Lean Startup Machine: 1 Part Learning + 1 Part Mentorship.. Stir!

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By Kelley Boyd (Founder & Strategist, Think Experience)

My first experience at Lean Startup Machine (LSM) was also the first Lean Startup Machine ever held. It was just over a year ago, and I mean that literally. I walked into LSM at Hive at 55 and began relationships that I hold among the closest in my professional life today.

As an attendee at the first #LsmNYC, I absorbed firsthand guidance from two actual practitioners of Lean: Brant Cooper, Co-Author of The Entrepreneurs Guide to Customer Development, and Giff Constable, who was going “lean” with his startup Aprizi.

The progenitor of the movement, Eric Ries, also played a role. He Skyped in to welcome and orient us to the philosophy of Lean, then judged the teams along with our onsite mentor practitioners.

At the time, I knew nothing of the movement…though the techniques used at that first #LsmNYC to understand potential customers were very similar to the prospecting techniques I had learned as a sales professional selling technology to early adopters and early markets. But I digress!

Since that first experience, I have gone on to adopt Lean vernacular -— speaking, teaching and mentoring at LSM’s and spreading the word at other startup and technology workshops and weekends.

Since I go and do, I know that mentorship is the key differentiator between “hack-a-thon” style events, and events like Lean Startup Machine which teach actionable skills.

The Expertise and Experience the Entrepreneurs Bring is Amazing

Does it get better than hearing directly from Eric Ries about what you will be learning and putting into practice for the next 54 hours? Believe it or not, it does! There’s tremendous value to being able to work one-on-one, shoulder-to-shoulder with the guys who refined lean methodologies —- Brant Cooper, Patrick Vlaskovits, Obie Fernandez, et al. They are among a litany of tech celebrities that Lean Startup Machine has consistently delivered to the attendees.

Add in people like LUXr’s Janice Fraser, Launchbit founders Elizabeth Yin and Jennifer Chin, and KISSmetrics CEO Hiten Shah, bringing big brains and working with you through your assumptions to make sure that you have clarity:

  • What are you going to build?
  • How you will you measure feedback?
  • How will you learn from those results?
  • How will you iterate?

The depth of the bench that LSM puts together is just amazing.

What is really exciting is what happens after the weekend. Though the goal of LSM is to educate and reinforce Lean Startup principles and methodologies, the long-term implication of being an LSM Alum is that you have access to resources over the long haul. A mentor who believes in you might make introductions to others who can contribute to your success.

Case in Point: Natasha Gajewski

Natasha Gajewski showed up for Lean Startup Machine in San Francisco all the way from New Jersey. She had been fanning the flame for a health-related software application that she needed, and which she knew lots of other people needed. She saw the call for Lean Startup Machine applications and decided it was now or never (#JFDI).

Natasha took the leap and bought a ticket. The software application she built was called “Symple”. Seriously—how great is that name? She showed up with 40 target prospects for her app, but not a clue where to begin. She pitched her idea, and quite quickly an awesome, yet temporary, team formed around her. Over the course of the weekend SympleApp was born. Targeted at persons who suffer from chronic disease, the app prompts you to keep track of your symptoms, and standardizes the information in a way that enables physicians to more accurately devise treatment plans. Chronic diseases can’t be cured—but symptoms can be alleviated. By empowering physicians with access to more data about their patients, it allows them to better manage their treatment plans.

In the weeks after Lean Startup Machine, Natasha leveraged the momentum of the event to find and hire a full-time developer. She was also able to pique the interest of, and connect with, investor Esther Dyson, all the while staying connected to fellow participants from Lean Startup Machine. Janice Frasier of LUXr also hooked Natasha up with a kick-ass template to create a poster for submission at mHealth, a healthcare innovation showcase in Cambridge, MA.

So, why should you attend Lean Startup Machine? If you only want to learn about Lean methodologies -— you can do that by reading Eric Ries’s new book. Which, by the way, I am reading right now.

But it is not just about learning the methodologies. Lean Startup Machine is about learning from doing with fellow early adopters and technologists, and the rank and file entrepreneur who is each and every day #JFDI.

This post was originally posted at Lean Startup Machine’s blog.

Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.

About the guest blogger: Kelley Boyd is an active participant in the Lean Startup® Movement across the US and Europe. A veteran of early market sales, with more than 20 years of experience in the technology space she is focused on refining the techniques, methodologies and tools for validating the customer and finding a scalable and replicable sales model. She is well known for her engaging presentation style and for the ability to distill and articulate lean methodologies, and blogs at Think Experience. Follow her on Twitter at @msksboyd.

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