IDSE301 Product Evaluation and Lean Development


About this course

The harsh reality is that most startups fail. Not because they couldn’t build their product, most overbuild, but rather because they couldn’t find a problem worth solving with a sustainable business model. In this course, students will learn how to transform an idea into an offer and validate for paying customers. Throughout the course, students will run experiments to test their assumptions -- can I get people’s attention, is my offer compelling, is this the smallest thing I can build, and will people pay me? These experiments, along with the business model artifacts they create, will ground students in reality and benchmark their traction which will be shared in a weekly email with stakeholders and the AC4D community.

Outcomes and competencies

The following outcome statements articulate the competencies, abilities, and skills a student will have as a result of completing this class. Students will...

  • Be able to turn ideas into functional business models with revenue stories
  • Quantitatively define what success criteria makes a problem worth solving
  • Communicate learnings and traction to stakeholders
  • Show an evidence-based strategy for acquiring leads
  • Be able to validate customer demand without a functional product
  • Be able to identify the smallest feature set for an MVP
  • Craft a compelling offer
  • Have 75 fans on an email interest list

Core concepts and ideas

This class emphasizes the following main ideas, themes, and concepts:

  • Big ideas can be divided into smaller stages and systematically derisked via experimentation
  • A business needs to have a repeatable process, aka a model, for delivering value and capturing it from customers
  • Entrepreneurs are in the business of creating happy customers

Schedule

Class

Theme

In Class

Out of Class

January 2

Business Modeling

Why an MVP?

As a group, transform ideas into BM Blueprints via: 1) Lean Canvas, 2) Revenue Story & 3) Success Criteria

Assignment 1 - Model 5 ideas into BMs with all 3 archetypes covered. Write out your Minimum Success Criteria. Pick favorite idea and model the Revenue Story.

Read: Excerpt from Scaling Lean by Ash Maurya. Success Triangle excerpt from The Happiness Equation by Neil Pasricha

January 4

Derisking Ideas Through Experiments

Students present their best BM & field questions.

Cover the why, what, & how of successful experimentation.

Present business models to 3 different people and document feedback

Diagram the workflow to uncover points of intervention or MVP challenges

Document lessons learned and send out weekly report to external stakeholders by 9 am Monday

January 9

Building Your “Offer”

Discuss what an “offer” is and how to leverage it

Dropbox & Simple Case Studies

Work session: Create your offer, with words only, in a text editor.

Assignment 2 - Turn your offer into a lead capture page using Unbounce. Create a welcome email.

Video: Simon Simonek's “Start With Why”

Reading: Copyhackers PDF

January 11

Teaser Page

Students pitch their landing pages for mentor critique.

Work session to continue refining landing page.

Guest Mentor

Experiment #1 - 72 hours to drive as many visitors as possible and capture email addresses

Create an experiment report with hypothesis

Document lessons learned and send out weekly report to external stakeholders

January 16

Know What Customers Smell Like

Report back on experiment results

Discuss techniques for finding customers and how to run problem interviews and solution interviews.

Role play as a group

Assignment 3 - Create a script, and conduct five customer interviews. Afterwards, follow up with referral request.

Read: 99U’s How To Ask People for Things Via Email

January 18

Driving Leads via Campaigns

Introduce CAC, conversion funnels, and Google analytics

Work session to craft ad campaign

Review at the end of class

Work session to craft campaign. Review at the end of class.

Assignment 4 - Create and launch a $15 ad campaign via Facebook

Experiment #2 - Run ad campaign to generate visitors and capture email addresses.

Create an experiment report with hypothesis

Document lessons learned and send out weekly report to external stakeholders

January 23

Building Inbound Channels

Warm-up: TBD

Report back on experiment results

Discuss the important role inbound and outbound channels play in lead acquisition

1-2-3 group exercise to generate inbound content ideas

Assignment 5 - Write a high-level strategy plan that outlines potential inbound content options with costs and ROI detailed

Create a diagram that explains where your customers hang out and the influencers that matter to them

Reading: Excerpt from Traction by Gabriel Weinberg & Justin Mares

January 25

Iterate to Version 2

Work session to create a new iteration of the landing page that incorporates lessons learned and shoots to increase the conversion rate

Create V2 of your lead capture page

Experiment #3 - Drive traffic with another $15 ad campaign

Create an experiment report with hypothesis

Document lessons learned and send out weekly report to external stakeholders

January 30

Defining the MVP Candidate & Demo

Report back on experiment results

Start storyboarding a compelling demo that represents the MVP

Create User Stories and break features into a release map

Assignment 6 - Start working on your demo

February 1

Prototyping Your Demo

Warm-up: MVP Breakdown

Work session to continue crafting the demo

Experiment #4 - Test the prototype with three people by midnight Sunday

Create an experiment report with hypothesis

Document lessons learned and send out weekly report to external stakeholders

February 6

Integrate Demo Into Webpage

Warm-up: TBD

Report back on experiment results

Present for mentor critique

Guest Speakers: Tony Aguilar or Blake Lively or Brendan Moore

Work on demo and landing page

Reading: HBR Benefits Pyramid

February 8

Work Session

Work session to continue crafting the demo

Experiment #5 - Dealer’s Choice - Drive traffic by any means of your choice

Create an experiment report with hypothesis

Document lessons learned and send out weekly report to external stakeholders

February 13

Stress Testing Reality

Start creating the “ask” and calculate the payment amount to be requested.

Writing the copy for their ask

Read: 1,000 True Fans post

February 15

Work Session

Work session to refine ask.

Start creating final presentation

Read: Excerpt from The Dip by Seth Godin

February 11 Wrapping UpRevisit Minimum Success Criteria from week 1as a reference point for making the decision to pivot or persevere Work session for final presentation

Start creating final presentation

Read: Excerpt from The Dip by Seth Godin

February 23

Final Presentation

Presentation Rehearsal

Assignment 7 - Final presentation to AC4D and community.

Final weekly report to external stakeholders