Lean Startup Machine Experience

A week ago, I joined the Lean Startup Machine’s event in Shanghai and it was a life-changing experience.

I met great people, made some connections, had a team of 5, an awesome idea and at the end we won the 2nd place!

Here’s a picture of the people in the event. I’m on the right most with half of my face blocked (I’m short I know…).

What is Lean Startup Machine?

LSM is an event that goes over the weekend where people pitch their startup ideas and form teams, during the next two days they formulate their plans and get out of the building (the point of the event) and do surveys on strangers to validate (keyword) our most riskiest assumptions (e.g. food is boring for white collars) in order to understand the customer’s pain point.

This event focuses on identifying the problem first with real solid evidence, rather than setting up a product and at the end finding out no one is needing it. This is why most startups fail. Hence, LSM eliminates this risk with rock hard data, much like the scientific method.

Read more on LSM’s website.

My Experience of LSM

Initially – Awkward & Out of Comfort Zone

That Friday night my school actually had a fun Halloween event, but I got out in the middle of it because I knew I had to make a sacrifice to learn something rather than to have fun. It was a clear once in a lifetime opportunity. I knew which was the smarter decision.

I got to the venue and as to my expectations, I was the youngest person with the least experience at the place. Everyone else were adults ranging from college students (I made some friends after all) to programmers, CEOs, office workers, business owners and freelancers.

It was really awkward at first because I knew no one and didn’t come with a friend (which was great because it forced me to get out of my comfort zone and socialize). But then I just talked to people who were sitting on the side and had some conversations going on. Fortunately, the event made sure there was an ice breaker with a name game and setting up teams for people to work together.

Rise To Confidence & Excitement

Eventually, I got paired up with a team of 5, two others being college students which was awesome, a developer and a currently out of work biz consultant. But for all of us in common, we wanted to pursue a startup dream. Our team leader, who was a foodie had the idea of creating a mobile app with a click of a button, would deliver to a person’s door a delicious meal that was random (and excluding food they don’t like and can’t eat) based on our recommendations – there was the surprize element. Our riskiest assumption was white collars are food boredom and they want surprizing meals.

Testing Our Hypotheses

The next day, we had to test this hypothesis. Our team split up in the city and surveyed many people on the streets and got some really valuable information. It turned out that people were somewhat food bored and didn’t really like a surprizing meal – they wanted choices. Then we had to pivot (keyword = shift) our plan, and we came out with the assumption that people from college students to adults before retirement wanted to try new food.

And so, we tested out the assumption on the streets again, and we found it to be true and that the problem we found was people needed trustable recommendations, not just online reviews because they can be forged or bought, also word of mouth was a really important factor in deciding where to try new food (it was found that people knew there were places for new food but just didn’t quite know where as they were many choices and not definite promise of quality). Trust was the key.

Plan Now Solid – Requires Pitching Our Offers

Now that we have validated our assumptions and pivoted our plan, we had to pitch our product to strangers and acquire currency (keyword = signs of acceptance). Our product was an app integrable with WeChat, and connectable with our website of recommendations of hand-picked restaurants by our foodie team, where people could scan a QR code and create a hangout.

And so we pitched this idea to people on the streets, and the end (with a little cheat from my friends) we accumulated over 80 signups, which was a number that dominated the whole event.

And so, we won the second place, with prizes such as free office space and mentorship from experts.

Now, we’re going to meet up and continue our project!

*Note About Myself

I went to the event as a highschooler, what’s the first thing that comes to your head as an adult?

No experience, uselessness and incapable of actual work.

It was sad when people didn’t vote for my idea when I pitched, I still won’t give up though because I knew the audience had little knowledge about my idea (I will test it though).

I’m 100% certain that people did have a bias on me when I went, and I knew I had to be realistic and just endure it, because if I were them, I’d probably do the same.

But as our team worked on, it went smooth and there was one minor argument but it got through at the end. And I felt that my teammates lost bias against me, but certainly still some innate proportion of it right now.

What I Gained

Success requires sacrificing – I learned that pursuing a dream (I want to have a startup) requires sacrifices, and knowing when to give up in trade for something else. There’s a difference between some you want for the short run and the long run. I knew if I had stayed at the Halloween party, I would have missed out on amazing opportunities and value from the event.

Teamwork triumphs individual work – I learned that teamwork was really important, there was no way our team could’ve won and done our job well without division of tasks and collaborative working.

Listen and evaluate – It is certainly most important to listen to each other’s thoughts, in their perspectives, and readjust our thoughts if necessary. Everyone’s opinions should be evaluated and treated equally at first sight.

Get out of our comfort zone & look for real evidence to be realistic – The point of the whole event was to get out of the building – that was their motto too, to test out assumptions and get out of our comfort zone. It certainly eliminated our potential to waste so much time from developing a product that didn’t work. Surely, our original idea required a pivot. The lesson is, no matter how good an idea sounds in your head, you’ll need approval and acceptance of others.

Friendship with an awesome team of 5 – The event allowed me meet new people, develop my socializing skills and it certainly bonded me with my team in this group work. I also got to know the event organizer and hopefully, they would remember me as the “young highschooler” who went.

Why You Should Go

There’s honestly no reason not to, except for being lazy.

  • You make new friends + socialize.
  • You learn about startups and businesses.
  • You learn to get out of your comfort zone.
  • You engage in teamwork.
  • You gain experience from conversing to project management.

I’m definitely going to the next, as well as other similar events that will come up in the future.

Find out more about Lean Startup Machine and perhaps there is one coming soon up near you!

Note: I’m just a happy participant, no one told me to write this “review” and I just want to share my experience.