3 Weeks Into Bootlegging the Lean Launchpad
What have we learned so far?
Three weeks ago we started our version of Steve Blank's Lean LaunchPad. These were our hypotheses:
The objectives for the first three weeks were to select "CustDevable" business ideas, introduce the students to the Business Model Canvas and the concept of Customer Development, and to have the students go out of the building and start discovering and validating their business models. See the class website for more details.
Selection Criteria on the Fly
Each of the 14 students presented a business idea and I selected the most appropriate for Customer Development. I ended up with these principles for selection as I listened to their pitches using the Business Model Canvas:
Customer Development works for service businesses
As early as now, I can say that Customer Development works for services. While teaching this, I'm also doing Customer Development--the right way for the first time--for my own service delivery business. It turns out there is such a thing as Service Design Thinking. If there is a worthwhile pain/gain addressable by an innovation--whether its in the product, the service or the business model--then CustDev is useful. Customer Development could simply be seen as systematic business model innovation to address discovered and validated customer pains and gains.
CustDev is easy to understand but hard to do whether or not you are an undergrad
My students easily understood the concept of Customer Development (I had them explain it to me as their exam) with only readings from The Startup Owner's Manual, a video lecture by Steve Blank and a video lecture by Chuck Eesley. It seems a Flipped Classroom works for this kind of thing, even if it's run by a pedagogy noob like me.
They also seemed to have an easy time interviewing people, with each group doing 30-40 interviews in one week (I had a much harder time setting my own interviews). The hard part is teasing out the insights from their interview data. The original version addresses this by having a experienced entrepreneurs and VCs mentor the teams. I was able to get commitments from local entrepreneurs and a VC, but I did not foresee the need for this kind of interaction (they will see them for the first time next week as a presentation panel a la American Idol).
Cloning as an option
I asked one group (the one with the makeup expert) to clone the business model of joyus.com. Doing customer development for an innovative existing business applied to the local market immediately gives you a business model innovation. I also thought the founder would be very inspirational for my mostly female students.
Organizing a Lean LaunchPad is a great crash course in CustDev
I don't know if it's too early to say this, but this might even be better than attending the original course in Stanford. Here's why:
State of hypothesis validation
A Series on our D.I.Y. Lean LaunchPad
Musings on the Fundamentals
Goodies from Steve Blank
(A few months after we started, Steve Blank published online lectures and a recipe book for for running a Lean LaunchPad!)