Flipped Startup Blog

Change Your World

Today I helped film the final event of an accelerator. Nine business start-ups pitched to potential investors, family, friends and other entrepreneurs. It was a staged experience with music and visuals, awards and introductions, hopes and dreams. It was the graduation of an inaugural cohort for a new accelerator. Everyone put on their best face and brought their best game.

During the event I was interested how many times I heard the phrase, “Change the world.”

“Go out and change the world!”

“We believe our new technology will change the world.”

“Our innovation will change the way business is done. It will change the world.”

What is it in us that needs the world to change? What is it in us that assumes the role of world changer? I hear this phrase daily. I’ve used it myself most of my life. When I was younger I wanted my art to change the world. I’m an idealist so I had (and have) a laundry list of what would make life better. I’m also aware that my list is not universal. In fact, much on my list would seem heretical to many of the people on the planet. What is “better” for me is worse for others. What is the world I wish to change?

On the most superficial level when the entrepreneurs said, “the world” they actually meant “people.” So, they want a change for people. And, by the word “change,” they actually meant “to improve.” Rather than change the world, they want to improve the human condition. Joe once told me that the universe tends toward wholeness and I thought of him today as I listened to the pitches. In order for our work to matter we need to know that it is serving to make things better for someone. We tend toward wholeness though grow blind to it in the routines of our day. The road crew is making my life better. So is the barista, the grocery store clerk, and the woman who tends the amazing flowers in Pioneer Square.

In most cases the entrepreneurs had a unique story driving their innovation. We didn’t hear their stories today but I’ve been paying attention. Each saw a human need or experienced a frustration and wanted to improve on what currently is possible. They want to make things easier for shoppers. They want to make doctors more efficient. They want to help people acknowledge the contributions of others. They want their children to be safe. They want their families to prosper. They want a better world and they want to help create it. They tend toward wholeness though it might not have been apparent in the selling of their idea and the cocktails that followed.

As I watched the pitches I recognized how each person had grown personally through their time in the accelerator. They worked endless days and sacrificed more than sleep in their march to creating a better world. Although this is cliché it occurred to me that the world that they changed was their own. Just like you and me, when we identify our gift, when we see what is ours to do – and actually do it – our world changes. We experience our tendency toward wholeness and are changed because of it. It’s never “the world” we want to change, it’s our world, it’s ourselves.

[898. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.]

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.

Everything you need to know about startups can be learned from rowing

The way of creating a business is changing. You used to build a product and hope a customer would buy it. However, today you need to change your way of thinking from waiting for a customer to instead finding an audience that will then expose some customers, who will then shape your product and business model. Or put another way: Mindset -> Audience -> Customer -> Product.

When you say these words in order –  Mindset, Audience, Customer, Product – the order seems counter intuitive and wrong. This is very similar to rowing. When teaching rowing, the body works in segments. You start the stroke at the “catch” where the blade of the oar connects and catches the water. The knees are drawn up, the body angle is forward, and the arms are straight and forward (see graphic below)
From this position, your legs go from a bent position to straight, your body angle opens up and you move into a lay back position, then the arms bend as the hands are brought close to the body to finish the stroke. Or put another way: Legs, back, arms.

Most new rowers have a hard time initially getting their brain to do these motions in that order. Their instinct is to bend their arms first, open the back to a layback position, and then push their legs down. This of course will not move the boat very efficiently, and will most likely hurt your back!

The same is true for many new ventures. People want to do the opposite of what they should be doing. They want to focus on the product first, then the customer. When they really need to flip their thinking and go against what sounds and feels more intuitive. They need to change their mindset to focus on not knowing who their customers are or even what product they should be developing.

They need to get out of the building (as Steve Blank tells us) and find an audience. From this audience, then you can start to find your customers – those people who will actually pay you for your product and most importantly the customers that will help drive the development and iteration of your product. The actual product should be the last thing you focus on and develop, instead of the first.

Keep those arms straight until the legs are down and the back has opened!

The Four New Venture “Developments”

Each successful new venture has four concurrent development activities that they are involved in:

The Four Developments

Most entrepreneurs start with the product development activity and ignore the other three.  Steve Blank and the Lean Startup movement argue strongly for starting with customer development. Linda Holliday at Citia suggests that you have to go beyond customer development and create an audience well before you can start creating customers.  The crowd funding movement made popular by Kickstarter goes even farther and provides a vehicle for entrepreneurs to co-create the product with their audience.

The product and customer development activities are what is visible to the external world – above sea level if you will.  The other two levels are invisible to the external world and yet just as important as the audience and customer development – talent and investor development. A smart entrepreneur is always developing the talent in the organization as fast as they can handle it. Investor development is often left to the last moment or worse, started way too early. Investor development is the most obvious example of strategic networking for the entrepreneur – you have to invest in the potential relationships long before you have a company or a product.

So where are you in your process of developing all four resources?

For more information attend the SEER seminar.  Or check out our other content at Flipped Startup.

Register for the SEER Seminar

David on stage at The Hub

David on stage at The Hub

On June 8, 2013 we will hold THE SEER: Launch Your Dream Seminar at the HUB in Seattle from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.  Prior to the event you will receive the first three chapters which describe the first three recognitions of the entrepreneur.

Join David Robinson and Skip Walter for a one day The SEER: Launch Your Dream seminar at The Hub in Seattle, WA on Saturday, June 8, 2013. 

Code Mocking? How about business plan mocking?

After 40 years of participating in software code reviews, I couldn’t stop laughing when I encountered a recent Scott Adams‘ Dilbert cartoon:

code mocking

Many is the code review meeting that I wished I could stand up and start mocking the fruits of a software engineer’s labor.  Forgetting that some times the code could strike back.

After wading through 100 applications for an upcoming new venture investors’ conference, I wanted to send an email invite to my colleagues to set up a parallel meeting for business plan mocking. We should set up an award for the clueless that sends them to a workshop on Running Lean or at a minimum remedial hockey stick revenue plan generation.  Maybe a dose of business plan BS would help as well:

bs generator

May the mocking be with you?