Posts tagged with buildmeasurelearn:

Should I start a Startup, possibly the most intense three days of my life…

It was a Friday afternoon back in September last year when I was having a late lunch with a colleague from work when he started telling me about Lean StartUp Machine (LSM).

I’d heard of Startup Weekend and a few other events, but I was new to the startup scene and hadn’t come across this before.  He gave me an overview of the event; turn up with an idea, pitch it to a room of 50 or so entrepreneurs, tech guys, mentors and the like, before they decide the ten most exciting, interesting or viable ideas, using a voting system to form teams to work on those ideas for the weekend.


He had a spare ticket for the whole weekend and offered it to me, which was great. It just so happened that LSM was starting that evening.  Lean Startup Machine sounded perfect for me, I had been playing around with an idea for quite some time and this seemed the ideal testing ground to see if the idea had any legs.

Four hours later, I had called my girlfriend stumbling through various excuses as to why our weekend plans had to be cancelled, and was standing in Fishburners, nervous over my pitch and lack of preparation for the weekend. 

The pitches, varying in quality and stage of development, take place and the votes get cast. I had a show of about 25 hands, which was a relief and put the nerves at ease, but the hard work hadn’t even started to begin. Five minutes of mayhem follows where the founders of each idea work the room to recruit a suitable team of interested people to work with for the next 2 ½ days.


It was slowly approaching midnight on that Friday evening; we’d had some short presentations and gained some great insights into the lean methodology, started working on the validation board and highlighted our riskiest assumptions and hypothesises to test out the next morning on real customers.

Fail fast, succeed faster was something mentioned over the course of the weekend and we got to see that first hand.  The huge emphasis of the weekend, was to “get out of the building” encouraging you to go and talk to your customers.  Create your customer hypothesis, problem hypothesis, solution hypothesis and a series of assumption and go out and test them on your potential customers.  This was the only real way to learn.  No one learnt this as much as one team who had been working on their idea for nearly two years and within about 4 hours they had realised that it wasn’t a viable business idea and the team folded on that very first evening.

The idea that I was pitching was Food Orbit. I came up with the idea whilst working in the kitchens of London, England alongside Gordon Ramsay and a few other chefs where we noticed a fundamental problem in the local food movement, so the Food Orbit idea was born. An online platform to connect local farmers and producers with wholesale buyers. We planned on using e-commerce to make buying and selling local and responsibly farmed food, simple!  As the hours rolled on and the idea started to take shape through various pivots, we realized that focus was key. Chefs and restaurateurs who wanted to differentiate through quality local ingredients were to be our target market. Customer hypothesis pivot number one.

After just over four hours sleep, myself and one other from my team were standing at Flemington markets in Homebush at 5:15am talking to growers, farmers, restaurant owners and chefs who were buying produce at the market that morning.  The feedback was amazing, and by that I don’t mean towards the quality of the idea as such, but in terms of the learning’s we could take from it.  We spoke to so many different people from so many different backgrounds, it really helped validate some core assumptions, test our problem hypothesis and pivot once again. 


This is how the whole weekend went.  We went back to base at Fishburners, presented our learning’s to the team, worked through further iterations of assumptions, problem hypothesis and solution hypothesis, before jumping in the car and heading down to Leichardt Organic Markets to talk to some more customers of a slightly different nature.

There were mistakes over the course of the weekend and everyone makes them, we were no different.  I had recruited a team of predominantly tech-focused guys, trying to fill the void in my own skill set.  It meant that we spent too long on landing pages, making a youtube video; which admittedly no one was actually going to see, and creating more social media accounts than I even knew existed.  This wasn’t a hackathon weekend, far from it, it was all about Build, Measure, Learn but the build doesn’t relate to tech so much but more towards anything that will help you validate or invalidate the assumptions and hypothesis you’ve made.

A simple landing page from Unbounce, an ipad and hunting down potential customers for some genuine conversations was all it took to sign up 40 or so people in a couple of hours. A lesson that stuck with me ever since.

I probably crammed a months worth of work into just over two days with every hour spent adding considerable value to developing the business idea further.  In addition, I had a team of people only too willing to wake up at 5am, help until midnight each night and go along on the amazingroller coaster ride that it was. Tensions were high at times and time pressures were evident with the obvious element of competition that was only too noticeable the minute you entered the room.


Ignoring my unhappy girlfriend just for just a minute, the weekend on the whole was invaluable to me personally and to the business idea itself. The entire experience; the learning, the networking and the real life practice of the Lean Methodology …. Get out of the building!