Tangelo just finished hosting the first Tangelo Startup House of 2011 in Argentina. From January 5th through the 13th the Tangelo team gathered in the city of Buenos Aires where we were hacking internet products for two straight weeks. In order to deliver in such a short period of time, we needed a framework to help us cut through the noise and deliver a working prototype. For software development we use Agile methodologies but when you want to build a product that eventually can become a profitable business, there are many more things to consider beyond software development. In all honesty, the development of the code is probably the last step in a series of events.
We are great fans of Eric Ries and his Lean Startup methodology. So we decided to tape the graph of the underlying structure of a Lean Startup to the makeshift “white board” and morph its guidelines to fit our goal and restrictions. For those of you that have not read Eric’s blog, I highly recommend reading the Lean Startup blog and if you can you should attend one of Eric’s workshops as well.
In a nutshell, The Lean Startup is designed to launch a minimun viable product to market within a reasonable timeframe and attemping to control the risk associated with launch. It is basically a combination of smart Agile Software Development and focused Customer Development. It forces you into rapid prototyping which allows you to test ideas in the market and with real customers faster. User feedback is at the core of this cycle so that you can eliminate flaws in the product much faster than through traditional practices.
Eric Ries wrote about adopting a new way of developing products by eliminating “waste”, which is often generated by default. When we talk about “waste,” we mean time and money spent on actions which then fail to prosper and should be eliminated thus forcing developers to start again from the beginning. This blog post would then become the base of his Lean Startup.
How do we use the Lean Startup guidelines at Tangelo?
Basically, we take the guidelines established and make them fit with our business model. We truly believe the guidelines are valuable and the guidance is marvelous. At the same time, the moment that you apply one “business model” such as this as a blanket to mandate what your company produces, then you are most likely dimming down the light that makes your company shine.
Let’s take the case of proverb.io, one of three products we are now developing internally.
The whole project started with one simple idea: there are many people who like to collect and share famous quotes and they are scattered across social networks. So, we thought, it would be nice to build a website in which these people get the opportunity to set up a community sharing similar interests as well. Right now we are testing the idea by analyzing real users’ behavior and taking into account their needs and their passions.
There was no need for a business plan. We went directly to the sketch of the idea, the user interaction and the implementation. We failed a couple of times already but every time a user comes up and gives us feedback, we feel empowered to continue. We know there’s a need and we’re doing our best to fulfill it.
We developed a working prototype in less than 2 days and we liked it. Most importantly, some users liked it and started using it constantly.
Why are we working with The Lean Startup guidelines?
- It is the best process which allows testing ideas, spending the lowest amount of resources.
- Our customers are amazed at our capacity and speed to implement their requirements.
- It is a system that works seamlessly with social networks at the time of testing.
- The economy of resources allows us to be more proactive. For example, the time saved is used to make advances in other aspects of the project,such as find and solve new problems.
The key values of Lean Startup are:
- Perfect quality, detection and resolution of problems at their source.
- Elimination of all activities that provide no added value.
- Optimizing the use of resources (capital, people and space).
- Continuous improvement, cost reduction, quality improvement, increase productivity.
- Flexibility and ability to quickly produce a variety of different products, without sacrificing efficiency.
- Building and maintaining a long term relationship with suppliers taking risk-sharing agreements