Sharing the love – tips from #startup founders

Startup Victoria, with support from inspire9, BlueChilli, PwC and the Australian Computer Society brought together a mix of expert speakers who shared their insights, experience and advice for aspiring startups. The evening took the form of a series of lightning talks, and again demonstrated the contribution and importance of the Lean Startup Melbourne Meetup events to the local startup community.

First up, Adam Stone from Speedlancer reflected on his experience of the 500 Startups accelerator program, via 6 simple lessons:

  1. Make sure you connect, network and avoid all marketing BS in your pitch
  2. Achieve the target of three growth hacks a week
  3. Work out your Unit Economics
  4. Remember to hustle – it’s important to secure market tests and investor meetings
  5. Play ping-pong (a lot)
  6. Target angel investors rather than VCs

Next, Kristeene Phelan, who was the first regional employee at Etsy, explored the theme of communication, when working with global and remote development teams:

  • Choose your collaboration tools carefully, and have a backup for your backup
  • Know your international time zones (and daylight saving changes…)
  • Compromise the scheduling of cross-border conference calls
  • Slow it down when talking live to multicultural and multilingual teams
  • Get the team together in person whenever possible, and also make time for 1:1 dialogue – face to face time is important

Then, Thomas Banks, Creative Director at the Centre for Access made a very personal and impassioned presentation on website accessibility: about 99% of websites are inaccessible to people with disabilities, underscoring the importance of having an inclusive approach to web and app design.

Geoff Dumsday talked about the significant work CSIRO is doing in accelerated innovation. Most of us probably know about CSIRO’s role in inventing WiFi and polymer banknotes. But perhaps less well-known is the fact that CSIRO work with around 1600 clients, including 350 multi-national companies, and have over 300 commercial licenses in use for technology and inventions coming out of the work their scientists and researchers do. As Australia’s innovation catalyst, CSIRO is enhancing the entrepreneurial culture through evidence-based R&D. Such as the invention of non-animal gelatine for use in biomedicine, food and cosmetics.

LIFX co-founder Daniel May pitched the need to make products that add value or make a difference to the world. As examples, he referred to his new project, AgreeTree, which is trying to take the pain out of drafting commercial contracts; and also to the work of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and how it is engaging entrepreneurs via an accelerator program.

Finally, Layla Foord from Envato covered the topic of building successful teams, especially when hiring early-stage employees. Using the theme of “pitch in, not mark territory”, she emphasised leveraging attitude and mindset over job titles.

This smorgasbord of ideas and content was a useful reminder to aspiring founders and entrepreneurs that while a great idea (backed by a solid business plan, market traction and protectable IP) will help get you motivated, the human touch is vital to gaining momentum for your project.

Next week: #FinTech – A Tale of Two Cities: Melbourne vs Sydney

Product Development 101: What we learned at Start-Up School

Lean Model 001

Another large turn-out last Monday evening for Melbourne Lean Start-Up’s monthly event, hosted by Inspire9 and supported by SmartStartCity, Kussowski Brothers, Blue Chilli and AlphaStation.

This month’s theme was “Validated Learning – what to do before you launch your start-up” or as I like to call it, “Product Development 101”.

The evening kicked off with a lightning talk video presentation by Ash Maurya discussing his lean canvas 1-page business model. Well worth investigating before you even start writing a single line of code!

Next up, Tweaky offered some insights on the value of using PPC (Pay Per Click) pre-launch analysis targeting Search Intent (Google) and Demographic Intent (Facebook) to generate interest in your new product.

GetViable followed up with a discussion of the old-age conundrum for any new product or business: “Have you built a solution in search of a problem?” And even if you have correctly identified the problem, is it actually worth solving? The bottom line was, talk to your customers, listen and learn about their problems, then figure out whether they are willing to pay for your solution (and how much).

Then Flippa talked about the value of “observing your customers in the wild” – to gain insights and identify opportunities. Again, talking to and engaging with customers is critical to the product development process.

Finally, Envato presented some models and processes for collaborative design, essentially taking a look at user-centred design within a lean start-up context.

It’s very easy to lose sight of fundamental product development principles in any business start-up, especially for tech-based projects. But what each presenter stressed was the need to do your homework, to apply a coherent and sequential methodology to your new product development, and to adopt a continuous feedback loop to capture market insights and embed customer learning into the process.

To summarise, here is a tried-and-tested Product Development Cycle I have used for many years:

  • Idea
  • Market Research
  • Design Specification
  • Business Case
  • Build
  • Pre-sell
  • Production
  • Launch
  • Evaluation

Repeat ad infinitum.

Disclosure: The author does not have any connection to or commercial relationship with the presenters or sponsors mentioned in this blog. He did manage to grab a couple of free beers.