A Pivot is a significant change in direction
When Mike began to introduce Todd and I to the launchpad methodology, based on his iCorps experience at Stanford, he predicted that around week Four or Five things would start changing. Basically, he said, this is the point where many of the startups began learning how little they knew about their market or found that their initial hypothesis was wrong. Last Friday was week Five and there it was- a lot of teams making major changes or contemplating them. Some learned important things that more clearly defined a better market opportunity, others found themselves in dead-ends. Both are valuable learnings.
The customer discovery process was created to generate exactly these kinds of results, before you commit time and resources to an idea. With ‘normal’ startup methodology, all of our teams would have made extensive progress writing business plans. Several already had done them. And virtually all of them would have been wrong in significant ways.
So, while there was some real pain out there last week, things will look better as a result. We see teams tightening up their focus as their discovery process forces them to accept reality. Some teams are wrestling with being wrong and having to admit it. Others have had their ideas validated but only after they got better at expressing them. And others are still working on it.
So, we expect some pivots before our next class on April 5th. Just a reminder: Pivots are major changes in direction. This should be interesting. This stuff works!
We’re initiating office hours so founder teams can get one on one help with the various challenges you’re working your way through. We have a couple of different approaches.
Todd will be available at State St on Wednesdays from 10-1pm. He asks the following:
Please send a calendar invite for a time block of your choosing, not to exceed 20 minutes, including your venue/modailty preference: Phone, Skype, or Live (39 State St.)
This time can be free form, but please come armed with (and include in your invite) at least one specific question or issue you want to discuss. Themes hitting your radar this week might include:
* Did I contact 10 customers last week, will I contact 10 this week, and if not, why?
* Have I crafted a set of testable hypotheses, with pass/fail criteria?
* Do I have questions/concerns about particular areas of my BMC, and why?
* Is my pitch/product summary sufficiently succinct/compelling/descriptive?
* Do I have a MVP?
* Have I engaged the right mentor(s)/advisor(s), and if not what am I doing about that?
I (Martin) will be available on Thursdays from 12-3 for drop-ins. Shoot me a note if you are coming by and please understand that you may be sharing a discussion with other teams. The issues Todd mentions apply but I’m open to discussion of general issues regarding your business model, resources, etc.
MindWriter changes the way writing is taught
The MindWriter team has created software that could radically change the way writing is taught. It gives the teacher insight into the student’s process when they are out of the classroom. Yowsa!
Gradfly has been working on their idea for a while now and they’ve jumped into the LaunchPad blogging process with both feet (or wings). Check out their video and their progress reports on the G-fly Nest blog!
We’ll be calling out a team blog or two each week so stay tuned!
HTRLaunchPad founder teams are required to create a basic WordPress blog and to post to it regularly. The posts cover their experience talking to customers, discovering what works and doesn’t work with their business model, changes they’re making and the general experience of doing a startup. These blogs are public and offer a way for other teams to see how their fellow founders are doing.
Another big benefit of blogging your LaunchPad experience comes when others in your area of expertise find you via the blog. This is a great way to expand your customer discovery process. You can also point people to your blog so they understand what you are trying to accomplish through this program.
Setting up the blogs is easy. Just go to WordPress.com and register for a free account. Free accounts may have ads on them and you have the option of paying for a Pro account to remove them; however a few ads really don’t matter for our needs. The exception is if you decide you want your WordPress site to become the primary website for your business. Then you’d want to register a domain and pay for a pro account.
Once you’re logged into WordPress they offer a great tutorial for setting up your blog. I recommend checking it out before you even open your account. Just follow their instructions and you’ll be up and running in minutes. And if you have any questions, just shoot me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BTW, this blog was built on WordPress.com.
It was not discovered in a flash of genius.
This is the first of a series of posts to help those outside of the HTRLaunchPad classes get a feel for what’s involved. The first class is this Friday and all founding teams have been given a simple task. They must provide a basic three slide PPT deck describing the following:
- The founding team with contact info
- Their idea
- The problem it solves and the market(s) it serves
At this stage the second and third slides are almost certainly educated guesses or attempts to estimate reality. They or may not be correct. The purpose of the LaunchPad process is to provide a framework to help the founders discover whether their idea is viable and marketable, before they invest sums of money and energy trying to build a business around it. It is a hypothesis to be tested, not an assumption to be verified. Many, if not most, will be wrong at this stage. This is not a bad thing.
When the teams come to the class on Friday they will be given 5-10 minutes to present their concept to the group, which will include all the teams, the teaching team and any mentors who wish to attend. I’ll be covering that in another post.
A note about ideas: It seems ironic to me that ideas are often represented by a light bulb going off in the head, a flash of creative genius. Ironic because, as most of you know, Edison didn’t come up with the lightbulb in a flash. He had a hypothesis regarding electricity moving through a filament in a controlled environment. With the correct environment and material for the filament, it would produce artificial light. He then proceeded to test over 1000 materials before discovering the right combination. And he literally changed the world.