For me the MCA has been a year of great interaction with the participants who were able to thrill me with their ideas and pivots! The best way to celebrate this is to re-publish the post below. I was very happy, as much as I am right now! Thank you MCA’ers!
I’m happy! Very happy.
We just finished the fourth session of the Learning Startup class at the Master in Complex Actions of the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) in Trieste. Participants are top level PhD candidates at the best Universities in the area of North-East Italy. It’s 22 of them with the most disparate curricula, ranging from Mathematics, to Solid State Matter, to Agronomy, to mention just a few.
In the Learning Startup class we are merging the most innovative approaches to startup, building on the shoulders of giants like Steve Blank, Eric Ries and Alex Osterwalder. As a core task of the Master participants are required to team up and develop a business idea into a startup.
In the first session participants created 4 groups with size ranging from 4 to 7 members and started defining their business ideas around the triad Customer, Problem, Solution, with the explicit task to test their assumptions with real customers, going out-of-the-building, as Steve Blank likes to say.
The initial business ideas were
- a social media game for educating on politics
- a scan-and-evaluate App to gets on the spot info about quality of grocery store products
- a tool for hedge fund traders to improve efficiency of transactions
- a social network approach to marketing
They were very good at testing their assumptions using the format suggested by the Lean Startup guru Eric Ries: Assumption, Test, Lesson Learned, Validate or Pivot. And they have been doing it all the time since then: testing and pivoting like hell!
The initial ideas changed a lot, some of them radically, and now they are getting to the point where… it’s becoming real! So much real that there have been already declarations of interest from a few VCs.
Plus, they are having fun! As part of their real-life assumption testing, the social network marketing group is experimenting viral marketing for an osmizza in the Carso highlands near Trieste (an osmizza is a private house open for short periods during the year when owners are authorized to sell their own farm products like cheese, ham and wine). Next Friday all the participants, professors and instructors are invited to the osmizza to test the system they devised. Great idea, 10 points to the group! :)
So far they defined their Value Proposition and analysed their Market always talking to real customers in the spirit of Steve Blank’s Customer Development methodology. And the next assignment is to define(finally!) a Business Model, along Alex Osterwalder and Ash Maurya advice.
Of course they are going to test the new assumptions with real customers. They will start from the Value Delivery activities with the explicit objective to define their Sales Roadmap, i.e. how will prospects know about them and how will they convert prospects into customers.
Let’s see what happens!