From Lean Startup to Minimum Viable Product to Traction

Startup Weekends attract a wide range of participants, including innovators and inventors who may be unfamiliar with the “lean startup” approach to creating a business that SW advocates. Zurich Startup Weekend shared this great primer that will give you a grounding in the concepts and language you’ll see at Startup Weekend. We’ll also be sharing some definitive readings as the Weekend approaches.

Lean startup modelEric Reis turned his blog into a recently published book, The Lean Startup, which was #2 on the New York Times Bestsellers list. (Inc. Magazine featured a condensed version of Reis’s book if you want further reading. Essentially, Reis developed a business model that encourages startups to find out as quickly as possible whether or not the business idea/product/service is viable. The path to achieving this learning is to create a rough version of your product that goes into a cycle of testing, iterating, testing, iterating, testing, and iterating until the product is viable. An important part of this process is early and frequent customer validation.  The lean startup model came out of a concept in manufacturing where small batches are created so that there is minimal loss of time and money if the market isn’t interested in that version of the product. The same lean process works well applied to technology too. When creating a web-based tool or an app, you can create a mockup to garner feedback without building the actual product or feature, for example.

Minimally viable product or MVP: This is not the same as a prototype! In the Lean Startup model, the goal is to create and test the smallest piece of a business to see if there’s a market for it. Reis defines the MVP as “that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”  Essentially, you’re looking for the minimum set of features needed to learn from your early adopters because you want to learn early what users want and don’t want. It limits spending time and energy on products that no one really wants. Most teams try to develop a minimally viable product during a startup weekend, not the whole business. It looks great to judges if you’re able to validate your idea/product during the weekend.   You may be asking, but how do I do that?

Customer validation or validated learning: There are a number of ways to learn about your customers and what they like and don’t like about your product/service. There’s also a big difference between what someone might say they like and what they’re willing to buy or do. The best validation is showing that customers/users will in fact want your product/service and be willing to pay for it.

You first want to see if there’s any interest. For example, if you already have a free product but are curious if people would pay for some additional features, you could add a button to your site that advertises the new version (which you haven’t built yet!). If a number of users click the button, then you have begun validating that customers are interested. If no one clicks, then all you’ve wasted is the time to develop the concept—you haven’t spent excessive money and time on something no one wants.

During a Startup Weekend, you’re likely to focus on establishing general interest in your product or service, and if you’re lucky, getting some users to act. There’s not a lot of time to build significant traction. One way to establish initial interest is to create a landing page.

Landing page: To test the viability of an idea, a single webpage is sometimes created to see if anyone will sign up for the product/service.  There are several pre-built free pages out there to create landing pages for mobile devices. What’s great about these programs is that they provide data: how many times the page was visited, how many visitors were unique, how many actually signed up.

Here’s an example: The concept for this youth-only site was to provide both advice on creating a business (how to pitch, how to develop an idea, how to market) and to provide a platform for students to pitch their ideas to get seed funding (micro-financing for teens). Our hypothesis was that a student would post a video pitch and then use social media to send it out to his or her network. Friends of friends might also contribute until the student received the money he or she needed to launch a business or community project.

Here are the steps we took to validate the concept that weekend:

  1. We created a landing page and used social media to blast to contacts of everyone on the team. (KickoffLabs showed 73 unique views and 17 users signed up.)
  2. Again using social media, our team sent out a request for any teenagers who had an idea to pitch. (One 13-year-old relative of a team member uploaded a video late Saturday night!)
  3. Once we had the site minimally functional, we posted the teenager’s video pitch and at uploaded a PayPal donate button. (Our featured teenager needed $60; $40 was raised before final pitches on Sunday night. She had the rest the next day!)

For a Startup Weekend, this exercise demonstrated a good conversion rate, and was a fairly solid proof of concept!

Conversion rate: It’s one thing to get users to your site; it’s quite another thing altogether to get them to act/buy/participate. For example, if you send out an email directing folks to a landing page, the first conversion rate will be how many viewers actually click on the link to that landing page. Then the next level of concept validation is how many of these users actually sign up. It’s possible to have more levels of increased engagement beyond this, of course. Each increased level of engagement provides more validated learning about what customers will do. In the Teenstarter example, one measure of a conversation rate would be that out of 73 people who viewed the landing page, 17 actually signed up by providing their emails.

There are other ways to validate what your customers like: interviews are often used

Interviews: Interviews are a great way to gather information during and after a Startup Weekend. Just because you are an educator does not mean that you should assume that you know what all educators will want—still take the time to get feedback from other teachers and administrators. Other participants, organizers and mentors can help you get in contact with people outside your own educator circle. Asking educators on other teams is one good method to gather some immediate input. Showing two or three versions of a product works well to provide you with specific feedback about features.

Mockups: Remember that you do not have to create a full product to get feedback. A mockup can provide the same information with much less time investment.

Traction: Once you’ve validated your concept, you next want to build traction, something that’s unlikely to occur during a Startup Weekend because of the condensed timetable but definitely an area of focus as you move your business forward. Traction means building a set of early adopters and being able to get those adopters to do something. For example, if you’re building a community-based site, then your traction would be connected to how many users are interacting on your site. If you’re selling a product to schools, how many schools have signed? If you’re interested in investors, then they will be interested in your traction.

When you’re at Startup Weekend, learn as much as you can from other participants and mentors about other effective ways to develop your concept into a viable business!








Startup Weekend judging criteria

The Startup Weekend judging criteria are broken up into three sections. Teams are judged according to the following 3 criteria:

  • Business Model
    How does the team plan on making this a successful business? Have they thought about (either solved or identified problems) competition, how to scale, acquiring customers, their revenue model etc?
  • Customer Validation
    Are teams building something that people actually want? How well does the team understand their customer and their customer’s needs? Did the team get out and talk to customers? What is the value proposition to customers?
  • Execution
    Have they established a “Minimal Viable Product” for the weekend (software, hardware, etc.)? *Note: an MVP is the minimum set of features to be able to start collecting data. Does it deliver a compelling and captivating user experience? Were they able to demo something functional?







Ready… Aim… Pitch Fire!

Startup Weekend is about connecting the entrepreneurs, makers, and innovators in our community toward solving real problems by building new viable businesses from scratch in one weekend.

Pitch Fire

The main event on Friday night is called Pitch Fire. Anyone with a new business idea will be given exactly one minute to tell the room what problem they intend to solve, how they propose to solve it, and what kind of team they need to assemble. 


Pitching is Caring

When our community comes together to share the problems we see, and the solutions we’ve conceived, powerful things happen. At Startup Weekend, it’s common to discover a handful of people that are deeply interested in the same things we are. Sharing our ideas is a first step toward discovering the resources and relationships we need.

It’s not required or expected that every participant pitch a business idea, but it’s strongly recommended! The experience of pitching to an audience and discovering whether your message is clearly understood by all is an important part of the entrepreneurial journey.

If you don’t bring an idea or aren’t comfortable pitching, that’s okay. Just bring your passion, skills, and tools. There are many important roles to play throughout the weekend. You’ll find a good business idea to work on, have tons of fun, learn new things, eat great food, and meet some amazing people. 

Sell Your Solution; Sell Yourself

While people are listening to your idea, they’re also observing you. They’re considering whether they want to work with you in close proximity for the next two days. They’re assessing whether you seem able to work well with a team and sustain the business going forward. 

You Bring More Than an Idea

As a member of the team, you hope to assemble you’ll want to quickly include a note about who you are and what you bring to the table. There’s no room in a startup for someone who is merely the “idea person”. You also bring experiences, skills, attitudes, relationships, resources, etc. What strengths do you have which are relevant? Why are you the right person to explore and execute a solution? 

Pitch Pattern

A simple 60-second pitch may look like: 

:10 seconds – Introduce yourself.  
:20 seconds – Describe the problem you’ll solve.  
:20 seconds – Describe the solution.   
:10 seconds – Tell us who/what you need to pull it off.  

Choosing a Name

During your initial pitch on Friday night, your goal is to communicate clearly, be memorable, and generate interest in your idea. Choose a working title which is simple, descriptive, and memorable. Don’t worry — you can change it later. Imagine what someone would think about your idea based on the name alone. Without hearing your pitch, would they be able to guess what your business is about?

Practicing Your Pitch

Practice to a timer. On Friday night you’ll have exactly 1 minute to pitch your idea. It goes by fast. Practice to a timer a dozen times before you get up and do it front of an audience. 

Practice with people. Practice your pitch with a variety of people. Try it on a grandparent, a friend, a coworker, a classmate, and a few strangers. Stick to your one minute pitch when practicing on people. After you pitch, ask them what they think you’re trying to do. You’ll discover what aspects of your pitch are unclear and learn to correct them so that people understand your proposal the first time. 








Day 1: Startup Weekend Zürich Spring Edition 2016

„Today you have the chance to find the person you want to work together forever.” – David Andersen from Denmark opened the Startup Weekend Zürich 2016 Spring edition!

We are happy to announce that the doors of Startup Weekend Zürich are open again and we were welcoming our participants at a new and beautiful location of Samsung. 86 people registered for the event. Sold out event! The weather hasn’t been that nice this year – but it is for the Startup Weekend, it seems it tries to show off for all the people who are coming to Zürich from different countries for the Startup Weekend. It is great to see the energy in the room and motivation of participants.

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David, the SWZH facilitator from Denmark broke the ice even more. We jumped, we clapped, we were giving high fives and we baked ideas. He emphasized to let the ideas growing, go out, meet local people, test your ideas during the weekend and join a team even if your own idea hasn’t been chosen. Since you will learn the most from the working process, methodologies and from the others. As we heard in the introduction, who knows, maybe you find your future business partner already this weekend.

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No talk – all action. This is the motto of Startup Weekend. David talked about the importance of the energy and vibe. “Let’s get the energy going!” The video of the Insane Drummer to visualise on how to do it.

8pm, time for the pitchfire. People were lining up to pitch their ideas and more people joined in. More people gained the courage to pitch and stood up as well. We listened to 35 ideas, this number beat last years and it is not going to be an easy competition this year neither. The marketplace was loud and busy, but the 14 best ideas got chosen by the participants themselves. Teams have been formed and the work already started on the first evening.

Let’s see how they proceed on the following days.

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The Why, the Who, and the How

Let’s review a few questions people who’ve never been to a Startup Weekend usually ask:

Why attend Startup Weekend ?

  • Education: Startup Weekends are all about learning through the act of creating.  Don’t just listen to theory, build your own strategy and test it as you go.
  • Build your network: This isn’t just a happy-hour. Startup Weekend attracts your community’s best makers and do-ers. By spending a weekend working to build scalable companies that solve real-world problems, you will build long-lasting relationships and possibly walk away with a job or even an investor.
  • Find a co-founder: We all know it’s not just about the idea – it’s about the team. Startup Weekend is hands down the best way to find someone you can actually launch a startup with.
  • Learn something new: Step outside of your comfort zone. With a whole weekend dedicated to letting your creative juices flow, Startup Weekends are perfect opportunities to work on a new platform, learn a new programming language, or just try something different.
  • Get face time with thought leaders: Local tech and startup leaders participate in Startup Weekends as coaches and judges. Get some one-on-one time with the movers and shakers in your community.
  • Actually launch a business: Over 36% of Startup Weekend startups are still going strong after 3 months.  Roughly 80% of participants plan on continuing working with their team or startup after the weekend.

Who should attend Startup Weekend Zurich ?

Come with an open mind and get ready to build something truly amazing and innovative. Designers, developers, scientists, students, teachers, marketing, sales, strategy, etc; you are most welcome to participate in the weekend. Diversity drives innovation and success.

Do I need to come with an idea?

If you have an idea for a startup, then great! We hope you pitch for the weekend. If you don’t have an idea, that’s also alright! Come and spend the weekend, listen to the ideas being pitched and maybe something strikes your interest. The weekend is all about learning about the startup ideation process and learning from each other.

Register for the event here.








5 things to expect at Startup Weekend

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1. Late nights and lots of coffee

Startup Weekend kicks off Friday night with 1 minute pitches and ends with the final presentations on Sunday evening. That’s not a whole lot of time to do everything needed to wow the judges, including customer validation, design, and the actual building of your idea. To make the most out of this time, you might have to sacrifice some sleep. Be prepared to stay up late coding and up early the next morning getting back at it. I promise, it’ll be worth it. And coffee helps!

2. Learn something new

Have you been wanting to learn a new coding language like Node.js, play with cool things like Arduinos, Raspberry Pis, and 3D Printers, or have an idea you think could turn into a business? Well there’s no better place to do it then a Startup Weekend.

3. Meet some cool people

Startup Weekend is going to be packed full of talented designers, developers, hardware hackers, marketers, and people who love startups. Expect to work closely with your team and mingle with everyone else. You never know, that person might be your future co-founder, next employee, or someone who can help you with your day job.

4. Actually build something

Startup Weekend’s slogan is “No talk, All action”. That means there’s no time to hum and haw over options and there’s certainly no red tape to cut though. If you have an idea, you can build it immediately. Aim to have something built by the final presentation on Sunday and maybe, if you’re brave enough, even do a live demo!

5. Mentorship and advice from experts

At Startup Weekend, there will be a whole slew of mentors there to help your team out. These will be people with a whole lot of experience building things so I suggest you ask them questions and have them scrutinize your plan. The more help you get, the better your final pitch will be and the better chance you’ll have at taking home the grand prize!

 

Bonus: You’ll quit your job and start a company

This might not happen to everyone, but I’m willing to bet it will happen to someone. Over the course of the weekend, you’ll be validating your ideas, talking to customers, and building a ton of awesome things. But after Sunday, everything doesn’t have to stop. You can take what you’ve worked on and turn it into a real business that might even let you quit your job. It happens every time at Startup Weekends.








Fintech Startup Weekend Zurich – And the winner is….

The Fintech Startup Weekend Zurich was incredible. We had more than 70 participants, 18 fintech ideas pitched and eventually 12 fintech startups.

We opened the ceremony with a panel of discussion. Holger Spielberg, head of innovation at Credit Suisse discussed the importance of fintech and its challenges. We then dived deeply into a neuroscientific view of disruptive innovation and leadership with Dr. Khoris, neurologist, trainer and coach at JKH-consulting. Finally Andrew Hyde – founder of Startup Weekend and Startup Week – related how 8 years ago in Colorado he initiated the largest startup events series in the world.

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The teams had then 4 minutes to pitch and 3 minutes to answer the jury’s questions.

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After a long deliberation, the jury composed of Holger Spielberg, Mike Baur, Didier Sornette, Dirk Wiedmann and Michael Hartweg has selected 3 winners. Here are the results:

Our 3rd prize went to Sensorbay. The jury decided to reward them for their idea of turning private user data and location into a user revenue stream. They provoked an interesting discussion about the definition of “fintech” and its boundaries. “Finance follows closely value creation and Sensorbay is definitely creating value” explained Didier Sornette, Professor on the Chair of Entrepreneurial Risks at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich. Each member of Sensorbay received a 50.- voucher to redeem at Swisscom.

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3rd place – Team Sensorbay

ATMapp earned the second prize. Their ATM locator tackles the high costs when withdrawing money abroad, by indicating each ATM’s exchange rates and withdrawing fees. They won the Swiss Start Up Factory coaching prize: a 10-hour coaching provided by Mike Baur, Founder and Chairman of the Swiss Startup Factory along with 100.- Swisscom vouchers.

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2nd place – Team ATMapp

 

And the first prize went to Crowdcrawler, a crowdfunding real-estate aggregator with added value services. They convinced the jury with their practical and well-thought concept that helps global investors to make timely and informed real estate investment decisions by aggregating and comparing crowdfunding deals. Besides the 200.- francs Swisscom vouchers, Fintech Startup Weekend offers them the “mission to London” prize: on January 11-12 they will visit the fintech ecosystem in London and attend the London Blockchain conference.

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Winners – team Crowdcrawler

Last but not least, Unter got the public recognition with their commoditized service exchange.

We wish there were more prices to reward and encourage the excellent presentations and ideas we saw on Sunday.

A big round of applause to the jury and the coaches that came to support our teams with coaching and advises!

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Congratulations again to all of you and see you at the next edition!

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Startup Weekend Zurich – Day#3 & Final Results

Last day of the Startup Weekend came. People seemed a bit tired in the morning, but instead of giving up, they need to make a full attack in order to be the best in the afternoon.
Pitch tech checks go quick. Teams come one-by-one to check their presentation and get some tips from the organizers. The challenge is big. They need to work out an idea, put together a presentation, convince the judges and make sure that the pitch is no longer than 4 minutes. This is definitely not easy. In the working area there is a tense mood, group pictures are done for the presentations, participants are staring at the computer, the presentation needs to be very smart.
4 pm, pitch room is ready, visitors start to arrive to watch the final pitches. Interesting to see how big the interest is for the event. The apero room is full of people. The energy of building a startup in 54 hours reached a lot of people, and the atmosphere was active and energized, only the ones who was presenting at the final were a bit nervous.
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At 5 pm the event started. After the introduction of the judges the teams had the chance to show what they were worked on the whole weekend.
Over 130 people and the 3 judges in the pitch room at Microsoft heard great presentations. It can really be said that they did their best and every team took the competition very seriously. We had projects related to health care, real estate, but there were also ones related to dining, travel or technology. The jury didn’t have an easy job this time neither. But they made their decision, and I am happy to announce the winning teams:
  • Best Pitch: ConnectContact – Full fledged solution to keep up to date your business contacts
  • Best prototype: Insumo –  Brings you real success stories that will make your heart beat faster and motivate you in your ventures
  • Custom Motor won the special price of a design coaching by creative hub –  A platform for engineers to design small individual customized motors
  • The overall winner is team Dentra: trusted platform for hand picked dental services in Europe! Congrats!!
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Such a great event and such a great occasion to meet great people. I wish all the teams to manage to develop their ideas in the future and became a startuper once for living.
[Thank you Orsi for writing these blog posts! & Werner Büchel for the great pictures and memories]







Startup Weekend Zürich – Day #2 – The day of hard work

The teams that have been formed on Friday evening arrived back early on Saturday morning to Microsoft Switzerland, the location where Startup Weekend takes place in Zürich this time. The work they planned yesterday needs to be accomplished today. This is not easy, but they all knew this, that is why they applied. The venue is full of flow-charts, time-lines, post-its and filled lean-canvases.

Before lunch we had the chance to say hello to our fellow startupers in Trondheim, Norway via Skype. There are six Startup Weekends going on different locations all over the world this weekend, hard to imagine though that any of those would be more international than the one in Zürich right now.

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During the afternoon we welcomed the couches, 13 mentors with many different professions. It was nice to see how the couches got energised from the atmosphere and the environment of Satrtup Weekend from the very first time. The teams presented their project and the couches also introduced themselves. So matching the teams with couches became easy, they could choose how they would like to work together.

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During the afternoon we had a very useful speech from Carlos Morales, the co-organiser of Lean Startup Zürich Meetup about how to put a great idea into practice. We also had the chance to listen to Ash Maurya himself, the author of the Running Lean and Creator of Lean Canvas – Helping Entrepreneurs Everywhere Succeed. He joined us via Skype from the US and talked more about lean canvas and answered questions of the audience.

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We finished the day with even more work and better defined ideas. The time was passing very quick, the day was over and the teams need to be ready with the first version of the pitch right on Sunday morning. Let’s see how they succeed.








Startup Weekend Zürich – Day #1 – Let’s get started!

The day came. Venue is ready. Name tags are printed. Facilitator made the final tech-check. You can almost touch the excitement of the organisers. 5pm, first participant arrived and I am happy to announce the Startup Weekend Zürich 2015 fall Edition officially started.

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Almost 80 participants, 80 ambitious and enthusiastic people from all around the world came to test and compete their startup ideas or help others to reach success. We have startupers from UK, France, Hungary, Slovnenia, Italy, Denmark, Germany and more – besides Switzerland. We heard 33 pitches, all very good ideas. So the competition is already big from the very beginning, since only 13 ideas were chosen to be developed during the weekend. Teams have been formed, they have already started to work and put the base down for their projects.

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Teams in 2015 Fall are:

  • DIGA
  • Frame it!
  • Link nexus
  • Custom Motor
  • White card
  • Heathgram
  • Reality Estate
  • No Q
  • me
  • Indoor Locate
  • Flat Form
  • Intermed

I can say that everyone went to bed exhausted but full of experiences after the first afternoon. Many thanks for Microsoft Schweiz to provide us this beautiful venue for the event.