Lean Startup: Applied Wrongly

Eric Ries who has popularized Lean Startup methodology has done an AMA on HackerNews. When he was asked “Are there examples of lean startup ideas going wrong or being misunderstood and leading startups straight to failure?

He had this to say:

“Tons! I think about this all the time, since I feel a responsibility to try and talk about lean startup in such a way that prevents misunderstanding.

I would say the three most fatal misapplications are:

  1. Up and to the right disease.
    Here you split-test everything and just do whatever moves the numbers. pretty soon you are selling porn or psychic hotlines.

  2. No vision, no problems error.
    It’s like trying to do science without a hypothesis. In lean startup we emphasize that people trying to predict the future are often wrong, so it’s best to experiment and pivot as you learn. But some people interpret this to mean that the future is unknowable, there’s no point in having any kind of vision, and you should just ship something and see what happens. the problem with this plan is you are guaranteed to succeed – at seeing what happens. after-the-fact rationalization will prevent any learning, because if you can’t fail you can’t learn. having a big expansive vision is really helpful because it provides lots of falsifiable hypotheses for testing.

  3. Minimum Viable Crapsloppy execution.
    Some people think MVP means just throw garbage at the wall and see what sticks, especially since the M makes people think lean startup is for doing something small. but the truth is if you’re doing something small, you don’t need MVP or lean startup. you only need an MVP if you’re trying something large. further, part of the MVP process is to learn what customers actually value in terms of quality, so we can build something that they perceive as excellent. shipping crap isn’t the goal, and people that go on TechCrunch with garbage and then claim “but it’s an MVP!” are doing it wrong. the hard truth is that spending more time “perfecting” a product in the absence of feedback often makes the product worse, not better.”

I can see the No3 in many startups. You can read the full AMA here.

Disruption in International Money Remittance is Imminent

Problem

As I tweeeted earlier, International Money Remitance has many pain points, main of them being the cost of sending money of course..

 


Solution

Below is one of the many solutions that will be coming up soon that will be built on top of free, transparent, public ledger technology called Blockchain. And money will be sent on the Blockchain platform via one of its main apps/features called Bitcoin.

Transaction fees are nearly $0 on the Blockchain, but service providers and apps might charge their own service fees. But these service fees won’t be like the ones above in my tweet for sure.

URLhttps://www.goabra.com

MailChimp’s Take on UX

Everyone knows how great MailChimp is at what it does. As a tech startup, they have achieved a lot and they are definitely one of the startups who are doing things the right way. So, it’s only natural that when UX team of Mailchimp releases a new eBook that everyone should read it.

It’s an easy read. It’s divided into major sections like: Collaboration, Research, Design, Development and Refinement. It’s written from their own perspective, so there are a lot insights into how MailChimp approaches things like building a functional team, creating conducive office environment, how each team do what they do etc . I’m sure everyone can find something beneficial in it. I did.

uxreader

Download the eBookhttp://theuxreader.com

Startups vs Corporations, and what happens in between

Why founders of startups get replaced by the board when the startup starts to grow fast? Why many startups fail to integrate into the parent company after the acquisition? And why big corporations struggle to launch a successful startup from within?

Concept of RPV

RPV stands for Resources, Processes and Valuves.

Resources

At the initial stage of a company, all you need are good and reliable people that can get the job done i.e resources. At this stage resources are crucial, if you have a web technology startup and happen to find a great coder and UX developer then you are in luck. On the other hand, if you happen to hire the wrong developer, you will have a tough time launching that MVP (minimum-viable-product) of yours. Similarly, if your lead developer leaves at this stage to a competitor startup, it can greatly affect your product and even your startup as a whole. But this is also the stage where it’s easiest to solve your company’s problems, because most of the problems will be related to resources and usually they can be settled by hiring a new guy or firing an existing employee.

Processes

When your startup is at the stage where it has a product or service that is selling like hot cakes, and you start hiring a lot more people to grow both your company and its revenue, that’s where the processes come in. That’s because you want your operations, customer service, support, billing etc to be run efficiently. That’s when you start to setup company wide processes, different processes for different teams and departments, KPIs (key-performance-indicators), SLAs (service-level-agreements), SOPs (standard-operating-procedures) etc. This is the stage when efficiency is most important to the company, because efficiency is directly related to company’s revenues.

rpv startup

Values

The final stage is when a particular startup has become an established corporation. At this stage “company values” are normally setup to guide the employees in their daily work, dealings and most importantly in decision making. Values are guiding principles that dictate how the company is run in all walks of its life. At this stage, while still important, resources won’t be as important as they were at the “resources stage”. Hiring and firing happens quite often. Individual opinions within the company doesn’t really have any weight unless the person is a c-level. Continue reading

Competition is for Losers

Peter Thiel is no stranger to Startup World. He is the co-founder of PayPal and investor in Facebook, Quora, Artsy, PandoDaily, AdRoll, Reddit and many more.

He has an interesting viewpoint when it comes to Startups and how they should be managed, in order to be successful. For the past decade, methodologies like Customer Development and Lean Startup have been popular. The central idea in these methodologies are around customers, and that your idea (hypothesis) must be tested against potential customers in order to be successful, and based on customers’ feedback you should tweak your initial idea (pivot) to achieve a sustainable and repeatable business model that generates revenue.

Peter Thiel is sceptical about these methodologies. He says that customers might not always be right and listening to them to guide your business’ destiny might not be the right approach. He encourages entrepreneurs to start startups that do in order of magnitude better than the existing competitors, rather than doing incremental improvements as the Lean Startup methodology suggests. He also advises entrepreneurs to go for monopoly when starting a startup, doing something that dominates the market i.e avoiding competition and aiming for monopoly. He says “Competition is for losers”.

He also questions the education system in leading Universities that teach Entrepreneurship, he says that currently our education system instills and inculcates in future entrepreneurs to compete and to be a better competitor rather than doing something unique that makes competition irrelevant or difficult for others to compete with your startup.

Personally, what he puts forward is definitely something interesting and somewhat refreshing. It kind of reminds me of Steve Jobs’ beliefs. He was the type of person where he would say “customers do not know what they want.. etc”. But I think Customer Development and Lean Startup Methodologies are not mutually exclusive to what Peter Thiel is suggesting, in fact they can still be used to help reach product-market-fit.

Below is a video of him giving a lecture in Stanford in “Business Strategy and Monopoly Theory” where he expounds on the above mentioned ideas of his:

Note: If you are based in Malaysia, you can order his book from Bookurve with free shipping. I ordered mine already together with Eric Schmidt’s “How Google Works“, should be arriving next week.

Startups Around Blockchain Technology

When you mention Bitcoin, first thing that comes to people’s minds are that it’s an anonymous digital currency (it’s actually far from anonymous but that’s a discussion for another post). So it’s primarily associated with “digital money” for majority of people.

But it’s much more than that. The underlying technology that Bitcoin is built upon is called Blockchain. Blockchain in simple terms is a decentralized platform that keeps track of all the transactions ever executed on the platform. It’s transparent and it’s decentralized, in other words no central government or banking institution controls it. There are major “nodes” (or servers) that keep copy of all the transactions, and there are many other computers that sync to those nodes.

Various types of “apps” can be built on top of Blockchain, it just so happens that the first “app” is a digital money app called Bitcoin. This was intentional by the founder(s) of the Bitcoin (Satoshi Nakamoto, a person or a group of people) to include the money part within the first release of the Blockchain, so that it serves as a reward for the miners (people who solve complex algorithms to generate Bitcoin) and node maintainers to earn monetary value for their contribution to the blockchain. In simplistic terms, bitcoin to blockchain is like gmail to internet. One is a platform and a protocol, and another is an app that is built on that platform/protocol.

Types of Apps being built around Blockchain Technology

Lots of interesting startups are being developed around Blockchain. Below are some of them. I’m not going to cover the ordinary ones like Bitcoin Exchange Platforms, Bitcoin Wallets, Bitcoin Payment Processing Gateways, Bitcoin Debit Cards etc. Rather will be mentioning the more interesting ones that are leveraging on the Blockchain Technology and not necessarily the currency Bitcoin itself;

Payroll System

  • Bitwage – bitcoin based payroll system for companies. Especially useful in paying international employees or freelancer workers.

Cloud Storage

  • Storj.io – Think of it as the truly decentralized version of Dropbox, where your files’ chunks will be stored in thousands of other members’ PCs.
  • Filecoin.io – Data storage network and electronic currency based on Bitcoin.
  • Bithost.io – Normal hosting with a twist, just pay with bitcoin and no need to provide bank details.

Crowd Funding

  • Counterparty – raise funding for your startup. Think of it as a Stock Exchange based on blockchain technology that allows you to IPO on your own.
  • Koinify – Crowd funding platform specifically for blockchain related startups

Continue reading

OhLife Alternative

It’s a shame that OhLife is shutting down. If you didn’t know what it was, it was a service where it periodically (eg; daily, weekly, monthly, depending on what you choose) sent you an email asking “How was your day today?”. You would just reply back to the same email describing your day, week, month, and it would save it in your account in OhLife.com.

And one of my favorite bits of the service was, it would include a random post from your life, saying; “Oh snap, remember this? 175 days ago you wrote…” (see above screenshot).

What I liked about the service was, it was not a burden, it was very easy to use, it didn’t force you to write. If you didn’t want, you would just ignore the reminder email and just enjoy the random post from your life.

Well, now that the service is shutting down, how can you record your life in a similar fashion?

OhLife Alternative via IFTTT

If you are not familiar with IFTTT (if this then that) service, then please check this post first. I have created a recipe in IFTTT that will do the following: Everytime you send an email with the subject #OhLife to trigger@recipe.ifttt.com it will save that email in your GoogleDocs. New entries will be added as a new row in the spreadsheet. Date and email content will be saved in the document.  Continue reading

How to Find Pro UI Designers for Your Startup

Say, you have an idea for a startup which you would like to build MVP (minimum viable product i.e most basic version) of it but don’t know any decent UI designer who can visualize your idea and turn it into this amazing User Interface; the likes of Instagram and other similar cool apps.

If you have done web or mobile app projects of your own before, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about – it’s a challenge to find pro User Interface designers.

Most of the time, prior to deciding if you should hire full-time developers and designers for your startup, optimal and cost-effective thing to do would be to outsource MVP version to freelancers. Hiring of full time staff can come later, once the app achieves product/market-fit.

For this reason, you would normally want someone who is pro and available for freelance work. Many sites like oDeskFreelancer, Elance, DesignCrowd etc have these kind of resources. But it’s really a pain to find the right person.

Melting pot for Great, Pro Designers

But there is a great platform where all the professional designers hang around, and that is on Dribbble. It’s a place where designers showcase their work and peers feedback and “like” each others’ work. It’s also a great place to find the right designer for your startup idea.

Continue reading

Bookurve – Amazon books, cheaper with free shipping to Malaysia

If you are an avid book reader in Malaysia and often purchase books from Amazon, you must already know how much the shipping fees are pain in the neck. Bookurve, a local startup that was founded by my friends Hossein and Lian Shen is addressing this issue.

Value proposition of their startup is simple;

  • Give access to wide selection of books (almost any books sold at Amazon is available on Bookurve)
  • At a cheaper price (usually 20-40% cheaper than Amazon)
  • With free shipping if you order above RM25 (for West Malaysia)

They have taken few pivots to reach to their current business model. And I’m optimistic about it, as it’s working pretty good for them.

Last week I tried out their service (mainly to see the end-to-end customer journey and provide feedback) and ordered my first book, received it few days back and couldn’t be happier :)

Give it a try..

Website: www.bookurve.com