup Machine – 10 Most Effective Tips and Tricks

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. Click To Tweet Cash in hand beats bullshit on slide. A pretty powerpoint isn't impressive. Go get a real customer to hand you money. Click To Tweet 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. Click To Tweet If your MVP can't prove you wrong, then it can't prove you right either. Click To Tweet Ask questions like a child. Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Click To Tweet 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. Click To Tweet 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. Click To Tweet Your goal should be to learn a skill. If you came just to win the competition, you're wasting your time. Click To Tweet The guy who pulls out the basket of strawberries at a key moment of exhaustion wins. Click To Tweet

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. Click To Tweet No one can see their own blindspots. Use your peers and mentors to find them. Don't argue, listen and decide. Click To Tweet If your target market has gone home for the evening, remember that the earth spins. Pick up the phone and call another time zone. Click To Tweet Celebrate victorious failure. Invalidated an assumption? Group cheer. Killed the whole business idea? Bust out the champagne. Click To Tweet If you're debating a point for more than 30 minutes, shut up and vote. Click To Tweet Watching the customer try and solve their problem for themselves is better than listening to them talk. Click To Tweet If you don't have a hypothesis you're not building an MVP, you're just building. Click To Tweet Shut up. Listen actively to the customer. Listen to their gasps and sighs. Listen to their emotions. Click To Tweet If the customer isn't actively looking for a solution, then they don't have a problem. Click To Tweet Do user testing on your competition. Even if your competition is a hack / workaround. Click To Tweet 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. Click To Tweet Beware the vanity metric. Click To Tweet

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.]