I might just be addicted to hackathons. It seems I may have a bent towards building businesses over the course of a weekend. The latest is Lean Startup Machine, which focuses on early-stage customer development. Basically, I wasn't planning on going until Justin Wilcox, the brilliant guy behind the Customer Dev Labs blog convinced me. After the first night, I can say I am incredibly glad I am attending.
Earlier on I had thought Lean Startup Machine was going to be similar to Startup Weekend, which I've attended several times. However, I've found it to be quite different and a whole new learning experience. First, there's more structure. This is a huge value. We are given a framework to guide us and experienced mentors actively engage with us when we get stuck. The mentor-to-participant ratio is quite high, which is really fantastic. Second, it focuses on earlier stages of the process of customer development. The process is generally aided by the "Validated Learning Canvas", a great tool for honing in on key assumptions and testing them. Third... well, I could go one, but that's enough for now. Check out the website for more info.
So the night started out with some networking, which was fun since I met a number of new people and connected with a bunch of people I know from Seattle's startup scene. Shortly after an intro to the weekend, we jumped into pitches. I had planned to pitch since I will never be satisfied with my public speaking skills, but I hadn't put a lot of thought into what I wanted to go after. In the end, I decided to pitch a problem that really frustrates me - the fact that it's impossible to know what it's like to work with someone until you've worked with them.
To my surprise, this idea was picked as one of 5 that teams would form around for the weekend (there were also 4 pre-formed teams from the recent Angel Hack event). Actually, it was the problem that was picked since I really just presented the problem and didn't try to identify a solution. Then team formation kicked off and I was really excited when Justin and a good friend, Anupam, wanted to team up to work on this. Two new friends, Jim and Anthony, also joined. We had also had Arun Kumar, founder and CEO of Kerika and an avid member of TiE, join us, but after being told that there was a strict 5-person limit on team size, Arun generously volunteered to switch to a smaller team.
We spent the remainder of our time ramping up for our initial tests using the Validated Learning Canvas and even got in a few interviews with folks around the room. This team works really well together and I'm looking forward to learning and working with them throughout the weekend! I feel incredibly fortunate to be a part of this awesome group!