I have been a mentor at Rockstart since the beginning. This year I am running the Lean customer development session in the Rockstart web/mobile track. Apart from giving workshops on experiments and the principles of customer development, the introduction of an experiment canvas, I also introduced weekly sessions with the startups called lean-mentor checkins. These sessions are really simple and straight forward but work really well. That is why I wanted to share them with you.
I basically took the ‘braintrust’ principle; founders that check in with a small group and share problems and ideas with each other. Combined that with the fact that I wanted them to help each other, as well as me wanting to know about their customer development process. Doing this every week will hopefully keep them doing customer development and product optimization based on customer feedback. Rather than them being sucked into the daily business of bugs, problems, finances and sales.
This resulted in a weekly meetup where the startups send one of the founders ( preferably always the same one) to a meeting that is always one hour, and no longer than that hour, at the same time every single week. I have divided the group in two so that there are 5 founders in each group. Keeping the group small helps in both trust and attention. I think 4 might even work better. Less than 3 will probably reduce some of the value by the feedback and different views of the other founders.
To keep the sessions about customer development for now, each founder has 12 minutes sharp to answer the following two questions;
What have you learned last week?
What is it you want to learn/validate this week?
The startups use the experiment canvas that I introduced ( a modified and simplified version of the evolve canvas ) to keep track off their progress during the sessions. Preferably they all have 4 minutes to tell about last week. This is something that really helps keeping at customer development. You want something to show to the others every week…It also can help having other peoples views giving feedback on the data you have collected. Next is what you want to learn this week, what do you want to validate and why, or what part of your product do you want to optimize and what data do you need for that. Sharing this can get you a lot of new ideas or expertise from the others on your next step. You will want as much time getting the views and experiences of te other founders. We keep the turns at 12 minutes each, strictly, keep notes on the feedback so you can follow up with conversations with the other founders that where cut short. Keeping it short will keep it meaningful for everyone, it only takes 1 hour of your always valuable time as a founder and you want as much dedication from everyone as possible to make it a valuable meeting to keep up with every week.
For now both groups are accompanied by a lean mentor, to give advice or ask critical questions, but in time the groups should run without the mentor. The meetup becoming a valuable hour of co-founder feedback for all of their problems, issues and successes.