Startup Lean Coffee - August 2019

 

August is often a slow month in New York City; and while we had a small gathering Startup Lean Coffee, it was nowhere near slow! The topics that we discussed included:

  • Most exciting/high-growth sectors in 5-10 years

  • Product-Market fit

  • How to assess different marketing channels

  • Social responsibility in startups

We had some incredible epiphanies covering fundraising, marketing, brand strategy, sales, lean product experiments, and building a team, including many resources that participants found helpful. Here are some of the highlights.

Growth Sectors

We started the morning with a discussion of the most promising startup sectors in the next 5 - 10 years, diving first into real estate technology (“PropTech”). PropTech is a broad sector, ranging from companies that use sensors/AI to detect pest infestation to innovative real estate financing platforms.

My client, Fund That Flip, which provides capital for the short-term residential rehabilitation loan market and a platform for peer-to-peer lending, was #42 on the Inc 500 in 2019 and just closed an $11M Series A, led by Edison Partners.

Fund that Flip was a member of the Summer 2015 cohort of Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, which is a great source for identifying high-performing startups in any industry.

To get a more focused look at emerging PropTech companies, take a look at the MetaProp Accelerator @ Columbia University, which offers a number of programs for PropTech startups ranging from idea stage to Series A.

And while we’re on the topic of accelerators, take a look at Y Combinator’s batch stats to analyze the several hundred companies per year in which they invested and perhaps gain some insight into high growth sectors.

Then we moved into Agriculture Tech, addressing the Tragedy of Commons with solutions that use sensors to enable more effective community agriculture (e.g. open grazing of livestock).

We also touched on the sharing economy and rethinking the economic model of media.

Product-Market Fit

In The Lean Startup, author Eric Ries introduces the Build-Measure-Learn Cycle, a simple but powerful acknowledgement that an initial product vision is almost never exactly aligned with its target market around a scalable business model, and that disciplined experimentation is the most reliable way to discover this alignment.

The most common startup failure that I have seen is to spend initial funding on a single build effort, leaving no capital for measuring or learning. To avoid this failure mode, first treat your vision as an hypothesis and design experiments to test your hypotheses.

Try to make your Build-Measure-Learn experiments as short and inexpensive as possible. In the early days of most software and service offerings, shoot for cycle times of days. As you learn more and gain confidence in your product market fit, up the ante to cycle times of weeks.

GV, Alphabet’s venture capital firm, brought us a series of practices designed to help startups find the right direction and go fast: brand sprints, research sprints, and design sprints.

Use the 3-hour Brand Sprint to quickly give yourself framework for understanding why you’re doing what you’re doing, where you might be heading, what’s important to you, who you’re talking to, and how you see yourself relative to the competition. I think of this as a key component of a Minimum Viable Brand.

User research is critical to finding product market fit but can easily spin out of control. Four-day Research Sprints encourage you to iterate much faster, building real product, measuring how it works with real users, and learning to inform the next iteration. It’s basically a 4-day Build-Measure-Learn cycle time!

The Design Sprint is a five-day process for answering critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing big product and marketing challenges with customers.

About Startup Lean Coffee

Startup Lean Coffee is a monthly gathering of founders, early employees, advisors, investors, and anyone involved or interested in joining the startup world in any capacity. Our sole purpose is to help each other improve by sharing questions and experiences. All you need to bring is your attention, curiosity, and willingness to share.

We follow a Lean Coffee meeting format, a lightly facilitated meeting where participants democratically build an agenda and discuss each topic for a fixed time, voting to continue discussion or move on to the next topic after the time runs out.

Feel free to continue conversations that were started at our meetings and start new ones on our Startup Lean Coffee Slack workspace. Please treat our Slack space like our in-person meetings: ask questions, share interesting information, create channels.

Startup Lean Coffee is graciously hosted by Betaworks Studios. Participation is free; but space is limited. We usually meet on the 4th Friday of each month. Sign up for the next Startup Lean Coffee, which will be on Friday, October 4th at 9am.

 
Geoff ScottComment