Lean Startup Machine NYC: Part 2 - My Experience

Day 1

Everyone met at the Alley NYC, a coworking space in Times Square, Friday evening over pizza and conversation.  Soon after, people who brought product ideas had 50 seconds each to pitch to everyone in the room.  After the pitches, everyone had 3 votes and the top 10-15 ideas were chosen – people then formed teams.  I didn’t get an exact count, but I estimate that there were 12-14 teams in total.

I decided to join a team working on a product to create a program for 4th year undergrad students entering the professional workforce to join a recognized and visible industry rotational program.

Immediately we began to explore the idea by subjecting it to the Validation Board.  We first identified our customer hypothesis (4th year undergrads) and problem hypothesis (students are ill-prepared to find the right job fit).  We recorded our assumptions, chose which assumption we believed to be the riskiest and then our team agreed upon validation criteria for our assumption.  As it was late in the evening, we decided to save the in-person interviews for Saturday but sent out a survey, leveraging twitter (#college).

Day 2

We all met up early Saturday morning to begin the day’s work of testing our ideas.  We analyzed the results from the survey we had sent out the night before and realized that our problem was validated but that college students mostly just wanted to get a job and not explore right away.  Time to pivot.  We immediately pivoted our customer hypothesis to be young professionals who have been in the professional world for 1-4 years.  Next, it was important to get out of the building, hit the streets and begin interviewing potential customers.  The idea is to collect data and quickly analyze and look for trends

The interview experience was interesting.  We had to profile people in the sense that we were targeting young professionals (age specific) and this had to take place in New York on a Saturday…tourists, the “get away from me’s” and the like.  Hitting Times Square, Bryant Park and the NYC Public Library (Who you gonna call?) we were able to talk to enough people to collect a sufficient amount of data to make a decision on our core assumption.  We found that young professionals were unhappy with their first career experiences for a myriad of reasons.  Our team was then able to validate our core assumption and problem hypothesis.

Next we decided to test an assumption that young professionals are willing to leave their jobs for a rotational program following the same steps as we did before.  We found that people like the security of their current jobs but are open to explore.  This led us to “persevere” with the idea in its current state.  From this we were able to create a solution hypothesis for which we tested by building a landing page and pitching the idea to potential customers.

Day 3

Sunday, the final day we were tasked to test our solution hypothesis (pitching) through capturing data on a landing page we built, put together a deck to summarize our process and journey over the weekend and present to the group.

Summary/Final Thoughts:

  • Hours of customer interviews
  • Three experiments
  • Two pivots
  • Tied for 2nd place

Our product was unique to others in the workshop in that we were producing a program and not an immediate product.  Our project was two-pronged in that there are two sides that need to be tested: The employee and then the organization.  In the spirit of the weekend and due to time limitations, we felt that it was a good strategy to test the employee side first then we could move over and perform a similar process on the organization side.  If we didn’t have such tight time constraints, I would spend more time on interviewing and data collection.  The idea here is to spend just enough time and effort to validate/invalidate, move along and learn so I wouldn’t spend much more time than we did.

I was difficult to keep people focused on the process of the Validation Board.  It’s natural that people are excited and want to think solutions right away, but keeping the team on track was certainly a challenge.

I do see applications for this methodology in enterprise.  Sure, it may need some adapting to the business situation at hand, but there is a lot of rich and valuable methodology that can apply to many situations.