Experience of our “The Lean Launchpad”

Some time ago I wrote a post regarding our version of “The Lean Launchpad” created by Steve Blank. Our version was tailored for Computer Science. Our goals where to give our computer science students a framework and a space to develop global startups.

The first class, where students had to present their initial version of their projects was a great experience and very surprising. Some of them were interesting, some others very local and with a small market (one of them was a food cart with healthy food on the financial district of Santiago). All of the students had to get out of the building (with a big effort, they did everything to avoid going out) and test their problem assumptions. They got surprised, and most of the ideas changed and started to get shape by the second class.

We took around 5 weeks on shaping the ideas, without programming anything. We feel this was a mistake that will be fixed the next time. It is important to learn to discard code, so from the first moment students should be working on a prototype.

The framework we used on the course to develop the ideas was to use three development tracks:

  • The first one was Business Model Canvas / Customer Development: Show your business model as a canvas, and go out of the building to learn about your customer, test your assumptions and improve your model as you learn about the market.
  • Second was Inbound Marketing whose goal was to create buzz. This one did not work as we expected, as the marketing actions where moving faster than the speed of the other tracks, and therefore could not have a continuity to be effective.
  • Third one was Software Development, to build a prototype that could be tested with customers

We learned there is a correlation between this tracks that we were not considering. We should first develop an initial Business Model Canvas where features for the software can be extracted, and then start building the prototype inmediately, creating buzz as part of the process, they do not run un parallel tracks, they are all part of the same process.

The main learning outcomes that the students got out of this course are:

  • Find a customer for your product so you can be sure it is useful to somebody
  • It is not as easy to sell as you think / It is not as easy to code as you think
  • Not everybody loves your idea as you do
  • Learn to adapt to what you learn from the market and modify your project accordingly
  • Accept criticism to improve your idea, don’t think is a personal attack.

Each one of the teams that were part of this course started with an idea and modified it to some extent (some a little, some a lot). The nice part is that even if the ideas seemed to change a lot, the core inspiration they were using was the same during the whole project. For some was having a better Educational System, for others to Improve enviromental awareness and for others to get people together with activities. We had 3 core inspiration ideas but there were 5 very different products developed. This means, that if you have a project, try to find what is your inner motivation for it and be open to change the product but try to keep your inner motivation the same (this means, don’t follow an easy opportunity you don’t like, but follow your vision being open to adapt the implementation of it). This helps to differentiate and have a product useful for the market that you are passionate about.

Some results that let us measure the impact of the course until now: One group won a business idea competition at our University getting US$3.000 as a price and are currently building their business (www.giveo2.com), and another group won the Virginia Tech Business Concept competition, with a US$25.000 price that will be used as seed money. They got accepted into a Business Incubator and are currently building the business (www.kimeltu.com).

We are waiting for you to be part of the new and improved version of this course that will be available starting March 2012 as IIC2815 at Universidad Católica. Here you will have the opportunity to develop your entrepreneurship idea receiving credits and guidance for it! Don’t miss this opportunity!

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