Frequently Asked Questions
0. Am I ready for Lean Startup?
1. Do I really need strategic advising? Why?
2. What is the Lean Startup Model?
3. Business Model vs Business Plan
4. Is the Lean Startup Model good for me?
5. How much will it cost me?
6. How is the advisory program structured and what is its duration?
7. Will you help me in writing or executing a Business Plan?
8. On what kind of business ideas can you help me? In which domains?
9. What is your experience in strategic advising? What are your "success" stories?
10. Are you safe with me with your Intellectual Property?
Lean Startup is a new and different approach to Business Development, which requires a fundamental shift in perspective. Willing to be successful is not enough for Lean Startup and you must be aware that you will have to get out of your Comfort Zone. I suggest that you read first the Lean Startup book and become familiar with the principles of the methodology.
During the first (free of charge) explorative session, we will understand if you are ready to engage with the Lean Startup process. Since we all want to avoid wasting time, it will make little sense if I have to convince you about the benefits of Lean Startup. If you are convinced that LEan Startup is the right approach, we can work together and hopefully achieve the expected results. Similarly to a personal trainer, I can help you in setting your targets, avoiding mistakes and I will support you in stressful situations such as pivoting. But I cannot do the work for you. If you are skeptical about Lean Startup, you are probably not ready for it.
A strategic adviser can see things from the outside that someone from the inside cannot see or understand. As in the novel "Flatland", the story tells about an imaginary two-dimensional "flat" land. Once, one of its inhabitants was brought to the third dimension (i.e. spaceland) where he could see flatland from a new different perspective and see things that were invisible to those who were living in two dimensions. The analogy here is about the difficulty of entrepreneurs to see their business with the eyes of potential customers. I will bring you to this new dimension and push you to double check the assumptions you made about your customers needs.
Entrepreneurs and customers are radically different and entrepreneurs have always the tendency to consider themselves "very similar" to those who they consider their potential customers. This happens to turn out to be very often wrong and unfortunately discovered too late in the business development process. Therefore you need an adviser who helps you in seeing your business from different perspectives (i.e. that of your customers) and who plays the role of the "Devil's advocate" by challenging your hypotheses. This without changing your overal vision, which should be always maintained and nurtured.
In a nutshell, the Lean Startup Model is an innovative (and radically different) approach to business development, which heavily relies on learning directly from data obtained through validation experiments. It brings Agile Management into business development so that the company can start selling their product/service as soon as they are able to craft a Minimal Viable Product (MVP). In essence, an MVP is a fully functional product/service which has not yet scaled for mass market, but it is sufficiently good for attracting early adopters. In fact, it is with the help of your early adopters that your business hypotheses can be validated. The advantage to co-develop the product/service with early adopter are:
We will develop together a Business Model (if you haven't already done it). At startup stage, it does not make much sense to write a Business Plan because it will be based on unvalidated assumptions. You might be able to convince an investor with a Business Plan (or even win a BP competition), but this will not automatically guarantee the success of your product/service.
With a Business Model, instead, you study the logical relationships among your assumptions and you understand if you can run a sustainable business based on those assumptions. Once you have done this, you need to validate those assumptions. In case all assumptions are validated by the market and the data, you have a good chance that your business will succeed and therefore you can start writing a Business Plan and get funded.
In case one or more assumption cannot be validated, you will have to replace them with others (i.e. pivoting) and check if with these changes the Business Model still work. If it doesn't, then you have to re-design your Business Model with the new assumptions in order to make it work. Once you have done that, then you can start again validating them.
If you are a startup searching for a viable Business Model, this is highly probable. Startups need first to "search" the compelling problem(s) they can solve with their own technology. This search is actually a "scientific" research: from hypothesis to thesis. For startup, hypotheses are assumptions on customer's demands, segments, accessibility. Theses are "proofs" (backed with data) that assumptions are correct. Since founders often know very little about their customers, one strategy is to "meet the customers": talk with them, let them use your Minimal Viable Product/Service right from the start, let them give you feedback, and definitely help them build the right product that they will pay for.
It depends if you are a Startup, an Incubator or Accelerator, or a Corporation:
We will have one first 2 hours free of charge introductory session where we will discuss about your startup vision and I will illustrate the Lean Startup methodology. Then you will select the appropriate package and we will start designing your Business Model, the Minimal Viable Product, the Actionable Metrics, and setup the experiments for validating the hypotheses of your Business Model.
Once the validated learning process is bootstrapped, we will meet on your demand when you need assistance in taking difficult decisions such as, for instance, when the hypotheses are invalidated from the experiments and you need to decide for a pivot or re-design your Business Model.
Sessions can be done at client's premises, at LeanStart's premises in Geneva, Switzerland or virtually on Skype.
Sessions can be done in English, French, Italian and Romanian.
No. I will help you in designing and validating a Business Model which is the foundation of a rock solid Business Plan. As Steve Blank pointed out, Business Plans will never resist the first contact with the customer. Therefore, it does not make much sense to make before the validation of the Business Model. You need to focus on how to achieve the Product-Market Fit. A Business Model is essentially a coordinated set of business assumptions that, if validated, will guarantee the successful development of a repeatable and profitable business.
Moreover, the Lean Startup Model will help you avoiding "Premature Scaling", that is deploying massive resources on plan based on non-validated assumptions (Steve Blank explain it very clearly here). Premature Scaling has been proven to be the main cause of failure in startups.
However, soon or later, you will have to write a Business Plan as investors require one. The point is that you can create a more convincing Business Plan once you have validated all your assumption and you have already a quantifiable impact on the market. This will make your Business Plan unbeatable.
I can help you in any kind of business idea as long as it is at startup stage. You can be a company, an association, a non-profit organization, an independent professional who needs to develop and implement a strategy to validate a product or service in a real market segment.
This is independent of the industry sector and the approach is based on the same principles. However, I can provide additional assistance in a few industry sectors because of my experience and namely: Software Development, eCommerce, Education, Web Services, and Internet Marketing.
I have attended several courses in startup creation in Switzerland, namely those offered by VentureLab (which I personally recommend). I have a pretty good grasp of the Swiss economic and technological landscape and therefore I can advise on potential partnerships.
I have been doing scientific research and technology innovation for more than 15 years. I have profound experience in managing Research and IT projects (i.e. I am a certified Project Manager: PMP, PRINCE2 and ITILv3). I also supervised many students in their projects. Most of them became successful professionals and entrepreneurs (e.g. Dominique and Ivan are among my best students). You can look at my professional experience on my LinkedIn profile.
As an entrepreneur, I recently won a national Business Plan competition (because of the underlying Business Model) in Italy and contributed to the early business modeling of a company ExcellNess (former name HelvaLab) that is now up and running... and scaling. I am also the co-founder and former CTO of interAnalytics a company that leveraged my own scientific research in the area of Business Intelligence and Text Mining for Customer Interaction Analytics.
Caveat: Talking about someone's experience might be misleading: for instance, would you trust an investment advisor after the financial crisis? I don't think so. People with experience in "20th century" Business Planning are the "old generation" business development and their approach no longer works as it is too rigid and based on heavy capital investments.
That's my point: I am a "new generation" strategic adviser who sees business development differently. Are you ready to embrace the "new wave"? That is the right question to ask. Have a look at this video to understand why Business Plan is no longer the right approach in startups. Moreover, old-school consultants would never dare to push you in pivoting when necessary. I will.
I am currently Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at HEIG-VD and I am co-running the university pre-incubator STarmac.
The answer is: you are never safe with IP protection... if you are not protected. That's why I suggest my clients to let me sign a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA). I will give you a template that you can adapt to your specific need and that I will more than happy to sign.