The lean startup part 3 is the final feature in the series. The first half was posted yesterday and included contributions from Joel Gascoigne - Founder of Buffer, Atal Malviya - CEO of ODiMaX, Daniel Todd - Founder of Timetoast and Michael Edge, Co-founder of flup.me. The final set of contributions are posted below. Many thanks to all the contributors who have found time in their busy schedules to share their thoughts concerning how their businesses are presently pursuing elements of lean practice.
5. Boss Level Games – ‘We create multi-player,multi-platform games’
Essentially,we regard ourselves as lean,because that’s actually one of our USPs. Boss Level develop multi-player,multi-platform games utilising HTML5 technologies to provide the “holy grail” of multi-platform development; “write once, play anywhere” functionality. Our ability to write game code once and deploy it instantaneously across all web-capable platforms provides us with a significant cost saving as we a) need significantly fewer coders (the largest budgetary line item for all games developers) and b) the process of improvements and iterations happens immediately and seamlessly. We’re also able to save costs on our back-end infrastructure (typically the second largest line item for a multiplayer games company); by utilising the latest highly scalable technologies we’re able to connect thousands of concurrent players at a fraction of the cost of using existing servers (which typically consume server resources to increase concurrency).
Obviously, in lots of other respects we’re just like any other lean start-up; until this point we’ve had no fixed abode, all of us working from home. Personally I’ve adopted a very frugal lifestyle and if you need an example of this, my holiday that I’m about to go away for is actually a wedding in Kitzbuhl in Austria. In order to save costs, I’m camping which should make for some fun if it’s raining on the wedding day :-) Our customer development process is very much based around leveraging Facebook and Google’s repeated commitment to HTML5 technologies.
By Nick Brown, Director
6. GoSquared – ‘Real-time web analytics is what we do‘
We developed GoSquared originally as a way for companies to get seen - you would purchase a "square" on GoSquared and we would give you prime placement on our site (much like the million dollar homepage). We never made a million dollars doing that, but it did get us playing around on the Internet at the age of 16.
After our economically unsuccessful attempts at creating "the next million dollar homepage", we continued to develop GoSquared into an advertising network. We still didn't make this as successful as we hoped, but it led us to start building up a network of websites, and subsequently start monitoring analytics about each of the sites on our network.
So after our second "pivot" we finally found the perfect product market fit. We threw out a tool to our existing network of websites that enabled people to see *who* was on their websites. Unlike any web analytics software that came before it, GoSquared LiveStats enabled people to watch their visitors browsing around their sites in real-time.
The idea was so popular that a few influential tweeters decided to mention us, and before long we had more people knocking at our door than we could handle. We couldn't argue - it was clear that real-time web analytics looked like a far more promising route than the advertising business we were planning.
We released the third major version of GoSquared LiveStats in January of this year. We have gone from around 1,000 sites to almost 9,000 in around 5 months and picked up some very respectable clients. All with a team of 3 full-time guys.
GoSquared wouldn't be where it is today if we didn't stay small, keep our costs low, and adapt quickly.
By James Gill, CEO
7. DigitisedArt – ‘Fine Art Digital Asset Management’
The concept for DigitisedArt developed from direct observation and discussion from within the Fine Arts industry. It wasn’t knowingly following the methodologies of Lean Startup; but its purpose is entirely customer-centric and followed a rapid, agile design / development process through ‘design pairing’.
Digitised Art provides a central point of management for high quality, digitised artworks and their accompany information and metadata. Its aims go beyond traditional Digital asset Management (DAM) systems, by opening up to the wider industry to improve workflow, business networking and an API to synchronise data to an ever growing number of digital channels.
The need for such a service was recognised by Founder and CEO Paul Evans http://uk.linkedin.com/in/pevans, having worked on a number of web and digital products for London’s independent Fine Art dealers. The focus of Paul’s work is heavily user focused, having attained a first class degree in Information Design back in 1996. “For me, Information Design represents an approach to recognising and solving problems - a common sense approach. The Lean Startup movement combines this with other important methodologies for the web industry”.
Prior to any design and development, the concept was discussed with a wide range of user groups across the industry. This uncovered some unforeseen specialised knowledge areas, vital to the success of the system.
The design was drafted iteratively as a design pairing of Paul and Tim Irving (Co-founder and CTO). Two clearly defined roles as a designer and developer, but with considerable overlap in the area of front-end development. Initial designs were purely functional with some indication of layout (in wireframe), with flow charts to illustrate complex processes and functionality. Working out of the same office, designs were discussed daily or more often as required - with regular consultation to key user groups.
The coding of the system is object oriented fro flexibility, using abstract classes making the change and addition of features both flexible and scalable. Over the course of 5 months, the system was live and is now in trial with a number of galleries and artists in the UK and internationally.
By Paul Evans, Founder and CEO
And finally, this post wouldn’t be complete without a few words from a company who have already acquired considerable experience in drawing upon lean startup principles to co-create with other businesses 'highly social products and networked services for the web and mobile’...
8. Made by Many
Working towards a lean agency model
Made By Many is not a startup but we try to act like a startup on many things, from open-source computing and cloud computing to Agile development and incorporating many techniques from The Lean Startup movement.
The original ideal of Lean comes down to the reduction of waste and the biggest waste in creating new products is making the wrong thing. What we have taken from the Lean Startup movement are the techniques that allow you select, design and optimise the ideas that are going to most successful in the real world. We do this by listening to customers – not just by observing their responses to a product in a face to face environment, but also by gathering information through surveys and through the data they give us when they’re using products.
Critically, the listening process takes the form of testing the products themselves, whether as visuals, prototypes or live products. This process has one primary goal: to learn something we are going to feed back into building the next iteration of the ideas. We call this a cycle of Make,Test and Learn.
This is in a way the antithesis of the traditional agency approach where ideas are created in an ivory tower, an intellectual headspace and a customer-less vacuum where the Creative Director is the arbitrator of the best idea and the solution is presented to the client as a fait accompli. We think this approach is like betting on a hole-in-one right off the tee. It’s not something we’re interested in doing.
Still the Lean agency method isn't for every agency. It fits best when searching for new innovative solutions, especially in the digital space, and it works best with clients who are looking for something new. Traditional agencies may find the requirements of working fast and being willing to rapidly test ideas and incorporate feedback a difficult culture to take on board.
By Stuart Eccles, Co-founder
Skype in the classroom: Lean processes and customer development at work
When Skype noticed a groundswell of teachers using Skype in innovative and exciting ways, they asked Made by Many to help find a way to support these pioneering teachers and share their stories with the education community.
We started by mapping the landscape and the main use cases for Skype in education. Narrowing down our focus to the use of Skype in primary and secondary schools, we developed some initial hypotheses around the kinds of problems teachers might have and what some solutions might be. Our next step was to test these by speaking with teachers, both those who were already using Skype in their classrooms and those who were actively interested but hadn't tried it yet.
While we quickly found that our initial hypotheses were wrong, what we had learnt enabled us to rapidly iterate on our ideas and go through several more rounds of testing with teachers. It was in these conversations that we discovered the central challenge facing teachers: finding other teachers and classes to collaborate with.
In response to this finding, we shaped a proposition to build a directory service where teachers could find each other by interest and location, and also share teaching resources.
Over the next four weeks we built a launch 'n' learn beta to validate our thinking; we also set up a landing page where teachers could find out about the service and register their interest. As a result, a day after launching the beta we had 1,000 people signed up to the site.
Now five months – and some further development based on what we learnt from the beta – later, Skype in the classroom has officially launched with over 12,000 members. Using a combination of Agile, Lean and Customer Development principles we were able to very rapidly build a useful service that people genuinely wanted, and to do so with minimum waste.
By Cath Richardson, Strategist
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