Speed. The holy grail for small tech start ups. A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sitting with 20 other entrepreneurs and talking through how we can make our start ups go fast. Here are my notes combined with some additional notes I’ve taken over the years. It’s divided up into 3 long blog posts: Planning & Resources, Culture & Personnel, and Operations. Many thanks to the many entrepreneurs who shared their thoughts openly that day. I hope these notes are useful to you.
BLOG: Eric Ries http://www.startuplessonslearned.com/
BLOG: Sean Ellis http://startup-marketing.com/
BLOG: Dave McClure http://500hats.typepad.com/500blogs/ (Dave has a presentation called Start Up Metrics for Pirates)
BOOK: Four Steps to the Epiphany, by Steven Blank: http://www.amazon.com/Four-Steps-Epiphany-Steven-Blank/dp/0976470705/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1256622987&sr=1-3
BOOK: “Getting Real” eBook by 37Signals: http://gettingreal.37signals.com/
BOOK: “Lean Thinking” (a book about Toyota’s management process) http://www.amazon.com/Lean-Thinking-Banish-Create-Corporation/dp/0684810352
BOOK: “Back of the Napkin” by Dan Roam: http://www.amazon.com/Back-Napkin-Solving-Problems-Pictures/dp/1591841992/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1256623431&sr=1-1
TOOL: Balsamiq allows you to mock up ideas get the idea across and talk about it. Very fast, saves time and hand waving. http://www.balsamiq.com/products/mockups
TOOL: UserTesting.com : http://www.usertesting.com/
Notes on Planning
Fast toward what? You have to define your goal well. Often it’s worth spending a few more weeks up front not building anything but doing more research, more inexpensive testing of your assumptions, and more brainstorming to get a better idea of WHAT to build before you start building. Who is it for? What problem are we trying to solve. If you change your strategy, you could lose months of time.
Fast depends on stage of business evolution. When it’s you alone, fast is checking your assumptions and coming up with the right plan. When you know what you want to try, but you have no working product, it’s perhaps getting a usable product to some potential customers. When you have found product/market fit, “fast” will mean something different. When you have revenue, it’s probably different. When you’re profitable, fast is perhaps different yet again.