Get your idea out of your head!

For the last 10 month, I have been running the Lisbon Lean Startup Practitioners meetup group here in sunny Lisbon, Portugal. We meet once a month and discuss business ideas. For every event, I get two new members of the group to present their projects to the audience. It’s not a 3mins pitch, it’s a 15mins conversation about their business model with the group. Anyone can present, the only requirement is that you have to present your idea using the Lean Canvas.

This approach has actually worked quite well. I point prospective presenters to our public Dropbox folder where they can find the Lean Canvas in both pdf and digital format as well as Ash Maurya’s 20mins introductory video. That’s it. 20mins well spent in my opinion. And they do it.

I am asking “regular” people with or without jobs and perhaps families to look after, university students and even self-declared first-time founders with travel apps and an “MVP launched” as well as shop and bar owners to get their idea out of their heads and onto an A4 paper or its digital version. And then present it to a small group of people who know nothing about the idea. Why? Because I would like the presenters to realise that their current thinking about their idea or product is most likely based on personal opinion and bias for their solution as opposed to concrete facts gained through actual conversations, tests or interactions with real people. Or, as Ash Maurya puts it, I want them to realise that “Your Product is NOT The Product”.

So, when a member presents their idea on the Lean Canvas for the first time, they quickly realise through the questions and constructive feedback from the audience that the assumptions that they have about their business model tend to be very broad, generic and sometimes outright unrealistic. For example, as someone who is just starting off, you will not be able to afford to attract “tourists in Lisbon” to your website through Facebook ads.

Often, the presentations reveal knowledge gaps and unknowns about the business model which is perfectly normal for and expected of someone who is documenting their project on the Lean Canvas for the first time. Getting it right isn’t the intention of the presentation, it’s the realisation that you cannot create a sustainable business on guesses and personal opinion.

This short Lean Canvas activity puts the presenters ahead of a lot of “wantrepreneurs” who chose to follow the build-it-and-they-will-come fallacy by focussing on building and marketing their solution to a presumed problem that they think a generic audience has.

My aim is to help people become better entrepreneurs.

Through the meetup, I want to help entrepreneurs-to-be to make progress with their lives. This includes learning practically how to discover whether an idea can become a viable business and being able to make the decisions whether or not to quit the day-job and spend the next 10 years building a business.

How will I help them make that progress? The free monthly meetups are just the beginning of a hopefully long and successful journey to become a better entrepreneur. Soon, I’ll be offering a workshop where, on one evening per week over 3 weeks, people will learn how to move their ideas forward from something in their heads to a defined business model that might lead to a sustainable business. Or they may realise over the course of the workshop that the idea they envisioned may not be viable. Under my guidance, attendees will learn how to gather concrete evidence (facts) about their business model by practically applying entrepreneurship principles and tools as advocated by Lean Startup. Stay tuned!

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