Inaugural workshop has largest attendance of any LSM event
Participants however confused by differing advice from mentors
THE first Lean Startup Machine (LSM) workshop held in Kuala Lumpur occurred over a weekend in May, and it created a record as being the largest single LSM workshop held, with 85 paying participants.
While obviously pleased with the fact and the kudos received from the LSM team in New York, Zafrul Noordin, whose CodeAr.my was the organiser, is already looking forward to making the next workshop even more meaningful for participants.
The recent batch paid between US$100 and US$158 each for the three-day event, which aims to instil in participants the discipline and methodology that lead to proper product development and market validation.
While it sometimes gets mischaracterised as being a type of hackathon, no coding actually happens during an LSM workshop.
What does happen is that participants get an intensive experience in the methods and tactics that lead to discovering if their idea has traction with potential customers, and how to really identify what is the addressable market that can be attacked by the right product built from the idea.
The word LSM proponents like to use to describe this is ‘validation.’
LSM workshops are designed to attack assumptions that entrepreneurs have, and to test if those assumptions hold water before entrepreneurs risk it all to build a product, only to find that they were wrong or off-tangent with their assumptions.
And going by the experience of the winning team (pic above) led by Azwin Iskandar Ghani, the LSM workshop was a worthwhile experience.
Familiar with the Lean Startup methodology itself, Azwin was curious to see if it could be applied to the business environment in Malaysia.
Choosing a “deceptively simple idea” to work on, Azwin says his team (formed at the workshop) was not prepared for the amount of effort required during the weekend just to test the idea as per the Lean Startup process.
“Our initial assumptions were totally debunked. Had we pushed ahead with the idea without testing these assumptions, we would definitely have wasted both time and money going on a different path,” he admits.
However, Azwin says that his team found it hard to accept that their assumptions were wrong, even though the data they collected showed their “gut feel” was wrong.
And it is at this crossroads that Zafrul (piuc above, second from the left), who himself benefited from LSM, wants to improve the next LSM held in Kuala Lumpur (KL).
“Because we saw that teams which came with existing ideas had a hard time validating and changing their ideas, next time around we will not allow existing ideas to be validated as people get very protective about them,” he says.
Emphasising that the weekend is all about learning the process, Zafrul notes that learning cannot happen when acceptance is not there.
There was one criticism of the KL event from the organisation aspect: There were too many mentors, with the advice from some being contradictory and causing confusion amongst the teams.
“It was an unintended consequence of so many people from our ecosystem and the LSM ecosystem volunteering to share their experience,” argues Zafrul, adding that such was the excitement over the inaugural KL event that one mentor even paid for his own expenses to travel from Australia to be part of LSM Kuala Lumpur, which was hosted by Microsoft Malaysia.
The particular mentor, Dr Bernard Wong, who has been involved in a number of startups, was impressed with the running of LSM Kuala Lumpur and praised the passion and eagerness of the 85 attendees.
“They were not just there to learn, but to put their learning to practice. It was a real experience for me to be involved in guiding and sharing with them,” he says.
Still, there will be changes in the next workshop. “Likely, next year we will have one anchor mentor to handle three teams, with guest mentors,” says Zafrul.
To this, Azwin adds a suggestion: “I hope there will be more mentors who have used the Lean Startup process and found success with it coming forward to ‘show’ us the ropes.”
His hope is that this will create a self-reinforcing spiral that will help the ecosystem improve, become bigger and produce better quality.
His advice to entrepreneurs keen to attend the next event: “They should come in without any preconceived notions about the solution or product they have in mind. Trust the Lean Startup process and find the logic in the data, and use that to decide to move to the next iteration,” says Azwin.
As for him, while still a salaried employee, going through LSM Kuala Lumpur has shown him one thing: “The Lean Startup process is something that I can use as a framework when I strike out on my own!”
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