Thursday, December 31, 2015

ActBlue — Let's finish what we started

The Sudden But Well-Deserved Fall of Rahm Emanuel - The New Yorker

Obsessive fund-raising is also the foundation of Emanuel's political operation in Chicago. When two reporters for the Chicago Reader filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the mayor'sprivate schedule in 2011 (unlike previous mayors, his public schedule was pretty much blank), they discovered that he almost never met with community leaders. He did, however, spend enormous blocks of time with the rich businessmen, including Republicans, who had showered him with cash.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Top 5 Lean Startup Experiment Examples

Moves the Needle

There are many techniques to consider when designing an effective lean startup experiment, so we decided to capture a few of our favorites below. Mix-and-match each example to create a powerful experimental learning vehicle for your next concept. Even better, see if you can recognize these lean startup experiment examples next time you're using your favorite application or website. Good luck!

Remember, the most effective experiments measure real behavior, while also delivering real value to the customer.

Concierge MVP
Manually perform tasks related to delivering the value of your product or service. Eventually you will automate and optimize the process you perform manually, but its likely you will move faster by simply performing tasks manually.

Example: P-2-P Payments platform (name is confidential). The founding team created a peer-to-peer payment workflow via a web "responsive" application, where user can request payments from friend and family. This workflow was presented to the user as as functional website. In reality, the founding team manually processed all requests by hand, meaning they manually sent email notifications, tracked payment requests and captured billing information.

Mechanical Turk (or Wizard of Oz)
For offerings where a complex backend is required, such as databases, algorithms or complex engineering, consider simulating this backend with real people or existing apps. It's likely you can mimic the "engine" behind the scenes. Even if this takes longer for the customer to receive an answer, you will avoid wasting precious time building features the customer does not want. This is especially good for support centers.

Example: See it in action at a call center – Why don't you Just tell me which movie

Imposter Judo (Boomerang)
If a similar ideas to yours already exist in market, you can use these as a quick and simple way to gather feedback. You might ask customers to sign-up and give you feedback on a competitors website, or repackage an existing product.
 This is especially effective when selling physical products, or showing early static mockups.

Example: In the early days of Zappos, the founders simply purchased shoes as needed from local shoe retailers, instead of stocking their own inventory. This allowed Zappos to test their idea fast and cheap, before investing ion their own inventory.

Sell a physical version of the product, even if your final product will be digital. This is especially effective for information or data-based products such as customer lists or how-to guides.

Example: When selling a digital information product the experiment team gathered early versions of this data "by hand", then produced a printed report for the test customers. This printed report provided real value, and was used to gather feedback. Eventually, the team created a digital version of this report.

In order to test whether your customers will actually purchase your products, and for how much, you can deploy a simulated "purchase now" experience. This may take the form of a simple e-commerce check-out, or perhaps a letter of intent request. Once the user begins the purchase process, you can simply respond with a "out of stock" message, or other elegant way to proceed such as simply not billing the customer at all.

Example: You will encounter this strategy the team designed a website for selling a subscription based physical product. To gauge interest, the team quickly created a web based purchase form simulating the check-out process, so the customer believed they were purchasing the product. However, no billing occurred since the form did not connect to payment processing…

High Hurdle
Refers to any experiment where you actually make your experience more difficult to use, in an effort to gauge real interest. The higher the hurdle, the more validity you can attribute to your results.

Example: Design a sign-up process with multiple, difficult to answer questions, which adds friction to the sign-up process. This way you only capture the most passionate customers for your early testing. Over time, you can reduce the friction in order to improve your funnel.

Video Trailers
Record a "real life" scenario using your product, where you edit the video to create the illusion your product is real. Then, use the video as part of your landing page or marketing message. This is especially useful for products where the behavior can be easily simulated (see other experiment types)

Check out our Rapid Experimentation Resources
5 Ways to Spark Innovation at Your Organization
Click Here to Download

Value Stream Discovery: What to Test & How to Measure (Plus Airbnb Example)
4 Seeds for Planting Lean Startup and Continuous Innovation in the Enterprise
Business Model Disruption through Lean Innovation
Lean Entrepreneur Experiment Map
Customer Zoom Tool
[More Downloads]


The Fallacy of "Modern" Management When It Comes to Innovation
Fail Learn Fast
Value Stream Discovery: What to Test & How to Measure (Plus Airbnb Example)
How to Run Experiments without Compliance Wanting to Kill You
How to Innovate (Part 1): What Innovation Actually Is


brant cooper on Fail Learn Fast
randyapuzzo on Fail Learn Fast
Pete Tinker on Customer Zoom Tool
brant cooper on Value Stream Discovery: What to Test & How to Measure (Plus Airbnb Example)
fdebane on Value Stream Discovery: What to Test & How to Measure (Plus Airbnb Example)
Copyright © 2015 • Moves the Needle LLC.


5 min read
10 Experiments to Test Your Startup Hypothesis

Partner at ff Venture Capital
MARCH 3, 2015
You know that a new idea has gained dominance when it becomes practically a cliché.

This is what I've seen happen with the "lean startup," a philosophy of viewing your startup as a scientific experiment in search of a business model. This concept began as a new idea and then became so popular people now consider it common sense. As the partner at VC firm ff Venture Capital, I am one of those people who regularly advises our portfolio companies to think creatively about how to test their operating assumptions.

But the challenge is: What experiments can you run to test your hypotheses? Below are 10. To structure your experiments, I suggest using the Javelin Experiment Board.

Related: How to Grow Your Company Lean

Step I: Explore the problem and the market
1. Blog publicly about what you're doing.  This helps you to get qualitative, personal feedback, which you need to inform quantitative feedback (i.e measurable outcomes and metrics) you gather later.  Also, you should include face-to-face interviews with customers (read these quick tips for effective customer interviews). 

2. Ask open questions on Quora and other online discussion tools. Listen to what people have to say. Many consumers want to provide feedback, but they just need to be asked. Jump on a Q&A site like Quora or forums like Reddit or one specific to your industry and start asking questions. You can begin with a broad inquiry like, "How do people solve this problem…."  For example, "What CRM tools are used by venture capital and private equity funds?" This will surface both competitors and customers. 

3. Create surveys and experiment with monetary and non-monetary incentives.  Sending a questionnaire to your customer base is a great way to elicit feedback and discover needs.

For instance, try evaluating response an incentive like: "$100 off our product when it first hits the market." If people are eager to apply that discount to a product that doesn't even exist yet, it's further validation of customer demand.

4. Collect pre-orders. Crowdfunding platforms like Indiegogo and Kickstarter have made it much easier to measure market demand for a product or service. By describing the product's features and offering it to the masses, entrepreneurs can get an idea of how the market outside of the crowdfunding platform would respond. Also, the instantaneous feedback and questions can help startups uncover potential issues and allow them to correct them before scaling.

5. Run test ads. Utilize Google AdWords, Yahoo!, Bing and other platforms by creating ads that take viewers to a page soliciting email signups and possibly pre-orders.  Test which ads are most effective. (For instance, Tim Ferriss titled his book based on Adwords conversion rates.).

And don't just collect emails. Try to also collect data in the form of a mini survey. I suggest checking out QuickMVP, an all-in-one tool for building launch pages, driving traffic through Google AdWords and analyzing customer demand.

Related: Prove Your Business Idea Will Succeed

Step II: Explore the solution
6. Test multiple iterations of your site.  Design and user experience definitely play a role in how the consumer views your startup and its offerings. So experiment with it.  Launchrock is a great site for building launch pages and analyzing user data. Or try experimenting with different A/B testing campaigns using Optimizely. Here are examples of what makes a viral landing page.

7. Talk with real users of your beta product.  Beta testers can potentially be your lifeline when launching a new product. To get people interested in testing out your startup, check out websites like, Erli Bird and, among others. 

Step III: Market
8. Analyze site usage.  Testing what words get the most hits can give you insight into the target market. Drill down in Google Analytics, taking advantage of goal tracking, demographic information, interest segmentation and cohort analytics.

9. Analyze which marketing campaigns get the most traction. Just as you need to understand your end users, it's also important to understand the behavior of the influencers who touch your end users.  There are several social-media analysis tools out there that can help you with this, including Copromote and Bottlenose.

10. Test referral programs with monetary and non-monetary incentives.  Referral programs can be a great way to acquire new customers, while keeping current customers happy.

A famous example of a successful referral program is Dropbox. The company was smart and used a two-sided incentive for sharing. The person who signs up for Dropbox through a referral link gets more space than through a normal sign up, and the referrer gets additional space as well. 

Related: How to Know If You're Really Running Lean

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Saturday, December 26, 2015


In 1934, A GROUP of New York's prominent white citizens elected Bill Robinson, the most celebrated black tap dancer in America, the unofficial "mayor of Harlem." The police of his Harlem pre-cinct had given him a revolver some years earlier, and he carried a diamond-studded case in his upper-right vest pocket containing a gold badge designating him special deputy sheriff of New York County (an honorary position). He also carried documents estab-lishing his friendship with the police chiefs of most major American cities. During a Pittsburgh tryout of Brown Buddies, a musical comedy about blacks serving in the First World War, Robinson heard a scream and saw two black kids mugging an elderly white woman. He yelled, took up the chase, pulled out his revolver, and fired in the air. A white policeman, coming on the scene to find a black man discharging a gun, shot Robinson in the shoulder and let the muggers escape. Collapsed on the ground, Robinson showed the cop a letter of friendship from Pittsburgh's chief of police. Rob-inson was famous enough that the incident made headlines across the country, and according to The Chicago Defender, the policeman offered the excuse that "all black men look alike to me." At the New York opening of Brown Buddies two days later, Robinson was tapping again, his arm in a satin sling, his grin bright.— Adapted from What the Eye Hears: A History of Tap Dancing,  by Brian Seibert, published by FSG in Novemb

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