A New Way to Look at Evidence

At LaunchPad Central, evidence is at the center of everything we do, from running our own business to helping entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs discover and build theirs. Before LPC, teams had to cobble together a set of ill-suited tools to manage the customer development process. This bubble gum and duct tape approach was slow and painful.  LPC was a huge step forward.  However, we also discovered that there are lessons to be learned from the pains of the past. Today, we are excited to share some changes that allow you to more easily see connections in your data and make better use of all the evidence you work so hard to collect.

View all team activity on the same page

When you go to a team’s page on LaunchPad Central, you will see the current Business Model Canvas at the top and the week’s customer interviews below. No more navigating between disconnected views.  This allows you to quickly scan for connections between the hypotheses and evidence.  Navigating between weeks changes both the canvas and the interviews.

Quickly add new evidence and hypotheses

The green “Add New” button is always available in the upper right corner, making it easy to add a business model hypothesis, customer interview, mentor/instructor engagement, or general comments (instructors only) from anywhere on the page.    

Access the tools you need when you need them

Whether you are viewing the Business Model Canvas or the Customer Development section below, click the gear icon to view a list of available tools for that section.

Scan for the highlights or dig into the details

Interviews and engagements are now collapsed to show only the key insights and comments. You can expand to read more, download files, and view hypothesis tagging. This allows quicker synthesis and more dynamic conversations.

A new look and feel

In addition to helping you add and review evidence more quickly, we have made the app more beautiful and enjoyable to use, by adding new fonts, colors, and other visual elements to this page.  Expect to see more of these changes throughout the rest of the app in the coming weeks.

More on the way

This is one small step in a much larger vision we have to help you organize evidence and elevate insights to accelerate the Customer Development process. We can’t wait to show you what else is in store!

 

Stay Evidence-Based,

The LaunchPad Central Team

Direct Presentation Uploads: Say Goodbye to Dropbox / Google Drive!

Customer Development is hard and can seem lonely, which is why going through this type of process with other teams can make the experience much richer. We have observed that programs that incentivize cross-team collaboration reach key insights faster. The first step towards promoting this type of collaboration is having teams present in front of each other every week. This was the exact reason we built the Presentations module in LPC.

Previously, teams would need to upload files to a separate service (i.e. Dropbox / Google Drive), then have program admins copy URLs to those files into LPC [1].

Today, we are excited to announce a new enhancement to Presentations. Now teams will be able to directly upload their slide decks to LPC without needing to use another service!

To take advantage of this, as a Team Member:

  1. click on Presentations in the top menu bar

  2. click the edit icon ()

  3. now you have the option to upload your slides directly to LPC!

Now when teams present, you will be able to view/download their slides directly from LPC.

 

With the goal of making it easier to teach or use the Lean LaunchPad method in your programs, this brings us one step closer to decreasing that barrier. We hope this makes your lives easier so you can focus on the important things - like Customer Development!

 

Now get out of the building,

Team LPC




[1] We have maintained this functionality, so if you are comfortable with that process you will still be able to create and conduct presentations in the same manner.

 

Watch & Track: Lean LaunchPad Video Lectures

The Lean LaunchPad methodology is changing the way we think about entrepreneurship and innovation around the world. It has been adopted by universities, accelerators/incubators, government institutions, and corporations.

Many of our customers rely on the How to Build a Startup videos from Udacity to implement a “flipped classroom”, where teams watch the videos on their own time. This allows instructors and facilitators to spend more time applying the concepts to their teams case, rather than lecturing. While this worked, the #1 pain point we heard from instructors and facilitators was: who is watching the video lectures?

As practitioners of this methodology, we decided to solve this major pain point by launching the new Flipped Classroom module within LaunchPad Central.

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Users on the LaunchPad Central platform no longer need to view the lectures on Udacity. They can now watch the How to Build a Startup videos in addition to the newer Customer Discovery series directly within the platform. LPC generates a real time / on-demand report on the progress of everyone in the program.

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If you either teach or implement the Lean LaunchPad, you’ve come to appreciate that LaunchPad Central drastically reduces the “bubble gum and duct tape” approach of cobbling together disparate tools. The release of the Flipped Classroom module reduces that number even further, and provides insights into team learnings that were never possible before.

Now get out of the building,

The LaunchPad Central Team

New Year, New Look

Happy New Year!

2013 was filled with major milestones for LPC. There are now over 50 universities and 30 accelerators worldwide using LPC to scale their Evidence-Based Entrepreneurship™ initiatives. And over 2,300 startups have conducted nearly 60,000 customer interviews, collectively to test over 65,000 business model hypotheses leading to nearly 12,000 pivots.

Instead of being satisfied with these accomplishments, we decided to spend the holiday season working hard for our customers and users who inspire us, to deliver a special surprise.

We have been actively listening to teams, mentors, instructors, and admins across all of our segments via our customer support channel and proactively reaching out to many of you. While we are still quite far from where we need to be, but our goal to kick off 2014 was simple:

Everything you know and love about about LPC remains the same, just easier to navigate and use.

We are a learning organism, and nothing excites us more than continuing to learn from you and addressing your pain points.

Now get out of the building,

The LPC Team

Do you want LPC for your class or accelerator? We’d love to hear from you!

The Value of Interning at a Startup

This is a guest post by one of our wonderful interns this summer, Nana Miyashita. She hailed from the University of Pennsylvania and is now studying abroad in Hong Kong. We miss her already!

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The hype of working at a startup is far from uncommon especially in the Bay Area, the ultimate hub of new ventures. Whatever the implied perks may be (casual attire, late morning start or Friday night beer), it is pretty obvious that startups offer quite the eccentric workplace. Even as an intern, I got to taste the startup flavor and feel the drive of these eager entrepreneurs who want to change the world in one way or another. As a Customer Development Intern at LaunchPad Central, I was part of a real venture and saw what it takes to be a successful one. This was also my first internship experience in general—needless to say my learning curve was a tremendous one. But more than anything, what I appreciate most about my experience at LPC is that it really made me think hard about what I want to do in the future.

One reason why I was able to do so is because in the startup, I really felt the responsibility on my shoulders—in a good way. For me, this was a way to see what type of job I really enjoyed having the responsibility of doing. When I worked at LPC, there were five people on the team and two interns including myself. With such few people, I felt reliable for whatever I was doing because quite frankly, no one else was going to do what I was doing. What I created was probably going to be the final product. When I was working on the Sales Cycle Analysis for example, I experienced what being responsible for that task meant. It meant that LPC would be able to better analyze their customers. It meant that they could follow up with leads in a more efficient manner. It meant that LPC could better document their interactions with customers. The next question would be: am I fit for this job?

Another way LPC made me think about what I wanted to do was through direct customer contact. As a Customer Development Intern, I met and Skyped with customers who gave us feedback on the LPC platform. I talked to the actual customers who were using or implementing LPC, which meant that I actually knew the people who LPC was trying to help out. When you get to attend multiple customer feedback sessions with the rest of the team (huge perk of interning at a startup), you start thinking about why the business matters in the first place and how you can better help your customers. In turn, I also started thinking about who I would want to help in my future career, whatever that may be.

And of course, the flexible and idealistic nature of startups leaves room for me to think about what I could potentially do. With startups nowadays, anything goes; a startup can be two people making an app to find people in a park in San Francisco or it can be a group striving to change medicine with new technological advancements. Putting aside good or bad, working at LPC made me think and question what I would want to create myself. Because LPC started from an idea too. It started from an idea that was not only worth monetizing but also worth putting out into the world. Hence, I often played around with ideas in my head on my BART ride back home after a full day of absorbing LPC’s determined energy.

I am still thinking, not only about career choice or startup ideas but about what my role may be in the field I most enjoy and care about. It is one of those things that is simply said but hard to do, but you have to start somewhere and I think my start was at LPC. Surrounded by such smart and passionate people, it is hard not to think about whom you want to be and what you want to pursue.

And let me end with the fact that I really enjoyed working at LPC. If Friday evening meetings can be that entertaining and full of laughter, that’s not a bad sign at all.

 

Thanks to Bhavik, Robert, Michael, Ash and Kevin for letting me be a part of the LPC team!

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Beautiful Customer Segments

Have you ever had a value proposition that related to multiple, but not all, customer segments? This can be a tricky thing to experiment with and visualize in the early stages of any startup. 

When we first created the canvas, we limited associations to a single customer segment with the thought that entrepreneurs would think more carefully about their choices and experiments. However, insightful feedback from our customers showed us how, and why, multiple relationships were necessary for proper testing of hypotheses among different customer segments. 

Today, we released not only the ability to associate your hypotheses with multiple customer segments, but also some killer visual updates to the canvas. 

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Thanks to the incredible startups that use LaunchPad Central to help them navigate the early stages of their search for a business model, we have a powerful feedback loop that helps us drive our product forward. We have some really exciting things in the pipeline, and can’t wait to share them with you. 

Now get out of the building,

The LaunchPad Central Team

Customized Sharing, Playbook, and Hover Actions

There have been some great additions to LaunchPad Central in the past weeks, and we wanted to make sure everyone knew how to leverage them. Let’s go through them one-by one.

Customized Sharing

When we first started, the open and collaborative nature of a cohort was one of the most valuable things on our platform for teams. As we spoke with more customers, especially in the cleantech and life sciences spaces, we learned how sensitive teams were regarding their IP and business model strategies. This becomes an even bigger issue when competing teams are in the same cohort. 

Today, we are thrilled to announce sharing that can be customized for specific environments. What does this mean?

  • For the classroom - full sharing so teams can learn from each other.
  • For incubators/accelerators - partial sharing, so teams can learn from each other but limit customer contact or other details.

If this feature is enabled for your sub node, teams will no longer be able to see each others information (Business Model Canvas, Customer Interviews, etc.), but the instructors and program leads will still have transparency into all the teams so they can help as many as possible, in parallel. 

Org and Node Admins have the ability to enable/disable this functionality for each sub node. 

Playbook

LaunchPad Central is a platform to scale the Evidence-Based Entrepreneurship™ process. By integrating videos of the core Lean LaunchPad curriculum into the platform we’ve helped lay out the rules by which the game of entrepreneurship is played.

As anyone who follows sports will tell you, it is invaluable to have a coach that has seen how things play out and a playbook to draw from. This next step has been missing. 

As a first step toward addressing this issue, we have included some of the best “plays” run by some of the Valley’s most experienced entrepreneurs. These are videos of real teams getting feedback from those whom have scar tissue from learning things first hand [1]. Check them out!

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We are excited to continue to expand our library of “plays” and welcome any feedback on what you think is missing. 

Hover Actions

One of the first and most frequent actions a team goes through is adding hypotheses to their canvas. From listening to our wonderful customers, we have made this way easier! 

When you hover your cursor over the canvas, you will notice a blue overlay with buttons at the top. Depending upon your role, there are different actions you can take. 

 - clicking on the plus icon is a quick way to add a hypothesis to that section of your canvas

 - clicking on the search icon will display all the posts you have related to that section of your canvas

 - clicking on the play icon will open a video that helps educate you on what that section of the canvas means

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Whew! Are you tired from reading about all that incredible new stuff? We hope not, because you probably have a lot of Customer Development to do today. 

Now get out of the building,

The LaunchPad Central Team

[1] Thank you to Steve Blank for providing these wonderful videos, to Ralph Guggenheim for editing hundreds of hours of footage to create these videos, and to the beaten down teams from Berkeley for surviving the Lean LaunchPad to create these videos. 

3 Key Components for Documenting Customer Interviews

We talk a lot about the importance of Customer Development, but not too many dive into the ‘how’. Many first time entrepreneurs (or sometimes seasoned ones) do not understand the process of actually doing a customer interview. Below are the three key areas that we have learned need to be addressed for a successful interview. 

1) What do you believe?

Everyone has a set of hypotheses, and usually they are mapped out on your business model canvas. You need to be going into every interview with which hypotheses you are testing, and specific experiments on how to test them (measurably). 

2) What did you learn?

This is typically the only thing people actually document. In order to refine your learning though, do not just mindlessly jot down notes. Tie your notes back to your business model hypotheses to drive them towards validation or invalidation. Creating this relationship is crucial down the road after you have conducted hundreds of interviews to see where the feedback is leading you. We do this internally using LaunchPad Central, which keeps our eyes open to shifting trends and our product focused on actual customer needs. 

3) What are you going to do next?

Fantastic, you finished the interview and potentially learned a few things. You need to have an action plan on how this affects your next steps. For example, you might learn about a Key Partner that is a gatekeeper to your entrance - time to find someone that can help you navigate those waters. 

Although this post is still topical, it should provide a good framework for approaching your next customer interview. We plan on diving deeper into each of these in future posts. 

Now get out of the building!

The LaunchPad Central Team

Coffee Fuels Customer Development

No, we are not talking about coffee as a magic elixir to keep you awake as you hustle your way through the early stages of a startup. Instead, we are talking about how to get insightful feedback from customer interviews (especially if you are a B2C startup). 

Sometimes it can be difficult to get strangers to give you honest feedback (or even the time of day). A great we way we have seen teams garner meaningful feedback is to use coffee as an incentive. 

A friend of ours went to Starbucks with a chalkboard sign that read “Try my app and I’ll buy you coffee.” Then as customers would walk in, they would test out his app, he would observe their mannerisms, they would provide verbal feedback, and eventually got a free coffee in return. While this is a great way for usability testing, we wanted to take it further and apply it to customer development. 

Instead of having customers test an app, ask them to spend 5-10 minutes walking you through their day. As you listen to them, hone in on any frustrations and explore those areas deeper. Before you know it, they will be opening up like you are their therapist (and going way past the 10 minute mark - for free). Open discussions are where insights happen. 

This is just one of many ways to get honest feedback from customers. Stay tuned for more! In the meantime, let us know what your favorites are. 

Now get out of the building,

The LaunchPad Central Team

Small Changes, Big Improvements

Customer Discovery is crucial for learning about your business model hypotheses from potential customers. This is known. However, it is also extremely beneficial with existing customers. Every interaction we have with a customer is cataloged and discussed internally, leading to a better understanding of where we need to improve from a product standpoint. 

As we have previously stated, the interface and workflow are two areas we are focusing on optimizing. Yesterday, we released a new way to add hypotheses to your business model canvas that makes it much faster and easier to get up and running. 

When you hover over a section of the canvas, you will be prompted with a menu to add a new post, search existing posts, or learn more about that section through a Udacity video. Check out the screenshot below. 

We have already received ecstatic feedback from customers on this change, and hope it makes the rest of our customers even more efficient at customer discovery. There is a lot more in store, so hold on tight. 

Now get out of the building,

The LaunchPad Central Team