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Lean Startup Machine Returns to Toronto

by Todd Charron on May 31, 2012 |

Lean Startup Machine, an event that describes itself as "an intensive three-day workshop, which teaches Lean Startup methodologies and their applications for product, customer, and business model development.", is returning to Toronto June 8-10. I had an opportunity to chat with Jason Little, who was a member of Hire Shark, which won the previous LSM event in Toronto. Jason is returning as one of the event organizers and mentors.

InfoQ: What is Lean Startup Machine?

Jason Little: Lean Startup Machine is a weekend experience where you learn customer development by working on your or someone else's business idea. Think of it as a hackathon weekend but instead of writing code, you've validated your idea.

InfoQ: What made you decide to go to Lean Startup Machine in the first place?

Jason Little: I wanted to learn more because I was working in a non startup company and was using, what I thought, was the lean startup method. I wanted to compare what I was doing with seeing more experienced people execute on the lean startup method.

InfoQ: What were you expecting from LSM and how was it different from what you expected?

Jason Little: I didn't expect it to be so intense and I didn't expect to learn as much as I did. I've done lots of experiential learning sessions and simulations but this was different. It was a learning heart attack...in a good way.

InfoQ: What was the idea you pitched and how did you come up with it?

Jason Little: I wanted to build a service that would help awesome people who were working for crappy companies find a better job. As a consultant I saw lots of toxic environments and lots of great people who deserved a better environment to work in.

InfoQ: How did you find people to work with you?

Jason Little: People came up to me and asked about my idea and they decided to join.

InfoQ: What was the first thing you tested and learned about your idea?

Jason Little: I learned the idea I had sounded like a time machine. Awesome if you could do it, but nobody would believe you could actually do it. That was tough because I was so strong in my opinion that it was the right idea. Cognitive bias at its best (worst?) I suppose.

InfoQ: Where did you end up and how did you get there?

Jason Little: We modified our idea and target customers about 7 or 8 times over the weekend. It was all based on talking to potential customers on the phone or face to face. That was scary as hell for me since I'm so introverted.

InfoQ: Why do you think Hire Shark won over the other teams?

Jason Little: I think we best demonstrated, with evidence, how we validated and evolved our idea. Some teams generated more money, I think we proved that we executed the method the best.

InfoQ: How has your LSM experience influenced you?

Jason Little: I quit my job shortly after the weekend. Partially because I was miserable there, mostly because my true passion is coaching and mentoring. Since then, I've delivered a Lean Startup workshop to advanced business students at U of Waterloo through Lean Intuit (www.leanintuit.com) and also as part of the Silicon Halton Agile/lean group I founded. U of Waterloo loved it so much I'm going back every quarter to bring this workshop to more students. That's fantastic because kids aren't learning this in school.

InfoQ: What advice would you give to anyone who was thinking of attending?

Jason Little: Keep an open mind. If you are an entrepreneur, there's a good chance you're going to find out your brilliant idea backed up by market data is actually a really crappy idea that no one wants to buy. That probably sounds harsh, but prepare to be challenged and let go of your bias and assumptions.  The other part is, there are going to be some utterly brilliant mentors there so you will get a boatload of advice, feedback and help with your idea.

Registration for Lean Startup Machine Toronto is now open and they will be holding a free pre-show event on June 4.

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