Just the other week another Lean Startup Machine came to Toronto, occupying the [IN]cubes office in Toronto April 26th -28th. I’m not a coder or a startup person myself. In reality I’m an observer whose seen the frustration and spark that goes on when you are forced to face strangers with your ideas and watch them either tear you a new one, confirm your hypothesis or reveal the unexpected. I’ve always wanted to get involved but I still feel like a newbie writer whose still searching for his sense of self, of belonging.
I’ve found in my own experience doing Startup Weekend and LSM that its the unexpected that really reveals a lot. Lean Startup Machine parallels the structure you find at Startup Weekend. You pitch, the best build teams and you go through the process of validating the idea. The only difference is that at Startup Weekend your team is coding from the start. I was helping out as one of the Toronto people who helped put it on, it always reminds me of the risks and rewards out there for those who are willing to head into the unknown.
At LSM you are working on the problem, seeing if that awesome idea you had at the start really has substance. More often than not what you thought and what reality says are 2 very different things. Soon enough most teams are pivoting so much they might as well be spinning. While at startup weekend once you commit to building going back and changing things becomes a tad harder.
LSM takes that pressure off so you can focus on the problem itself, understanding your own assumptions and breaking them down to find the nugget hidden within people’s own experiences. That’s why I think you see so many more pivots in LSM compared to Startup Weekend. You can pivot at the last minute and use everything you have learned to support why you switched things up. Whereas at Startup Weekend once you get to a certain point you have to continue because of the extreme time constraints.
At LSM you take your riskiest hypothesis and try to validate that by “getting out of the building” and talking to your potential customers and anyone you can get your hands. It means you have to confront the fear of getting out there and being rejected by people which is hard to do at the start but if you work with someone else it makes the process less intimidating.
You learn how to ask questions, what gets responses and the dangers of leading them to your answer instead of having them speak their minds. The goal isn’t about the idea you started out with but finding a real tangible pain point and showing the judges that there is a need need for your solution. Often at this stage it’s about getting proof, the best proof is usually cold hard cash.
This proves that someone was willing to give you money with little to no chance of your solution ever being made real. It shows that someone wants it so bad they are willing to take that small if not important risk with their money and if there is one person, maybe there is more. It’s more of a physiological barrier you’re breaking down than anything else and I think if you can get over them and find enough people that feel similarly then maybe, just maybe there is something there.
That’s the magic the teams are trying to find. I wonder as someone who wants to get into his writing more if there is a way to apply the LSM process to what I find is a solitary pursuit of writing. I’ve feared doing it out of failure, that I can’t succeed but after so much time wandering, I’ve realized I have nothing to lose.
My hypothesis is this: By living and writing what I’m passionate about I can find who I am and what I was put here to do. How do I prove such a personal hypothesis is not by asking others or by asking myself but by running and jumping into the unknown. That’s my test, the only place I will find the validation I crave. I always get inspired when I see everyone at LSM go through the crucible, not everyone comes out the other side but everyone learns that while the process is hard the biggest barriers are those we create for ourselves.
I think we all understand that but our minds seek stability and abhor instability. That makes it hard for all of us to let go and trust in the framework that LSM teaches. I may try applying some of the validation claims to my creative writing, by being more open, I can see if the story is something that someone out there will want to read.