The first time Chase and I sat down to discuss 33founders he couldn’t stop raving about being “lean.” Having just met him after spending the last two years immersed in rhetoric and comm theory I nodded along as I tried to decipher how being in shape had anything to do with business.
As usual, Chase was sharing a sliver of genius with me and learning about Eric Ries’ lean methodology has changed the way I work. Thus, I was especially grateful to Grace Ng, the co-founder and Creative Director of Javelin, for the mini-class she gave us on 33founders about how to launch your startup with a lean mentality.
When Grace and her co-founder Trevor Owens hosted their first Lean Startup Machine conference, they welcomed the audience by shouting “GET OUT OF THE BUILDING!” – Great welcome, huh? – to encourage them to talk to people to determine if the problem they’re itching to solve really exists.
Starting from the basis of her own failed startup to running a conference that scales 150 cities and overseeing two products, Quick MVP and the Experiment Board, Grace is an expert on iterating fast and with the customer in mind.
The first thing all builders must do is establish a problem solution hypothesis – Defining your customer and the problem they’re struggling with.
Next, echoing Makespace founder Sam Rosen’s advice, Grace urges founders to fall in love with the problem instead of pitching the solution. Operating strictly to solve a problem can leave founders jaded of related pain points by asking leading questions influenced by the service they’d like to provide.
In addition to the problem solution hypothesis, you’ll need a riskiest assumption – the one outcome that must happen in order for your company to survive – and a landing page.
These are Grace’s tips for creating an indicative landing page:
- Start with a clear headline concisely describing your product.
- Highlight the three key benefits of your solution.
- Use photos or videos to illustrate your customer’s future without the pain point.
- Implement a call to action indicating your riskiest assumption.
- Allow users to leave their email for future updates.
- Use Google Ad-words to gain traction.
- Display positive testimonials.
- Include a buy or pre-order now button to gauge interest.
- Measure how many customers convert.
Once you’ve seen the success of your landing page (It’s a heart pounding, smile from ear to ear feeling) Grace emphasizes the importance of personally communicating with each new customer. She did this by delivering her product to 16 users (until the practice could no longer scale) and had early conversations with each of them about the problem, how they’ve been solving it (inquire about services and price), and what they’d like to see in her solution.
Asking these questions before you start writing code will empower you to build a tailored and effective solution rather than a solution that misses the mark.
Although it appears that companies must be born abiding by the lean methodology, Grace works with large corporations like ESPN, American Express, and Intuit to make experimentation an integral part of their culture.
The simplest way to do it is to approach each new idea as an experiment and to ask questions that uncover if a real problem exists. Lean Startup speaker Christie George, the Director of New Media Ventures and another Lean Startup Conference speaker, highlights the same notion by encouraging individuals to understand results, whether perceived to be successes or failures, as data to improve the following experiment – No strings or company failing emotions attached.
Grace is dedicating her presentation at the Lean Startup Conference in December specifically to experimentation where she’ll be helping founders decide on experiments and advising them on how to run them.