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June 22, 2012


Lean Startup team

60 people, 30 hours, 15 ideas, 2 winners, 1 goal.

The Lean Startup Machine Comes to Europe

The weekend of 8-10th of June was a weekend I will never forget. Indeed, the things I learned to do were akin to learning to ride a bike for the first time. Of course I didn’t know this as I headed off to Rotterdam with two colleagues from the Dialogues Incubator (Annelies Reyenga and Karin Lems) to attend the “LEAN STARTUP MACHINE” workshop. The purpose of this workshop is for participants to accomplish in just one weekend what takes most starting entrepreneurs six months to do!

What is Lean Startup Machine?
Lean Startup Machine is an intensive three-day workshop in which participants learn how to build a business around a product or service that their potential customers actually want! This methodology, created in Silicon Valley by Eric Reis, author of the book ‘The Lean Startup,’ is based upon rapid, iterative prototyping and testing assumptions in order to develop products that customers actually want. The methodology is based on the following principles:
1) put your idea into action, 2) define who your customer is, 3) identify your customer’s main problem or need, 4) identify a product or service that helps to solve your customer’s problem.

So how did this intense weekend start?
We arrived on Friday June 8th at 6 PM at the CreativeFactory in Rotterdam, feeling lucky to be involved in this first workshop of Lean Startup in Europe. Together with sixty enthusiastic workshop attendees of various backgrounds: from accomplished and successful performers to intrapreneurs and experienced entrepreneurs we worked until late at night. Indeed, the fact that we came from different backgrounds and cultures added an extra dimension to the experience as well as to the outcome.

In order to break the ice, attendees introduced themselves with an adjective starting with the same letter of their first name. I was “King Koen” and my colleagues were ‘Agile Annelies’ and ‘Kind Karin’. After the ice breaker, we gave short pitches about our ideas and formed teams based on the participants’ interests. Each team decided what they were going to work on during the weekend. Experienced entrepreneurs were available to challenge and as mentors gave valuable advice.

So how do you accomplish in one weekend what others normally tackle in six months?
This may sound like the impossible and at times it was indeed quite a challenge to continuously question our assumptions. This was done by asking ourselves the following questions:

• Is the customer we have in mind actually the right customer?
• Is the problem the customer has, a problem worth solving?
• Is our solution capable of solving the problem?

How do you find the answers to these difficult questions? GET OUT OF THE BUILDING!!!

And so we did. We spoke to people (online and offline), testing our assumptions, targeting random people with questions that hopefully would not be too leading. And when the assumptions we made proved not to be correct, then we would start pivoting (i.e. tweaking our proposition). After completing each cycle it was time to get out of the building again, i.e. testing our updated assumption. The idea was to repeat the cycle until we were able to validate – with hard data – that the solution we were proposing was actually an answer to our customer’s problem–a solution that they would actually like to purchase.

Joining the others who have successfully implemented this method
Certain successful organizations are where they are today, because of this method. Flickr, which started as a social community, ended up becoming an online photo management and sharing company through various iterations and pivots. Other companies that have leveraged this methodology include: DropBox and Groupon.

By writing this article we would like to thank the other participants, mentors and the entire organization for putting together this fantastic workshop and showing us how important this methodology is in starting up a successful venture.

Not only did we learn a lot, but we are happy to announce that from the Dialogues Incubator team, Agile Annelies’ group won first place and King Koen’s group (my group) was the proud runner up!

And what is our last message?: if you are working on a new venture, start pivoting now!

This article was written by: Koen Bosma and Karin Lems.

Koen Bosma is a Junior Innovation Manager within Dialogues Incubator. He develops and supports various innovative projects.

Karin Lems works as an Innovation Manager for the Dialogues Incubator and is also Director of iDexpress.

Annelies Reyenga has recently joined the Incubator after working on the launch of a social network platform within ABN AMRO and has been involved in the launch of our crowdfunding platform Seeds.

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