So I have been a little light on the blog posts of late but that is because I have shifted more from thinking and theorising to doing, which is no bad thing. Since I last blogged there has been some significant progress.
I spent last weekend locked up in a flat in sunny Largs with a potential technical co-founder. While I wasn’t actively looking for a technical co-founder-I have previously blogged about the issues of being a non-technical founder- I was very much open to the idea. Michael approached me after reading this blog. Michael had been working on a similar project assessing how the internet could be used to deliver learning and teaching resources to teenagers studying biology at school. When Michael read the blog he was coming to the realisation that the market was too small to build a sustainable business on.
When we initially met for a coffee it seemed that it was a good connect and there was definitely potential for a partnership. I am not precious about my idea and my mantra has always been that I am happy to include anyone in the business if they can add real value. However, no matter how technically incompetent I may be I was in no rush to go jumping into bed without doing some personal ‘due diligence’. As such we went away for the weekend to discuss the idea in more detail but ultimately to establish if we could work together over the long-term. As Michael so succinctly articulated it- “It’s my objective to find out if you’re a cock!”. No doubt there will be some challenging times ahead but ultimately we got on really well and have a shared passion for delivering on the idea and now have a clear idea of what we need to do in the early stages to make this a success
What all this does mean is that work on the Minimum Viable Product can really start to ramp up and we should have something up by the end of next week at the latest.
I have spoken to numerous people who have had both successful and unsuccessful experiences of getting involved with co-founders that they don’t know. In my experience there are so many unknowns in the business at this early stage and rather than trying to work out everything at the start the most important thing for me is to ensure that there is alignment over the key issues. Thanks to Peter Jaco at Cloud Tomo for his advice to write everything down and agree on everything that has been discussed (you should see the size of the mind map from the weekend!). Another key learning point is don’t make quick, easy decisions at the start because you don’t want to rock the boat…eventually these will come out and when they do there will be a lot more to lose. Face any difficult issues face on from the start- whether these be around equity, roles and responsibilities.
I have heard many people comparing the process to finding a ‘lover’ or a marriage but since we have just been away for the weekend together I decided to steer clear of this analogy!
If you are going through similar process I would highly recommend reading the relevant chapters in The Founder’s Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman, it really opened my eyes to some of the problems that can occur later on in the business based on decisions made at the very start.
Now to get back to some real work….
Following a great comment by Ian Stevenson on my previous post of ‘When Should a Startup be Looking for Investment?’ it has prompted me to write this short blog post.
One element I had left out of the diagram was the importance of relationship building in the investment process. Ian’s point was that while a startup is going through the process of establishing product/market fit that they should be building relationships with investors so that when it does become time to raise capital to accelerate the business that they have a good understanding of you and your business.
I am in the position where I don’t require investment at the moment but will need to start assessing the possibilities in the future. I think this sounds fantastic and I have always thought that it is a good idea and in my interest (I wil be along at Engage Invest Expoloit hosted by Informatics Ventures on Thursday); but I have always been unsure if the investment community are willing to invest their time and effort in getting to know very early stage businesses. I have been to a few of these events now and the investors only seem to be interested in talking to companies that are looking for money now and offer high rates of return.
I started writing this blog primarily to raise awareness of myself and my business and to share experience and learning but hopefully some people in the investment community take notice and this can be the beginning of a relationship…
Thanks for bringing this to my attention Ian, if you are an investor or are a startup going through this process I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions and if you’re at EIE give me a shout.
When this idea started out it was very much focused on delivering personal development to individuals. As I have spoken to more people I have recognised that it is about effectively changing behaviour and habits in our daily lives across a wide range of areas to try and reduce the gap between what we set out to achieve and what we ultimately end up doing.
I have started to think that this blog offers a great opportunity to test some of the theories I have around the delivery and implementation of theory and concept. I still need to think through a few of the points but think of this as an early stage test of the theories and some of the delivery methods.
Even among those who are aware of the theory behind the Lean Startup movement there is poor implementation of the basic principles. I have lost count of the number of startups who have told me they have spent the past x months (or sometimes years) developing a product without so much as discussing it with anyone never mind customers or “I know it is a good product but I just don’t know who for…”
The way I see it is that I am already writing the blog and I have wanted to tidy up the delivery any way, so it makes sense to try and add a little structure around it and hopefully increase the value delivered to readers. When I look back on this blogs short history and my experience of implementing the principles I can see that there has been a lot confusion around what exactly it all means.
This is still a massive learning experience for me and I don’t pertain to be an expert by any means and I welcome as much input from readers as possible. I truly believe that we will be more successful if we work together. Hopefully we can continue to change the conversation both among founders and between investors and founders.
I will explain in more detail tomorrow what I am looking to achieve and how I will go about doing so, until then…..
So it has been a rather hectic couple of weeks but I just wanted to give you all a little update on where I am (it is as much for my benefit- to keep me focused and on track).
I need to set aside some time to focus on pulling out all the info from the initial Business Model Generation session and develop a summary of each segment of the Lean Canvas clearly articulating the hypothesises and the experiments to test those assumption.
I have started lining up some formal Customer Discovery interviews for the week beginning 7th May across the three potential customer segments: individuals interested in personal development, coaches and training providers and businesses/organisations.
If you fall into one of these categories and would like to be involved in the process I’d love to hear from you.
In the meantime I have had a number of very interesting informal conversations that have both challenged my assumptions at the same time as validating some of my thinking and introduced a few new issues.
It has amazed me how many potential customers get whole Lean Startup approach to business and are very excited to be part of the whole process. What is interesting is that I have always thought of the process as being of great value to the startup but as we chatted it became increasingly apparent it as a great potential opportunity (if conducted properly) for the customer to help mould a solution to a problem they are having.
The second interesting thing that has happened is that I have met a potential technical co-founder who has been working on a similar idea but in a very narrow niche that has proven to be too narrow to build a business around. It is still in the early stages and while he really gets what it is we are trying to achieve we need to spend some time getting to know each other and make sure that we can work together. To that end I have suggested that we get away for the weekend next week and spend the weekend getting to know each other solidly focusing on the idea and planning how we are likely to proceed.
Now that I am starting to find my feet a little with the blog I am having some thoughts of how I can improve it (other than the design and sorting out the rss feed) that I will share with you tomorrow.
Exciting times ahead…