Build Rome In A Day: Start a Business Using the Principles Of Lean Startup

If you’re a part of the startup world, you’ve probably heard of Eric Ries’ awesome Lean Startup movement (if you haven’t, it’s a set of startup principles that you can build a leaner, faster startup around to allow you to quickly identify customer needs and develop solutions for them). For the past few years, it’s been the talk of the town.

Interestingly enough, a few years before Eric Ries coined the phrase ‘Lean Startup,’ SurveyGizmo was developed using the same rapid iteration and customer feedback cycle that people today would call the Lean Startup methodology.

The first version of SurveyGizmo’s survey software was built during a matter of days, and was then quickly improved and refined based on user feedback. It was a fast, iterative, hyper-productive process. Since then, we’ve kept our commitment to customer-focused development and rapid iteration to allow us the flexibility to make changes and appeal to our market more quickly.

And now we’re taking that process in a new direction.

To get back to our roots, we’ve created the SurveyGizmo Lean Startup Project. Over the next year (& possibly longer!), we plan to launch a number of micro-startups apart from our core SurveyGizmo business. Each one will stem from a SurveyGizmo employee’s idea and be rapidly developed by a team of SurveyGizmo employees into a minimum viable product. From there, we’ll continue to iterate and develop the product based on customer feedback.

How the Process Works

  1. We select our ideas directly from our staff. Any SurveyGizmo employee can submit an idea, then present it to the entire company. After listening to and discussing the presentations, the entire SurveyGizmo staff votes to choose the product we think is the most viable.
  2. Once an idea is set, a team is chosen to work on it. They work for two solid weeks on refining the idea, building out a minimum viable product, and soliciting customer feedback.
  3. At the end of two weeks’ core development, they return to their regular positions, continue to work on the startup on nights and weekends. (Yep – we don’t sleep much around here.)

During this process, we continually assess the development of the project, and attempt to learn as much as we can from our research, our development, and (most importantly) customer feedback. We will evaluate the projects at different times, and if they aren’t progressing as expected, we’ll move on to another project.

What’s Next?

Some of these projects will succeed (we hope so!). Some may fail – and by doing so, we hope to at least learn something. Ultimately, this is all about us seeing problems, and finding creative ways to solve them.

To that end, we’ve already been going down this road for a few months. While our first lean startup, HelpGizmo, didn’t make it all the way to production, we have now released it as a free application, and may decide to resume efforts at some point in the future. Most importantly, we learned a lot as we got it up and running.

We’re putting the lessons we learned building HelpGizmo to use on our second lean startup, LearnGizmo – an interactive learning management system to help teachers and students succeed. LearnGizmo is currently accepting beta testers – so if this sort of thing interests you, head on over and sign up for the beta.

We’re excited to see where these startups take us! Keep watching over the next few weeks – we’ll have a lot to tell you.

Image courtesy of Clearly Ambiguous – Flickr, Creative Commons (Attribution)

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