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@ Charlottesville Business Innovation Council- Accelerating Your Startup

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This is a talk I did for entrepreneurs and investors at the Charlottesville Innovation Council (CBIC). For footage on the topics, please see www.alexandercowan.com/speaking.

This is a talk I did for entrepreneurs and investors at the Charlottesville Innovation Council (CBIC). For footage on the topics, please see www.alexandercowan.com/speaking.


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  • 1. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingAccelerating Your VentureAn Applied View of 4 Key Skills
  • 2. Copyright 2012 Cowan Publishing
  • 3. Copyright 2012 Cowan Publishing
  • 4. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingCUSTOMERSALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 5. Copyright 2012 Cowan Publishing2007 went out on my own2008profitable,productizedconsulting business2010 software business2011 scaling!2013 keep learning,keep innovatingALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 6. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingA LEAN PROGRESSIONCONSULTING PRODUCTSValidated problemscenarios withsubstantial detail‘PRODUCTIZED’CONSULTINGCustomer empathy-more scope, detail onproblem scenarios
  • 7. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingUNDERSTANDING THE MARKET50-70% ofEnterpriseSoftwareImplementationsFail ALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 8. How do we do thismore efficiently? Arewe implementing bestpractices?How do we improveservice quality? Howdo we verify that?Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingIDEATIONHelp me integrate andstandardize theinfrastructure. And showmy people how to use it.Creating accounts istaking a lot of time/money. And there are alot of mistakes.ALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 9. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingIDEATIONSERVICESTANDARDIZATION& WORKFLOWSERVICEDESIGNPROCESSAUDIT,DESIGNNETWORKPRINCIPALSOF OPERATIONALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 10. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingDesign ThinkingLean StartupCustomer Dev.Agile} BIG VOID{ Actual Practice
  • 11. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingDESIGN THINKING- WHAT ISGOOGLE TRENDS:DESIGN THINKINGALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 12. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingIDEATIONSelf-LoveAnd ThenDesignThinkingAnd NowSurvivalBack Then
  • 13. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingEmpathyDESIGN THINKING- WHAT ISCreativity ALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 14. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingIDEATIONALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 15. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingEntry1Urinate as they go2Edges preferred3Speedy4PB > cheese5EmpathyIDEATIONALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 16. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingCheck & RepairUV ValidationRelevant PlacementA Better Mouse TrapPowered by Better BaitCreativity12345ALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 17. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingIDEATIONPersonasProblemScenarios?ALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 18. Copyright 2012 Cowan Publishing•Women•Age 28-45•Have kids•Socialize with other mom’s•Online with Facebook•86% said they’d like to bemore organized•70% said they’d use anapplication that organizes themIDEATION
  • 19. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingIDEATIONALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 20. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingMary is a mom by choice. She had a successfulcareer in accounting, but welcomed the opportunity tobe a stay at home mom. She loves it. But it’s not likehaving kids purged her creative, social instincts. Shewants to connect, she wants to learn, she wants tointeract. Being a mom is a job and she wants to do itwell. That means corresponding with other mom’s onrelevant topics and keeping the family calendar inship shape. She posts to Facebook at least twice aweek and responds to other moms’ items more oftenthan that.For household stuff, Costco is the go-to place, butshe’ll pick up fresh items at the farmer’s market whenit’s up and splurge at Whole Foods when they’rehaving company.Mary the MomIDEATION
  • 21. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingIDEATION
  • 22. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingIDEATIONPersonasUserStoriesProblemScenarios?
  • 23. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingDraftingStoriesPERSONASSTORIESEpic StoriesStoriesTest Cases“As a [persona],I want to [do something]so that I can [derive a benefit]”IDEATIONALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 24. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingBorrowedwithutmostregardfromBanksy(banksy.co.uk)IDEATION
  • 25. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingPLANNING!5,000,000%0%5,000,000%10,000,000%15,000,000%20,000,000%25,000,000%30,000,000%35,000,000%40,000,000%45,000,000%2012% 2013% 2014% 2015% 2016% 2017% 2018% 2019% 2020%Revenue%Expense%EBITDA%Five YearPlanThenIterativeManagementNow6.a PIVOTexperimentsdisprovehypothesis01 IDEA!02 HYPOTHESIS03 EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN04 EXPERIMENTATION05 PIVOT OR PERSEVERE?6.b PERSEVEREexperiments provehypothesisALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 26. !5,000,000%0%5,000,000%10,000,000%15,000,000%20,000,000%25,000,000%30,000,000%35,000,000%40,000,000%45,000,000%2012% 2013% 2014% 2015% 2016% 2017% 2018% 2019% 2020%Revenue%Expense%EBITDA%Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingPLANNINGALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 27. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingPLANNINGPLANNINGDo I have real evidence from my buyer thatthis is compelling?6.a YESresultsdisprovehypothesis01 IDEA!02 HYPOTHESIS03 EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN04 EXPERIMENTATION05 REVISE?6.b NOwe appear tohave a validhypothesisWhat are the key assumptionsrequired to make this business work?6.a YESresultsdisprovehypothesis01 IDEA!02 HYPOTHESIS03 EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN04 EXPERIMENTATION05 REVISE?6.b NOwe appear tohave a validhypothesisHow do I definitely prove or disprovethe assumptions with a minimum oftime and effort?6.a YESresultsdisprovehypothesis01 IDEA!02 HYPOTHESIS03 EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN04 EXPERIMENTATION05 REVISE?6.b NOwe appear tohave a validhypothesis6.a YESresultsdisprovehypothesis01 IDEA!02 HYPOTHESIS03 EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN04 EXPERIMENTATION05 REVISE?6.b NOwe appear tohave a validhypothesisAm I reacting or am I focused onvalidating my pivotal assumptions?‘Pivot or persevere?’ALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 28. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingPriority Key Assumption Needs Proving? Experimentation1[A key assumption aboutthe business][Whether it needsproving[Experiment toprove or disprove]1Parents want to betterorganize the distributionof allowancesYes* Post the proposition in adsonline* Measure sign-up’s on a landingpage2Parents have smartphonesNo n/aPLANNINGALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 29. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingPERSONA PROBLEM SCENARIO‘This thing should increasesatisfaction & involvement;and reduce support calls.’BrucetheBusiness OwnerPercivaltheProduct Mgr.&ONLINE SELF-CAREIMPLEMENTATIONALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 30. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingPriority Key Assumption Needs Proving? Experimentation1End users want to log inand do self-careYes!Instrument adequate reporting,create awareness,see if they nibble1Reducing the portalsclicks to destinationfrom 4-6 to 2-3 is goodenoughYes- Log and analyze navigation- Do support calls go down?ASSUMPTIONS ON SELF-CAREALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 31. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingPriority Key Assumption Needs Proving? Experimentation1End users want to log inand do self-careYes!Instrument adequate reporting,create awareness,see if they nibble1Reducing the portalsclicks to destinationfrom 4-6 to 2-3 is goodenoughYes- Log and analyze navigation- Do support calls go down?ASSUMPTIONS ON SELF-CAREALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 32. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingPERSONA PROBLEM SCENARIO‘This thing should increasesatisfaction & involvement;and reduce support calls.’BrucetheBusiness OwnerPercivaltheProduct Mgr.&ONLINE SELF-CAREFocus oncustomer adminexperienceIMPLEMENTATIONALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 33. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingTake II- DASHBOARDSALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 34. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingPERSONA PROBLEM SCENARIOOrson theOffice Manager‘I still don’t get it.’‘This thing should increasesatisfaction & involvement;and reduce support calls.’BrucetheBusiness OwnerPercivaltheProduct Mgr.&ONLINE SELF-CAREOne click accessvia ‘Dashboard’Focus oncustomer adminexperienceIMPLEMENTATIONALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 35. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingPriority Key Assumption Needs Proving? Experimentation1Customer admin’s willdo self-care with trainingand awarenessYes!Focus on training customeradmin’s,see if they nibble1Presenting all the usersof interest on the 1stpage will engage theseadmin’sYes- Log and analyze navigation- Do support calls go down?ASSUMPTIONS ON SELF-CAREALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 36. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingDASHBOARDALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 37. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingPLANNING
  • 38. Copyright 2012 Cowan Publishing$PLANNINGALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 39. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingORGANIZATION==ApingThenCustomerDevelopmentNowALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 40. Copyright 2012 Cowan Publishing≠ORGANIZATIONALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 41. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingORGANIZATIONALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 42. Big CompanyRecipes AppliedCopyright 2012 Cowan Publishing5 Year Plan ==10x Returns!X: < Odds at LottoVC-EncouragedMenagerieX: Too muchtoo soonX: Lack of Experiencein Hands-on DiscoveryX: Better Luck withthe LotteryX: Fun and Profit-UnlikelyORGANIZATION++New Idea!Expanded TeamRevisions to Plan== Edgy BoardX: Want Lots ofCapital at WorkIt Works! Working 5 Year PlanNew HiresFounders Investors BoardALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 43. Investors?Advisors?Focus on ValidatedLearningCopyright 2012 Cowan PublishingKey AssumptionsID’ed, ValidatedLower Risk &Capital RequirementResourcesAs NeededClear Focus inHiring & ContractingRoles and SuccessCriteria ClearProgress is Quickand MeasurableFun & ProfitORGANIZATION++New Idea!Full Tilt at a ‘Pivot orPersevere’ MomentIs approachworking or not?Option forNon-TraditionalFunding StrategiesExpanded TeamNew HiresFounders Investors BoardALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 44. Specialties(VARIOUS)DESIGNUNIXSYSADMINRUBYPYTONJAVAPHP.........SEOANALYTICS...(VARIOUS)MGMT....Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingBasicTechnicalLiteracySOFTWAREFUNDAMENTALSModel-View-ControllerARCHITECTUREFUNDAMENTALSApp. & Platform IntegrationROLES & SYSTEMSIn a Technical TeamStoriesPersonasDevelopment DiscussionFoundationConceptsITERATIVEMANAGEMENTDESIGNTHINKINGCUSTOMERDEVELOPMENTAGILECollaboration AGILEAs Product OwnerORGANIZATIONALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 45. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingDEVELOPMENTWaterfallThenAgileNowALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 46. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingIndividualsInteractions>ProcessesToolsWorkingsoftwareComprehensiveDocumentation>CustomercollaborationContractnegotiation>Respondingto changeFollowinga plan>DEVELOPMENTALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 47. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingDEVELOPMENTvalidate featurerelevance withcustomersPastcollaborate withdevelopmentteamPresentobserve andenvision what’snextFuture
  • 48. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingDESIGNTHINKINGLEANSTARTUPCUSTOMERDEV.AGILEpersonasproblem scenariosuser storieshypothesis(assumptions)experimental designroles & teamobjectivesworking productALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 49. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingSELL SIMILARCUSTOMERSBalance to appeal of easynew business.TARGETDRIVE TOWARDSSTANDARDIZATIONFind what’s important;drive there.STANDARDIZESKILLS PAY BILLSDrive to product/market fit byfinding work$B2B CONCIERGE MODEL: 6 TIPSALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 50. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingIDEATIONProfitDriversRevenueDriversTighter Proposition (website, pres., etc.)Finite CostFinite DeliverablesIncreased Use of ChannelsEase of EntryEasy to See Whats on MenuUpsellIntellectual Property MultipliersTighter Talent DefinitionSimpler Training, Eval., PromotionCost of DeliveryCostDriversLess Consultative SellingSimplified ContractingCost of SalesStandard Project ManagementComparable Post MortemsEngagementManagement
  • 51. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingSELL SIMILARCUSTOMERSBalance to appeal of easynew business.TARGETDRIVE TOWARDSSTANDARDIZATIONFind what’s important;drive there.STANDARDIZESKILLS PAY BILLSAnd no better way to driveto product/market fit.$CREATE ANEXTENDED FAMILYMake yourself bigger thanyou are.EXTERNALIZECONCIERGE VIA CONSULTING: 6 TIPSBUILD ONCE YOUSEE THE OPENINGIf you’re not sure, keeplearning.PRODUCTIZEBECOME A DOMAINEXPERTOr you’ll end up with amishmash product.MASTER
  • 52. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingMaking ProgressIDEA!PositioningStatement?Field Work & AnalyticsIdeation & DesignProduct DevelopmentGeneral ManagementPivotalAssumptions?CustomerDefinitionPersonas?Problem Scenarios?FieldDiscoveryStill Learning?FieldValidationDraftPrototypeQuickyPrototype?Yes?Confident?No?CreateUserStoriesDone?New Learning?DefineMVPCUSTOMERVALIDATIONALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 53. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingBUY THE BOOKA practical primer for anyonewanting to actually implementtoday’s best practices in productdevelopment (available online orat any major retailer)VISIT THE SITEFree talks, tutorials, andresources for productdevelopment and new ventures.MORE?ALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 54. Copyright 2012 Cowan Publishing@cowanSFalexandercowan.com/blogacowan@alexandercowan.comalexandercowan.com/speakingalexandercowan.com/resourcesALEX COWANAlexanderCowan.com@cowanSF
  • 55. Copyright 2012 Cowan PublishingMARY THE MOMAbout: Mary the mom. . . [Describe like your friend or the beginningof a short story. What kind of shoes does she wear?]. . .Thinks: . . .Sees: . . .Feels: . . .Does: . . .1. List at least 3 personas2. Describe as much as you can
  • 56. Copyright 2012 Cowan Publishing“Parents want to better organize the distribution of allowances”Priority: [1 for existential; 2+ for others]Needs Proving?: [yes or no]Experimentation: [how will most quickly, cheaply prove or disprove]* Bonus Question: How do these relate to your personas?1. List at least 3 assumptions2. Note as much as you can on experiments