I can show you pictures, tell you stories, and walk you through the process (and I will!) but most importantly, I gained two key insights:
- Entrepreneurship is chaos – experience it yourself!
- Lean Startup is a mindset, not a formula
Why experience the chaos? It feels different – completely different – when you are in the moment. Last week, I read The Lean Startup and immediately, I thought it clicked. Yet I could not fully understand it until I applied the tools. For example, in our final presentations, Trevor forced us to summarize the weekend in this table:
Presented like this, the experiments and decisions seem obvious and logical. Yet when we were working through it, it was incredibly chaotic… we conducted experiments that ended up testing something completely unrelated, we had countless extra conversations, and frankly, we spun our wheels. By creating the table, we suddenly discovered that we had wasted a lot of effort. The waste was everything that didn’t fit on the table.
In other words, when I tell you experience the chaos yourself, I mean: Entrepreneurship is hard!
The Lean Startup mindset empowers you to order the chaos. Throughout the weekend, we were iterating on the business concept itself, progressively moving through our fundamental hypotheses on customers, problems, and solutions. We learned a ton, but in the big picture of a business, we hardly scratched the surface – we were still developing our basic concept!
Yet this weekend taught me that the Lean Startup is a mindset. When I was reading, I thought that Eric Ries was providing existing businesses with a formulaic framework rooted in concepts like the engine of growth and value hypothesis. Wrong. Those two concepts are the results of applying the mindset to a particular situation – an existing business. But that mindset can be applied to nearly anything, including a vague idea aspiring to become a business.
Lastly, I’m very glad that we focused so exclusively on our customer (international students looking for jobs). Since we had no idea what their precise challenges were, and therefore couldn’t begin to imagine solutions for them, our entire process was liberated. We went into interviews and experiments with no biases. We just learned.
Another day, I’ll document the play-by-play of how our team worked through RememberMe (remembering crucial details about people) and InterLink (helping talented international students find full-time jobs in the US). While the main outcome of the weekend was learning the Lean Startup method of thinking, it also empowered us to gain a lot of insight on topics I care about.