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Entries in prototype creation (1)

Wednesday
Apr112012

Lean Startup London: Minimum Viable Meetup

Sal Virani came to Club Workspace last week to host his 'Minimum Viable Meetup'. The event, cohosted by Dreamstake, gave members of the Lean Startup community a chance to share their Lean experiences and anecdotes.

The ‘Lean Startup’ movement is led by Eric Reis, and it advocates rapid prototype creation in order to gain feedback. This feedback is used in the creation of the next prototype. This process continues until the startup has a product that is ready for market. Each prototype is a ‘Minimum Viable Product’ - the most cost-effective entity that tests a specific problem-hypothesis.

Sal, a self-professed entreprenerd, is a keen supporter of the Lean Startup mission. Sal organised the first ever LeanCamp and continues to stimulate conversation in the lean startup world. Impassioned and at times, fiery conversation is exactly what took place at last week’s Minimum Viable Meetup!

Fishbowling - The Lean Startup Way

The event’s title, 'Minimum Viable Meetup', was more than just a clever nod to a key-word in the lean startup vocabulary. The Meetup was put together using the 'Minimum Viable' resources so far as personnel are concerned. In other words: there was no speaker!

Usually events and workshops welcome one speaker at the very least. Sal’s MVM eschewed that particular convention in favour of the fishbowl technique.

Fishbowling works like this. The audience sit facing the ‘stage’. On this stage there are four chairs. Members of the audience have to sit on these chairs in order to join the conversation. Audience members aren’t allowed to join the conversation from the auditorium - however fleeting their interjection they must sit in one of the four chairs in order to participate in the discussion.

Another rule is that one chair must remain tenantless throughout. If three chairs are occupied and someone else wishes to share their wisdom, this new participant must take the free chair. When their presence has been recognised, one of the incumbent conversationalists nominates themselves to depart. This process can continue indefinitely. We can now say with confidence that it is an inventive way to maintain the freshness and spontaneity of a debate!

This technique proved a huge hit. Sal threw out subjects and the discussion flowed organically thereafter.

Klaus’ Lean Story

A large proportion of the audience were entrepreneurs who were running their businesses using Lean Startup techniques. They needed little encouragement from Sal to take to the stage and share their experiences.

The first of the real-life-lean-startups was Klaus. Klaus makes mobile apps for the hospitality industry. Klaus explained that his latest creation was an app that makes ordering easier for customers at crowded bars and pubs.

In order to demonstrate his app to the hospitality industry, Klaus created a version with minimum viable functionality at the minimum possible cost. At this point, Klaus recommended Codiqa for rapid creation of minimum viable apps. A bona-fide lean insider tip!

It transpired that Klaus hadn’t had much luck with this app, but he was pleased that his use of Lean Startup techniques had allowed him to fail fast, and fail cheaply. Although he hasn’t completely written off his app, he needed a rethink.

Audience members were full of ideas. Perhaps Klaus should rethink his problem hypothesis? Maybe he should attempt to reduce the waiting time in-between orders at busy bars? This might offer a more measurable metic and, perhaps, impact on the purposes/successes of future MVP test-apps.

Another suggestion is that maybe Klaus shouldn’t build an 'MVP' app at all. Dropbox didn’t! Their MVP was a video of the service that they planned to offer! There was so much demand for the 'product' explained in the video that they decided to spend money on development. Their spend was, of course, justified.

Entrepreneurs who take 'lean' to the 'leanest' demonstrate their product on paper, and only proceed to development stage when they know that there is a justifiable demand.

Lean Machine

There were many more entrepreneurs like Klaus. Those who were brave enough to step up and have their idea dissected and analysed, but I shan’t divulge any more Lean Startup case-studies otherwise you’ll be reading all night.

However, some interesting points arose that are too good to leave out:

During the conversation a point was raised. One attendee believed that 'the terminology of lean-startup is being horribly misused - the term 'Minimum Viable Product' is not an excuse for descoping!' Although MVP implies that you must create a 'cheaper' version of your product, it is not a technical-term that enables you to for reduce your spend tenfold! Although a minimum viable product is 'cheaper' and 'quicker' than a full-launch, the MVP must test your product-hypothesis effectively, otherwise it is pointless.

Sal reintroduced himself into the Fishbowl. He advised everyone to read up on ‘Pirate Metrics’ by Dave McLure. He believes that Ries’ term 'the engines of growth' is based on McLure’s earlier theory.

A less theoretical tip that surfaced was for anyone looking to create a website optimised for live-chat. Pusher was widely recommended for websockets.

Thank You

Thank you to Dreamstake for bringing the event to Club Workspace and thank you, of course, to Sal for presiding over such a wonderful event. A special thanks goes to the audience members! Without you there’d have been no event!