Today, Jason, Mark, and I (Ray Gao) met at Cohabitat. Together, we discussed various strategies for growing the Lean Startup group / community in the DFW area. We are fully aware that every community (Lean Group) will be unique, in a sense that the local demographic is different from city to city. For example, Austin and San Francisco are very vibrant cities for Startups, where people jump up and down to hear new ideas and to explore new opportunities
While there are good number of startup people in the DFW area, the predominant mentality of our area are geared toward established businesses. Large companies chose to relocated to our area in recent years for advantages of highly skilled workers, favorable tax situation, and relative low cost of production. Regional HQs for big companies include AT&T, Texas Instrument, Exxon, Frito-Lay, … Hence, to grow the Lean Community requires a slight “Pivot” and to reorient ourself to the local business culture here.
The Lean Startup approach is a set of principles to align the value-creation cycle with customer’s interests. It is a paradigm shift from the Product-Development Culture toward the Customer Development Culture. In contrast to the traditional closed-door and dark room mentality, interactions with the market forces (customer’s needs, competition, and technology curves) would be priority number ones. Feedbacks from customers would then help to accelerate the development/growth process. Hence, products and services would be more closely aligned and marketable to end-users. See my blog about various Lean Project Management techniques -> http://www.are4.us/?p=815
At the same time, our group needs to go grass-root and take emergent companies’ interests close to our hearts, and work close with startup hubs, such as Tech WildCatters and Alex Muse’s Startup-happy hour. Instead of telling people what we think the Lean Startup process is, we should ask our potential members and engage them. For examples:
- What are top priorities for them?
- What are primary activities on their calendars for the next 30 days? So, as to better coordinate meetings and networking opportunities.
- How do they envision a Lean Startup Group would work and bring value to their endeavors?
- What issues do they want to hear and discuss at meetings?
- Will there be people who want to take active roles in our group?
In our meetings today, we decided the following:
- Orient our group to the local business environment
- Build closer relationships with key influencers of the startup-circle in the DFW area.
- Engage potential members and ask what are important issues or topics for them. And, using those inputs as the basis for developing tracks and agendas.
In summary, we will grow our group via grass root activities (engaging entrepreneurs and startup hubs) as well as take proactive approaches of cross-pollinating Lean Startup method in the traditional business settings (the predominant business culture in DFW area).
Listening to people will be as important a skill as speaking (marketing our understanding of the Lean Startup methodology).