Two types of digital nomads work within the location independent universe. The majority have a specific skill, such as writing, photography, tech support, social media, etc. They take these skills with them wherever they go, and wherever they connect their computer is their home. A different type of digital nomad uses his or her skill to develop new business startups. Sometimes called “expatrenuers,” they are a subdivision of the digitally nomadic community. They have the tech skills, but they also have big ideas – ideas that they hope will make them money. If you fall into the latter category, you should know about the Lean Startup Machine events.
Note: I received an invitation to cover the 2015 Lean Startup Machine Montevideo Uruguay event, and learned more than I could possible cover in one article. Consequently, I have created a five-part series.
What Is Lean Startup?
The brainchild of Yale graduate Eric Ries, Lean Startup is a business method that shortens the development process of a product or service. Ries authored a book titled “The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses.”
The author’s definition of a startup — “a human institution designed to create new products and services under conditions of extreme uncertainty” – should resonate with any digital nomad. After all, nothing describes extreme uncertainty like the nomadic lifestyle. Ries designed the Lean Startup methodology to mitigate at least some of this uncertainty. Followers of the method learn to answer two crucial questions:
1. Should we build this new product or service?
2. If yes, how do we increase our odds of success?
Ries argues that many startup entrepreneurs begin with a product or service that they think people want. They then spend months or years developing and perfecting that product without ever showing it to the prospective customer. If and when the product or service fails, it’s often because the overzealous entrepreneurs omitted one essential step: They never asked their prospective customers if the product or service interests them.
The Basic Principles
Here are some of the basic principles of Lean Startup, as outlined in Eric Ries’ book:
- Since Ries defines a startup as “a human institution designed to create new products and services under conditions of extreme uncertainty,” he argues that entrepreneurs must adopt a management style that anticipates uncertain business environments.
- Startups teach entrepreneurs how to build sustainable businesses. As such, you need to test each element of your vision. This is called validated learning.
- Build-Measure-Learn is the basic sequence of any lean startup.
- Turn your ideas into products or services, measure how potential customers respond, and determine whether you need to persevere, or pivot your idea in a different direction.
- Entrepreneurs should first build a Minimum Viable Product, or MVP. Although this term has a few definitions, the most common is “the smallest thing you can build that lets you quickly make it around the build/measure/learn loop.” This means that you first develop a product or service designed to attract early adopters. Based on their feedback, you either pivot or persevere and add new features.
What Is the Lean Startup Machine Connection?
When NYU dropout Trevor Owens learned about the Lean Startup methodology, he decided to turn it into a three-day workshop. Ries was skeptical at first, but after attending one three-day event, he decided to sign on as an adviser. Lean Startup Machine now offers workshops around the world. Participants present their ideas and create teams to work on their projects. They listen to lectures from top entrepreneurs, and then, they Get Out of the Building. This is the most important part of the event, because it involves getting out and talking to potential customers about your product or service.
Based on this feedback, they decide to pivot or persevere. Then, they present their findings to the rest of the participants. The mentors will ask questions and challenge their assumptions, an important part of the Lean Startup Machine process. Depending on the location, the winning teams receive swag, as well as startup capital and incubator services.
What’s In It for Digital Nomads?
If you are planning a startup in a different state or country, it makes sense to attend an event in that location. First off, it gives you the opportunity to network with other entrepreneurs from the region. As Richard Branson says in an article titled Shaping Serendipity:
“Some of the greatest discoveries, innovations and inventions have come about by chance encounters. But they wouldn’t have happened if the environment to stimulate chance encounters wasn’t created.”
Second, if you plan to work overseas, attending a local event gives you a chance to practice your local language skills. However, you might find that young, entrepreneurial locals are highly proficient in English. Such was the case at Lean Startup Machine Montevideo, Uruguay. Third, you get to test your ideas on local residents, and last but not least, if you win, you will receive funding for your project. And even if you don’t win, you get a valuable business education experience.
See the rest of the posts in this series:
- Lean Startup Machine Principles for Digital Nomads: Part 1
- Lean Startup Machine Part 2: Invalidate My Assumptions With the Javelin Board
- Lean Startup Machine Part 3: Connecting With Uruguay’s Startup Ecosystem
- Lean Startup Machine Part 4: The Women
- Lean Startup Machine Part 5: The Wisdom of Lean Startup Machine