by PJ Christie
We went a little quiet for awhile in Austin. I can’t say it won’t happen again, but it isn’t for lack of activity. Erica has getting me to stop thinking like a bootstrapper and start thinking like a scientist. Which is a good thing. Lance and I have landed some pretty big clients on the software development side too, which has kept me busy with things not necessarily lean.
Some a-ha moments occurred along the way.
Steve Sanderson gave me early feedback on this thing we are calling the Lean Dialog. His contribution was to get me to see beyond my admittedly shallow reasoning about why were even doing it. The point of a Lean Dialog discussion should not be to build better software. As a goal, that is incredibly subjective. Especially because there just aren’t enough clients to really validate that kind of assumption. And that kind of a result just can’t be quantified. “How do you know it’s good?” Um…
Ash Maurya is another influential voice in Lean. His Lean Canvas is a tool I have used over and over like most people I talk to. The thing is that the experiment tool in the first publication never seemed particularly workable for me. Erica and I had some sessions where we could critique Lean to find some answers for why we were struggling so much to articulate Leanufacture. It’s slow learning. The money does not come soon enough. The experiments are not scientific enough. Lance and I met Ash over tacos, and in the heat of the parking lot after our food and discussion of his awesome USERcycle tool, we connected over Erica’s scientific model for experimentation and validation. A thumb’s up from a guy that I’m always learning from felt very good.
Shared office space is awesome. I’ve believed that my DNA and shared work space are 99% compatible since I walked in and met Kirtus Dixon for the first time. He said, “We don’t wear swim trunks and t-shirts”. James Weddle is a true mentor for me and when I ask him “Is this black, white, or gray.” He tells me it is all three and here’s why. Paul O’Brien last week again blew my mind to walk up to a board, circle five problems in a Lean Canvas and get to the problem behind the whiteboard. Tons of wisdom there.
Meanwhile CabForward℠ is growing up fast in the Ruby on Rails world. We all had an internal assignment to run experiments in our day to day. I learned some important things because of the freedom to ask questions and validate answers.
Will people pay for Customer Development? No.
Will they pay outside agencies for research, communications, and help with their positioning? YES!
In fact I had three businesses identified who were or would pay $1,000 – $3,000 per month for what I think of as Customer Development. Independent of CabForward’s℠ software development. The thing is that many people were used to spending that money with specialized consultants or with (gag) ad agencies. Although consultants brought an expertise that is very specific, I was finding companies that would pay a premium to work directly with experts. Here’s why. They know these experts will leave behind a trail of knowledge that fits in perfectly with CabForward’s℠ model of mentor development. That our partners leave an engagement smarter.
CabForward℠ is always going to be about services, but we can’t call those services Customer Development because it is too wonky. We can’t call it marketing because nobody right now will pay a software development company for marketing. For the important end of the summer customer acquisition period, we have validated a market for research. We also have validated that people can’t do their own experiments in a scientific way.
Last week, big changes as I follow up with Ash, Steve, and present Lean Dialog in a group setting.
Ash is interested in what we are doing. Steve of course is moving 100 miles an hour. The first Lean Dialog was a hit and we brought in some super cool and smart people. So here’s some questions coming from a services perspective:
Will customers pay for someone to run their experiments for them?
Will customers pay to store data associated with those experiments?
Would software built to accomplish those goals be to product oriented to fit within CabForward?
Is the word ‘leanufacture’ descriptive enough for the services.
For now, the world loves to talk about their crazy plans. The Lean Dialog lets them do that. It’s a full color 11 x 17 two sided document that talks through their business. It validates their riskiest assumption. It defines their minimum viable product. It’s been done half a dozen times and people are calling me each day for the free walk though. There’s some constraints. But as long as CabForward℠ keeps pushing out software I have time.