LeanLA Presents: Beware of False Prophets

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The message was clear, beware of false prophets when dealing with your young and budding startup.  This particular evening, we attended the LeanLA meet-up located at Coloft, a swank professional co-op/work space in the heart of Santa Monica, known as the epicenter of the LA startup scene.  The venue was lined with vibrant and inviting decor, a spacious loft style presentation room, and plenty of mini-workstations for the motivated and social entrepreneur; a great setting for the presentation at hand.

The casual but informative evening started off with a buzz, with plenty of smiling faces and greetings.  Fueled by a drive to be self-made and complimentary pizza & beer, the room consisted of younger and older, budding entrepreneurs, track-proven overseers, and even a couple of angel investors.  Overall, the capacity-crowd consisted of plenty of different professional identities, all tuning in to hear lead presenter David Binetti, Co-Founder and Business Model Designer for Votizen.

The premise of the evening was simple and straight-forward.  After a few opening words from event co-organizers Joe Zulli, Pete Mauro, and Patrick Vlaskovits, Binetti gave the 411 on following a lean approach to building a startup.  Having been a founder/first employee of six past startups himself, he talked about the benefits of not taking a ‘fat’ approach and gave the following points (based off of Steve Blanks’ customer development model) as the frame work for the night’s presentation:

(Forewarning of some VERY bare bones cliff notes on content from a fast-paced, but information dense night!)

Lean Approach

  • Model-Focused
  • Metrics-Guided
  • Vision-Driven (You’re definitely going to need a strong vision when those sleepless nights, crying kids, and angry spouse enter the picture)

He went on to explain a bit about the customer development model from Blanks:

  • State business model assumptions
  • Iterate until validated (through sales or tangible exchange)
  • If not validated, re-state assumptions

Finally, came the headliners, the three false prophets, defined as: activities that provide positive feedback, but don’t necessarily contribute to the search for a sustainable business model.

He spoke about the almighty 1) PR – which is a tactic for generating demand, but often mis-used as the basis for a startup, 2) Funding – and the mistakes of letting funding dictate the direction of the startup, and 3) *gasp* the product – a dangerous trap that keeps many an entrepreneur turning a blind eye to (as Binetti put) the “Night of the Living Dead” state, otherwise known as professional purgatory.

Trust us when I say that the above is an ultra-hyper summation of the evening’s discussions.  Iceberg tip, not even scratched.

Overall, I really enjoyed Binetti’s presentation as well as the feel of the event.  He gave his talk (with plenty of jokes and punchlines to keep it light-hearted) with a level of certainty of someone who’s given similar advice to many others, on some cases been ignored, and probably had the satisfaction of having a few ‘I told you so’s.  In fact, it seems like that was the case a few times with some of his personal anecdotal.  These tidbits of advice certainly fell on attentive ears as we know entrepreneurs generally take real world examples and experiences to heart.

Though there was a formal Q&A session scheduled during the latter bits of the evening, questions were asked, answered, and discussed throughout with a high level of audience inquiry and participation.  Another aspect of the evening that we really enjoyed.

Follow the links for more information on Coloft and Los Angeles Lean Startup Circle

Follow the link for more information on Votizen, and yes they’re hiring!

Tim Wut

Tim Wut was once in pursuit of a paper-laden career in bankruptcy law. He now writes for TechZulu, covering startups and founder stories. He explores the inspiration that drives entrepreneurs and shares lessons learned in the startup trenches. Writer by trade, storyteller at heart.

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