Demo Day – Book Excerpt: Lean Accelerator

Demo Day – Book Excerpt: Lean Accelerator

Lean Accelerator: Lessons and Stories from Five Early-Stage Startups was written by TractionTank Co-Founder, Eric Morrow. Our blog posts featuring excerpts from Lean Accelerator are posted here with his permission. All TractionTank applicants receive a free digital copy of Lean Accelerator upon completion of our online application. DEMO DAY The culmination of the Summer Accelerator was Demo Day. I sent an eventbrite to everyone who was involved with the teams over the summer, inviting them to come watch the teams pitch. Our Demo Day followed a simple structure: I made a brief welcome and introduction of the program. Then the five teams each made a presentation. Each team had 7 minutes to pitch their business, followed by three questions from the audience, with 45 seconds allotted per response. After the pitches, there was an open mingle session. The purpose of the Demo Day was to have a concrete goal and end date the startups are working towards. The Accelerator provided a set structure for the startup to operate in, until the business got actual customers and developed its own internal rhythms by catering to them. The Demo Day marked the end of the Accelerator and was the moment when the startup should have had enough traction to go out into the world and continue making progress on its own steam. Conclusion Much like a startup, I came into the Accelerator program with many assumptions. One critical one was that I could engage the teams enough that they would follow my program for 10 weeks. The second one was that the methodology I wanted to teach would be successful at... read more
Lessons Learned (Part 2) – Book Excerpt: Lean Accelerator

Lessons Learned (Part 2) – Book Excerpt: Lean Accelerator

Lean Accelerator: Lessons and Stories from Five Early-Stage Startups was written by TractionTank Co-Founder, Eric Morrow. Our blog posts featuring excerpts from Lean Accelerator are posted here with his permission. All TractionTank applicants receive a free digital copy of Lean Accelerator upon completion of our online application. LESSONS LEARNED (PART 2) Lessons-Learned Presentations The links below will take you to the videos the students prepared for their lessons-learned presentations, the actual lessons-learned presentations themselves, and the Demo Day presentations. For a collection of these videos in one easy-to-watch place on the web, please visit my blog. 1. Driven Analytics view presentations (video) 2. Levaté view presentations (video) 3. Icarus Aerial Technologies view presentations (video) 4. XiP Technologies view presentations (video) 5. Sower Publishing Group view presentations (video) My thoughts on what the students said they learneD The first thing I thought when I saw the final presentations was, “wow!” I was blown away by the quality of the videos, the presentations, and what the students said they learned. There was a heavy emphasis placed on really listening to customers, selling and scaling/scrambling/building, and Elaine Hamm from i2e identifying good challenges to the businesses. Also: Learn who your customer is by trying to sell them (getting out of the building). Spend time with your customer learning about them. Seize unexpected opportunities that arise! Research and talking alone doesn’t find customers. Cash validation is powerful validation. Look for shark bite interest (vs. mosquito bite). Power of the prototype—show people your device actually working (pictures/videos/real life). Power of cold calling—hunt down your customers. Testing the market by selling and looking for commitments is more effective than relying... read more
Lessons Learned (Part 1)- Book Excerpt: Lean Accelerator

Lessons Learned (Part 1)- Book Excerpt: Lean Accelerator

Lean Accelerator: Lessons and Stories from Five Early-Stage Startups was written by TractionTank Co-Founder, Eric Morrow. Our blog posts featuring excerpts from Lean Accelerator are posted here with his permission. All TractionTank applicants receive a free digital copy of Lean Accelerator upon completion of our online application. LESSONS LEARNED (PART 1) Steve Blank uses the last official class session to have the teams present their lessons learned. Here are his exact instructions on how to prepare a lessons-learned video, copied directly from the Lean Launchpad. I thought the instructions were so good that I could not further improve on them. And from the quality of the responses, it seems that was a good instinct to have. Note: The following is taken from Blank’s Lean Launchpad Educator’s Guide, which you can find in its entirety here. Loads of examples and info for lessons learned http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyGr-eoONqo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bJ8rd1dxy8 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7H0LZWVt0I RedOx team from Yale: http://www.slideshare.net/sblank/redox-final-nsf-presentation NeonLabs from Carnegie Mellon University: http://www.slideshare.net/sblank/lighttip-nsf-final-presentation Phioptics from the University of Illinois: http://www.slideshare.net/sblank/phioptics-nsf-final-presentation OmegaChem Iowa State University: http://www.slideshare.net/sblank/omegachem-nsf-final-presentation City Climber team from City University of New York: http://www.slideshare.net/sblank/city-climber-story-video-nsf Soliculture team from UC Santa Cruz: http://www.slideshare.net/sblank/soliculture-story-video-nsf Story video Details (2 minutes) If I can replace your team name and get the same story, that is BAD! Be unique! Be very specific! (note: my addition, the rest is from Steve Blank’s curriculum) Think of the story video as the heart of the team presentation as told through video. Suggested Story Video outline: What are your names and what is your team’s name? Introduce yourselves. Pan the camera around your office so we can see where you work. How many customers did you talk to? Did you... read more
Resources, Activities, and Costs – Book Excerpt: Lean Accelerator

Resources, Activities, and Costs – Book Excerpt: Lean Accelerator

Lean Accelerator: Lessons and Stories from Five Early-Stage Startups was written by TractionTank Co-Founder, Eric Morrow. Our blog posts featuring excerpts from Lean Accelerator are posted here with his permission. All TractionTank applicants receive a free digital copy of Lean Accelerator upon completion of our online application. RESOURCES, ACTIVITIES, AND COSTS The seventh Lean Launchpad class is the last one of the curriculum. It looks at the key activities and resources and how much it will cost to make the product the business sells. Being on the left side of the business model canvas means I consider it part of the “product” side of the startup equation. One basic assumption I had going into the Accelerator was that if a team could prove there was a market for their product, a demand for it, then they would be able to build it. Building would require people and resources, but those aren’t in short supply if you have the money to pay for them. And if a startup can prove that customers are willing to pay for the product, they can normally find the money to pay for the resources to build the product. All of the work the teams did to validate their market answers the first startup question: does anyone want to buy or use what I’m making? That goes by the handy name of product-market fit. The second question is, can I make money selling the product or service that people want? That gets into all the questions of customers and channels, culminating in the revenue box on the business model canvas. The third question is whether... read more
Writing for the Web – Book Excerpt: Lean Accelerator

Writing for the Web – Book Excerpt: Lean Accelerator

Lean Accelerator: Lessons and Stories from Five Early-Stage Startups was written by TractionTank Co-Founder, Eric Morrow. Our blog posts featuring excerpts from Lean Accelerator are posted here with his permission. All TractionTank applicants receive a free digital copy of Lean Accelerator upon completion of our online application. WRITING FOR THE WEB At 7 weeks into the program, it was a good moment to look back and see how far 2 months of work can take you. When the teams came in, they were a mix of ideas and business planning, with one team (Levaté) having done a few months of human-centered design. Two months later, there were teams with paid contracts to start pilots with customers, teams with a big list of interested beta testers, teams with high callback percentages from interested university parking directors, teams doing flybys of construction sites, and teams exploring partnerships with large institutions. I was very pleased with the progress created by an obsessive attention to running experiments and hunting for real customer feedback. In this week’s startup skills class, the teams asked for help with how they present their companies in writing. Potential customers often ask for marketing materials. Often the initial point of contact wants information they can pass on to other people inside their company. And folks who get a cold call or email will want to check out a website to learn more about the startup. That’s why writing for the web is a critical startup skill. Writing will almost always be how the company introduces itself to potential customers and investors. As the startup progresses, the kind of writing the... read more
Partners – Book Excerpt: Lean Accelerator

Partners – Book Excerpt: Lean Accelerator

Lean Accelerator: Lessons and Stories from Five Early-Stage Startups was written by TractionTank Co-Founder, Eric Morrow. Our blog posts featuring excerpts from Lean Accelerator are posted here with his permission. All TractionTank applicants receive a free digital copy of Lean Accelerator upon completion of our online application. PARTNERS Partners was the first box on the left side of the business model canvas that we considered, and we therefore started to get a little removed from sales and marketing, my bread and butter. I view the right side of the business model canvas as the “business” side—meaning how you’ll test demand for a potential product and then deliver that product to your customers. The left side of the canvas is more about product development, or the technical side of the business. I view that split as quite natural, and it is why many startups have both a business and product cofounder. Partners can be hard to define, especially for startups, because it feels like the customer development process is one long slog through building partners. But even though you will be working with customers to develop your product, they are not your partner. A true partner would identify you as a partner too!There are a variety of categories that Steve Blank identifies that a partnership can fall into: Strategic alliance Competition Joint venture Buyers Suppliers Licensees I consider most of these types of partnerships product-development tools. I approach partnerships, with my marketing mind,  from a customer development perspective. In marketing, a partnership can form between two companies that have a similar demographic (customer) but different products—for example, Nike sponsoring a marathon,... read more
Storyboarding – Book Excerpt: Lean Accelerator

Storyboarding – Book Excerpt: Lean Accelerator

Lean Accelerator: Lessons and Stories from Five Early-Stage Startups was written by TractionTank Co-Founder, Eric Morrow. Our blog posts featuring excerpts from Lean Accelerator are posted here with his permission. All TractionTank applicants receive a free digital copy of Lean Accelerator upon completion of our online application. STORYBOARDING For this week’s Startup Skills class, we did one of my absolute favorites: storyboarding! Anytime you’ve seen an intro or explanatory video on the web, it started as a storyboard. Introducing explanatory videos I began the class with a few videos to get everyone’s creative juices going. (Note: if you want to see all these videos in one place without typing in the respective URLs, go to this page on my blog.) Kickoff videos Coin (my personal favorite). This video has it all. Good storytelling, clear product vision, nice production values, and good pace. Groupon (30 seconds!). This video is a great introduction to the product, is very short and animated. Who Gives A Crap? Nothing holds people’s attention like humor. This video has a crap-ton of that. Colspace (disclaimer: I created this one). I like to show the Colspace video because it shows what is good enough to get the point across. The video cost less than $3,000 to make and quickly and clearly conveys what Colspace does (so long as you are in the intended demographic). After each one, I asked the students to say what they liked and disliked about each video. This gave the class an interesting baseline to start from. First round storyboard I then asked the students to come up with their own explanatory video storyboard.... read more
Revenue Streams – Book Excerpt: Lean Accelerator

Revenue Streams – Book Excerpt: Lean Accelerator

Lean Accelerator: Lessons and Stories from Five Early-Stage Startups was written by TractionTank Co-Founder, Eric Morrow. Our blog posts featuring excerpts from Lean Accelerator are posted here with his permission. All TractionTank applicants receive a free digital copy of Lean Accelerator upon completion of our online application. REVENUE STREAMS After 6 weeks, I wanted to meet with each team one on one to get a deeper progress report, check on the current status of the business model canvas assumptions (meaning, can the company make money as it is currently positioned?), and set in place a good plan for the sprint to the finish line. Rehearsal day is a short 3 weeks away! I started class by asking for questions about accounting and finance, because Pat Jones, CFO from Petra Industries (and formerly Hobby Lobby), is coming in to teach. Here are the questions that were posed: How to keep books balanced and legal Rundown of balance sheet, income statement, statement of cash flows, and how they correlate Taxes—How to file taxes and how to approach personal taxes on the $10,000 investment they got from OU (most are LLCs) Double-entry accounting intro Essential guidelines on business expenses and taxes How to maximize a small amount of cash, leverage investors W2 and 1099 employees—withholding and filing quarterly (escrow accounts?) I had originally envisioned the teams teaching more of the classes themselves, since I believe there is no better way to learn a subject than to teach it. Ultimately, I scrapped that idea. I preferred to keep the teams laser focused on their customer and product development. However, the day before the rehearsal dinner... read more
Digital Marketing: Paid Ads Focus – Book Excerpt: Lean Accelerator

Digital Marketing: Paid Ads Focus – Book Excerpt: Lean Accelerator

Lean Accelerator: Lessons and Stories from Five Early-Stage Startups was written by TractionTank Co-Founder, Eric Morrow. Our blog posts featuring excerpts from Lean Accelerator are posted here with his permission. All TractionTank applicants receive a free digital copy of Lean Accelerator upon completion of our online application. DIGITAL ADS (PAID ADS FOCUS) Just past the halfway mark for the ten-week Accelerator, the teams asked if we could look at how paid advertising works, particularly for Google and Facebook. This is a class I teach all the time and that I wrote a book on , and it is how I first got started teaching about marketing and entrepreneurship. In many ways it feels like coming home each time I teach this class! I follow this worksheet when teaching digital marketing: Digital Marketing for Business Growth. Because that worksheet was coupled with an all-day class and we only had 2 hours, I decided to focus in on the foundations of digital marketing and then jump to paid ads. Demographics Digital marketing always starts with the demographic the company wants to target. The teams already have done a lot of work defining their customer (in Lean Startup/Launchpad, this is called the customer persona), so this kickoff wasn’t too difficult. Digital channels There are three main digital channels that startups should be concerned with. These are also called owned media, because the startup has control over them. They are website, social media, and email. We went through the exercise of thinking about the type of content that goes into each channel and the main take-away for each: website—answer common customer questions; social—zoom out from your business;... read more
Customer Relationships – Book Excerpt: Lean Accelerator

Customer Relationships – Book Excerpt: Lean Accelerator

Lean Accelerator: Lessons and Stories from Five Early-Stage Startups was written by TractionTank Co-Founder, Eric Morrow. Our blog posts featuring excerpts from Lean Accelerator are posted here with his permission. All TractionTank applicants receive a free digital copy of Lean Accelerator upon completion of our online application. CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS Picking up some initial traction Half way through the Accelerator we started seeing some progress. Driven Analytics made their first sales to car dealerships to run a pilot of their program with ten cars. Levaté had a website up, a video of a prototype, and had started a funding conversation with i2e. Park Ave made a big decision to pivot away from connecting buyers and sellers of parking spaces at big events in Norman after running a variety of experiments that did not turn up any customers. They decided to start working on a device that could count cars going in and out of parking lots to help universities keep track of their parking spot usage rates. And within a few hours of making the pivot, they already had excited university parking directors returning their cold calls! Once a young company starts getting traction from potential customers, the feedback loop becomes much stronger and the company can focus on their niche, rather than spinning around trying to find a customer at all. They can also then start getting into other interesting questions beyond, “Does anyone even want this?” Staying the course During the updates and news section that I started the first class of the week with, I urged and cautioned the teams to stick with the program. Running experiments and... read more

Newsletter

TT_contact_icon

Stay up to date!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from TractionTank.

You have Successfully Subscribed!