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November 06, 2010

Liveblogging: Lean Startup Machine Chicago

9:51pm Sunday

Well, we didn't win the grand prize, but I'm very proud of our team. We worked really hard and got a ton of useful advice and encouragement from the organizers, judges and mentors. Big thanks to Eric Ries and major props to Bernhard, Brandon, Eduardo, Trevor, Kyle, and Ben for putting on such a kickass learning event.

4:13pm Sunday

Whew! Presentation is over. I think we got our story across correctly. Now we sit tight and watch the rest of the competitors.

Companion Links for KickEatery.com Presentation

First MVP is our landing page, which is unchanged at KickEatery.com. After this morning's major pivot we linked that landing page to a followup form to help us gauge adoption at our initial commitment levels of $10 to $100.

Thanks to good participation from twitter followers and a small investment in Facebook ads, were were able to drive a healthy amount of traffic and conversions to our landing page. We even did some A/B testing around our tagline. Here is a screenshot of our Unbounce dashboard showing conversion stats of approximately 3%.

Throughout the weekend, we also created a Startup Canvas to help us achieve a shared understanding of our business concept.

3:27pm Sunday

Finally the presentations and judging kicks off. First up is RoutineMachine, which is a tool to help people be accountable over the course of a 30 day period. The presenter just told us he got the best reaction/responses to man on the street surveying by telling them they were part of an "Apprentice-style reality tv show. Seriously..." The room got a good chuckle out of that.

2:52pm Sunday

The heat is on. Second MVP prototype is deployed. We're waiting for the final "pencils down" from the organizers as Rob puts finishing touches on our slide deck, which now includes a breakdown of our hypotheses and assumptions, "pivot table" showing how our business model evolved over time, screenshots of our MVPs and a revenue model.

Excited about our potential, but I've zoned out of what the other teams are doing so I have no idea if we'll be in the running for the final $1000 prize.

12:08pm Sunday

Thank goodness that we "fell back" to DST last night. That extra hour of sleep was very needed.

The team is now over an hour into a heavy discussion about pivoting. We've split into a few different work streams to handle the presentation, number crunching and next version of our MVP. If we validate and adopt this pivot then KickEatery will have an actual product and profitable business model. Things are getting very interesting at this point.

9:00pm Saturday


Launched! Checkout kickeatery.com (In case you didn't figure it out yet, our name is inspired by kickstarter.com)

Looking back, I'm pretty impressed that we did some fairly extensive customer research and achieved our MVP in less than 12 hours. Total cash outlay: approximately $60 for Facebook advertising and registration of the kickeatery.com domain with Namecheap.

Wait, MVP? Really? Well, I guess the point is that for now the minimum viable product is a website to validate the concept and make sure that the investment that we would put into creating a feature-filled application would be worth it. These lean startup guys are definitely on to something.

Since the team has now dwindled down to just three members, we're looking at how to wrap up the day. We're gradually filling up our Startup Canvas as well as brainstorming how we can prove the concept prior to an actual website implementation. I'm thinking that a successful fundraising effort would probably garner news coverage and serve as good PR fodder for publicity and showcasing on the kickeatery homepage in the future. My Jacksonville Beach peeps can look forward to a "Bring Indian Food to the Beach" campaign in the near future. :)

7:41pm Saturday

After a quick break for dinner and socializing, the landing page is almost done. It was easy thanks to Unbounce. We're still tweaking a more detailed survey that we plan to send to the folks that gave us follow up information on the previous survey, but that should be done soon. We're also working on a Startup Canvas to draw out information that we'll need for our presentation tomorrow.

5:19pm Saturday

Relocated to Hashrocket Chicago for a change of pace and better chance of getting Rob's laptop online. (I also wanted to pick up some yummy raw food at French Market before they closed.)

Now we're talking about followup to the survey results, which indicate enough interest in the core hypothesis.

SurveyMonkey - Survey Results

A quick look at the list of deliverables for tomorrow indicates that we need to boil the information we've collected so far:

  • Make a clear statement of business assumptions (i.e. problem, business model, etc.).
  • Validate or refute assumptions based upon user or customer feedback.
  • Create a clear MVP (or MVP spec) that sheds light on assumptions via real data.

We're thinking our MVP (Minimum Viable Product) might simply consist of an ad campaign and a landing page to collect information about our champions.

3:30pm Saturday

After a tough iteration, we finally agreed on a survey for restaurant owners. We needed to validate the questions in some way, so I called up my friend Guy, who owns a local Thai restaurant in Jacksonville. We got some interesting insights from the conversation, especially around the importance of competitors within a 5 mile radius.

Now we're trying to figure out if the data collected means we need to "pivot" from our original concept.

1:35pm Saturday, Nov 6

Bernhard Kappe is mentoring our team and telling us to not put the cart before the horse. We need to determine that people have the problem we've identified before we propose the solution that we're discussing. Where is the pain?

The group believes the pain is there for the consumer. For the restauranteur, we don't know and we need to find out.

1:11pm Saturday, Nov 6

I'm currently participating in Lean Startup Machine, a weekend-long startup competition that conforms to Lean Startup principles, a method of using customer feedback to rapidly iterate your product to reach product/market fit.

Eric Ries kicked off Friday evening's event followed by networking and pitches. Kevin Taylor of Obtiva advised us to leave Agile practices for when fea Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits, authors of The Entrepreneur's Guide to Customer Development also gave brief presentations and are functioning as team mentors for the duration. Participants selected ideas and formed teams to work on their project over the weekend. On Sunday, teams will pitch their business and Minimum Viable Product to a panel of well-known entrepreneurs for cash and mentoring.

I pitched my idea and enough people liked it that I am now leading a startup team. The root of the concept is the lack of cuisine diversity within particular neighborhoods and suburbs. My gut (haha) says that there is pent-up demand that would make itself manifest if given the right vehicle. The backstory is that for at least a few years I've been ranting about the pathetic fact that there is no Indian food near Jacksonville Beach. We have to drive at least 20-30 minutes to the Baymeadows area of South Jacksonville, where there are at least half-a-dozen Indian restaurants.

Our hypothesis is currently split in two parts:


  1. Customers with pent-up demand will pledge seed money to attract a particular type of restaurant to their neighborhood.
  2. Restaurant entrepreneurs will be inspired by a successful campaign to open a restaurant that fulfills customer demand.


It's been a lot of fun so far. My teammates and I are currently trying to validate the first hypothesis and the assumptions behind it using a quick 4-question survey.

If you read this far you should probably follow me on twitter:


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