Startup Weekend Lesson Learned #2 – Customer Development

Ok…this is less of a lessons learned and more of an outright challenge.

At the last Startup Weekend (#swmobile) the team I joined was called KissMobs. As far as I’m aware, we are the only Startup Weekend team ever to finish the weekend cash flow positive. It could be there are others, I don’t have the stats and I’ll let Franck correct me on this one. We also didn’t pay ourselves any salaries and my dividend totaled enough for a cup of coffee. A bad cup of coffee.

Still, I think every team coming out of Startup Weekend should have this as a goal: A SALE

No Whining Allowed

My challenge relates to some of the snide anonymous comments I saw going across Floughter (I’ll explain later). There were a couple of people griping that the technical demos weren’t cool enough and it ‘looked more like a business plan presentation than a Startup Weekend.’

I half-heartedly agree and you can read some of the ways I flailed on the technical side at our own presentation in my last post. However, I’m am just as unimpressed by a great demo without customer development as I am at a business presentation with no demo. A product with no customers is not a product and it’s not a Minimum Viable Product either (sorry Eric). Regardless of how impressive your 54 hours of hacking were, you have failed.

Get Out of the Building

Steve Blank‘s commandment of “Get Out of Building” is exactly what Katherine Webster from our team did. We had an application designed to promote bars by creating a spontaneous flash mob singles scene. We didn’t have a working product, barely had a landing page with a survey, and no marketing effort. So how could we get a customer? She went over to a local bar and talked them into giving us $50 bucks to promote a Startup Weekend after party on Sunday.

She gave them enough of a pitch that they paid us $20 upfront. After we bought a domain name to put up our basic landing page, we were still up ~$10.

Floughter Wins by a Landslide

I am not saying we should have won the event. We shouldn’t have, we weren’t the best company by far. The company that won the weekend was clearly Floughter. Floughter is basically  Twitter but completely anonymous, 70 characters, and local to within 70 meters. (Actually the geo-location didn’t work, but nice fake for the demo anyway.)

While they didn’t get an advertiser to pay for some tweets in their stream, they did rake up about 1500 tweets in the 45 minutes after their presentation. I would argue that those users paid for Floughter with their time, even if they didn’t pay cash. I think 100 of those tweets were Tony, Nick, and myself, but regardless it was very impressive user adoption for 45 minutes of uptime. They weren’t cash flow positive, but they won by demonstrating traction.

It was all the more impressive since the team didn’t have a single engineer among them. They outsourced the entire development to oDesk.

Summary of Lessons Learned

  • Revenue is Good
  • Whining is lame
  • Get out and sell something

Cheers,
Tristan

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