Why Mentors Think You Should Attend Lean Startup Machine

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Lean Startup Machine is coming to Graz Feb 5th-7th 2016. Past and present mentors explain what benefits your attendance will bring to your startup!

To develop the right failure culture is nowadays a dictum in the startup community. A culture of learning has evolved in the last years supported by different concepts such as customer development and Lean Startup – thanks to people like Steve Blank and Eric Ries. As Yann Girard pointed out in his article, there are still people who often prefer to spend months and years building the perfect product without researching whether there is a market for it or not – despite all the knowledge and experience available.

Facing Challenges With Lean Startup Machine

This is something that even mentors at Lean Startup Machine (LSM) have noticed – teams which would have spent hours constructing the perfect landing page have not been challenged to get out of the building and talk to real people on the street. LSM is an intense three-day course teaching lean startup methods by engaging participants in experiments, customer development, innovation, accounting and other techniques to bring their business ideas from concept to product. Since its foundation in 2010, there have been around 600 workshops worldwide with about 25,000 entrepreneurs and employees trained with Lean Startup method. The next event happening in Europe will be from Feb 5th-7th 2016 in the Austrian city of Graz at Styria Media Center. The workshop attendees will be supported by experienced entrepreneurs and startup enthusiasts not only from Austria, but also experts from the startup communities in Slovenia, Croatia, Germany and Hungary. And for many of them it is not their first LSM event.

Some of them were willing to share their past experiences with us. You can read their experiences in the run-up of the event. Let’s hear what motivates some of them to spend their time mentoring teams and individuals from different backgrounds in the Lean Startup principles – and why they sometimes even fly halfway around the world to participate at this workshop format.

Mentor’s Take On The Experience

One of the most experienced Lean Startup Machine mentors joining us in February 2016 is Ralf Westbrock from str84wd Products in Munich. He mentored at the first LSM event in Germany, held 2012 in Munich. At that time Lean Startup was still relatively unknown and it was not that easy to find experienced mentors. After mentoring at several events since then he has become one of the organizers of German LSM events. He loves witnessing teams starting to embrace the methodology, seeing how fast they can learn and how far business ideas can be developed through customer contact. “And of course, it is great when teams reach four-digit sales figures for pre-orders within the weekend” he concludes.

Many of our frequent mentors experienced LSM as a participant the first time round. Ralf’s colleague Dominik Mayer described the 2013 LSM in Munich as a “life changing experience” not just for him personally but for others as well. Together with his team he evaluated options for getting real-time information about any event. After the first time he participated again in 2014 as part of the project to make “childish fun” possible for everyone. In 2015 he mentored in Munich for the first time, and even adjusted his holidays so that he could mentor in Kuala Lumpur at the end of November that year.

“The atmosphere at the two locations was completely different. This year’s Munich event, the biggest Lean Startup Machine, included elements of a professional TV show: lifestyle business ideas, motivational speeches and a drone hovering over the participants documenting the event. Kuala Lumpur, on the other hand, had an almost academic feel to it. I don’t know what was the reason for it but both events were great and I was really impressed by both” he explained.

And he is anxious to find out how the event in Graz will be like. The motivation to mentor there again is not only a good feeling that comes from helping people to learn and perhaps to become successful in future:

“This is of course a great feeling and I had quite an emotional experience with the team in Kuala Lumpur, which was going round in circles. After sitting down and discussing their approach, the Lean Startup approach finally sunk in and they made progress again. After the event they thanked me and you could see from their shining eyes that their understanding of the Lean Startup principles had changed and that they will remember what they learned in future as well. What was also rewarding was the possibility to learn for myself by getting insights into different teams to see what works and what does not. Of course also the discussions between mentors about the methodology and different possible approaches is at a very high professional level.”

Katarzyna Potocka’s (her nickname is Kasia) first event was also a long distance flight to Boston. She and her partner made a stopover there en route to New York. Although she had been pretty sceptical at the beginning, at the end of three days she was completely convinced. Not only the in-depth learning about Lean Startup methodology but also commitment and enthusiasm of mentors, overall energy and atmosphere were responsible for the change in attitude. Kasia even went on to help make this experience possible for the central European startup community. She first sparked the idea of an LSM event in Vienna, was part of the organizing team for Lean Startup Machine in Vienna in May 2015, mentored at the LSM Munich 2015 event and is now also the co-organizer of Lean Startup Machine Graz. All in all, she would describe the mentors at the Lean Startup Machine events as “motivated, committed, helpful, experienced, keen to learn, curious and humorous.” She summarizes the workshop itself as follows:

“An event which will take you out of your comfort zone, where you learn to listen and to talk to your customer which will result in developing a product, solving customers’ problem and developing a market.”

Daniel Tran from INiTS in Vienna is part of the mentor team too. He is a Lean Startup expert, belongs to the startup community and has already mentored at LSM Vienna. All the teams supported by INiTS receive an 18-month training and coaching program in the Lean Startup methodology – such startups as Shpock, Eversport, Robo, MySugr, treats.io, FitTrack, UNIspotter and many others have benefitted from this program. Daniel enjoys to support entrepreneurs without judging their business model and restricting their potential which enables them to rethink just by asking the right questions within this three-day workshop format. In his experience “mentors need to be open-minded and able to give direct and open feedback.” He would summarize the atmosphere of the event as motivating and high-energy. Furthermore, he emphasizes the high team spirit and cohesion between the participants. Who shouldn’t miss the event in his opinion? “LSM helps every business and also non-business situation – so nobody should miss it.”

This opinion is also supported Dominik Mayer, who is of the view

“aren’t most things in life some kind of product? A teacher preparing a lesson for his pupils is working on a product. LSM is of value for everybody who is developing something creative and reusable for other people.”

So it is not just entrepreneurs who would benefit. Martin Sternsberger from metaconsulting, who attended LSM Vienna and who may be mentoring at the Graz event, emphasized how valuable the Lean Startup methodology is in his experience also for the innovation process within conventional corporations – there is often a great cross-fertilization between technological expertise existing and startup thinking.

If you ask the mentors if they know about any startups which have made a lasting impression on them – yes they do. Andreas Aigner from Lecturize who participated in Vienna and mentored in Munich highlights the team from “Der Kontext” at the LSM Munich event said “a great team and an incredible steep learning curve!” (Der Kontext’s own experience can be read in their blog article about the event.) Such experiences motivate him to share his know-how and help others. “And this kind of event with its young entrepreneurial spirit helps me not to get rusty.” he admitted.

“And of course “Der Waschbote” which won the Vienna event in 2015 should be mentioned. They are still actively working on their startup – at the moment in concierge mode” added Thomas Zeinzinger from lab10 in Graz. Thomas participated in Munich and is now one of the organizers of the LSM Graz. In his coaching and consulting work he has experienced more than once that people who claimed to understand the Lean Startup principles may, in fact, then act contrary to this.

“People like to be guided by their own enthusiasm even if their customers do not follow. A deep understanding of Lean Startup principles can help to save time, tears and financial loss.”

So if you want to learn what your customers really want, if you want to be pushed beyond your comfort zone, if you want to be overwhelmed by a life changing experience, grab your ticket and attend one of the many LSM events all over the world.

Lean Startup StartUs Magazine


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