Internalizing Lean Startup Machine Concepts

I’m finding I have recurring debates with people about Lean Startup processes.   People who haven’t internalized the process tend to strongly discount it or assume they understand it.  Usually they don’t.

I’ve been working with starting businesses since 2001.  All through that time I had been looking for a concept like the “lean startup”.   I knew these general ideas were important  - I saw the best startups were doing something along these lines.  But I didn’t know how to learn it.  There was no way.

Now we have Lean Startup Machine.   I took it and it changed my life, FINALLY I was able to learn the pieces I was missing.  I’d already  learned a lot of it from direct response marketing, but this seminar really tied the rest together.   A project which had been dragging on for years was neatly cleaned up and completed.

Lean Startup Machine costs a few hundred dollars.  Its worth tens of thousands of dollars.  I would pay that in cash without blinking now, knowing how important it was that I learned.  It is *not* interchangeable with other hackathons or events.  It certainly isn’t like reading the book.  You have to go to Lean Startup Machine only.

If you take the seminar, spend 3-4 days beforehand studying the material very carefully.  Read as much as you can, watch videos and go in with an open mind, trying to internalize their processes in your brain.  Focus more on nailing the concepts rather than launching an award winning startup.  You will probably find your team is behind you in understanding how things work.  That doesn’t matter, just make sure you learn how to do lean yourself.

One guy I met at a hackathon and had lots of heated debates with, finally took the lean seminar.  You can see the outcome via his two emails, below.

——

Hey Adrian

How’s everything? Hope all is well.

I just wanted to touch base with you to see what you’ve been up to lately. I did the Lean Startup Machine Workshop from your recommendation and I will admit, it changed my life. You were right. It changed everything about how to approach a business and as a result, I haven’t really been working much on my direct response internet marketing business the past month.

I now realize how important it was for us during that hackathon to actually implement the lean methodology. Our validation would have been much faster and we would have had an MVP that was geared towards what people want. As a result of all this, I’ve been studying lean methodology like mad and have also signed up for another Startup Weekend at the end of this month and another Lean Startup Machine after that.

——-
email 2, a while later:
Just a quick update for you guys. This past weekend I participated in another Lean Startup Machine workshop this past weekend and actually came away with a win.

Really awesome especially since I pitched an idea and was able to lead the team to a win. Started out with a <market removed> problem and pivoted through a few levels to find a valid business model.

Good stuff…so excited about it and looking at possible ways to further this project. I think there’s definitely a market for it out there. I wanted to share this with you because you both have been integral parts of this success as well and I want to thank you for everything that you’ve done for me and the support you’ve given to me.

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Habits

Recently, Yifu Guo and Alec Liu both independently recommended I read the book “The Power of Habit”.  I’d been telling them how I’ve developed poor habits over the past few years.

The book contains a fascinating story about how a woman made a simple decision to stop smoking.. And how that triggered a chain reaction of changes in her life which was utterly transformational in every way within 12 months.  All because of her decision to stop smoking.

I noticed a small example of this myself last week.  My kitchen for the past few years has always been a total mess.

For some reason I decided to order some new scrub sponges.  Then something miraculous happened.

My kitchen has gone from being a total mess to perfectly clean.  See, I LOVE a clean kitchen.  And before I never had very good scrub sponges.  So I didn’t clean it properly and basically abandoned it.  Now it is perfect.  I have no idea why I didn’t have good sponges before.  I never thought about it.

But this may have downstream consequences.  I have had my housekeeper come weekly, in large part for cleaning my kitchen and making it useable.   I also time my groceries delivery for when she comes so she can do some cooking as well.

But if the kitchen is spotlessly clean, that significantly reduces the need for her to come every week.  And, I have a great vacuum sealer so I could go back to ordering food  every 2 weeks instead of weekly, using the freezer + sealed pre-cooked food.  It takes some effort to deal with groceries + cleaning every week, so doing this every 2 weeks would be a great time saver.

All these possibilities have opened up due to $15 in sponges.

Now, I know you don’t care about my kitchen.  But its fascinating to me to notice the unexpected downstream effects one small change can have.

What small changes could you try?  What is some little thing you don’t really care about but could make a bit better just to see what happens?

UPDATE:  Its now August 8, about 45 days later.  This has been utterly transformational for me.  I’ve fully reorganized my kitchen and have been learning to cook.  My housekeeper now only comes every 2 weeks, and I order food every 2 weeks, using the freezer extensively.  The sponges was the trigger for all of this clicking into place!

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If You’re Having VOIP Or Skype Problems, This May Be Why

I’ve noticed this problem for the past 10 years now, that a VOIP or Skype call will work fine.. and then start to have problems..

Static will show up on the call..  Or it will get incredibly choppy.. Or even disconnect.

What is most likely happening is that your local internet provider (whether wired or wireless) is intentionally scrambling your call.  Carriers have the ability to detect certain types of traffic and do things to it when it is in their interests.  So while your internet connection may be being used for 8 things simultaneously  they can detect the skype traffic and start discarding some of those packets, or introduce static into the line.

You can test this by signing up for a VPN like witopia and make a call.   A VPN will encrypt the call so your carrier can no longer detect what is happening.  More often than not, the problem will go away.  This is a sign you need to change your internet provider. There is no other option. (you should also complain).

One example of when this happened to me was when I was at LAX (LA Airport) and was using my tmobile 4g wireless card to call my brother in Australia. For the first 3 calls the call quality was terrible.  Then finally I tried turning on the VPN on my laptop and calling back.  The line quality was perfect.  The difference was startling.

The carriers will make excuses about this but the reality is – they scramble VOIP/Skype calls so you will use more of their services.

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Links to my amazon travel content

Here’s the links to my amazon jungle content.

What most people like is this photo set:

http://photos.adrianbye.com/Americas/Life-With-Indigenous-People-In/29395663_pdGtHG#!i=2509063588&k=Vws3rqZ

I made a nice video: https://vimeo.com/67421074

Some interesting sounds from deep inside the jungle:   https://soundcloud.com/adrianbye

Why I went:    http://adrianbye.com/2013/04/29/im-going-to-the-amazon-to-live-with-indigenous-indians/

Some thoughts after I got back:  http://adrianbye.com/2013/06/12/indigenous-business-from-the-amazon/

Going to hospital:  http://adrianbye.com/2013/06/18/handling-a-medical-emergency-in-latin-america/

More pics of the people:

http://photos.adrianbye.com/Americas/Amazon-people/29703619_ngfN4n#!i=2543498371&k=Pw4cWLC

To feel what it was like, watch the (fantastic) movie “Fitzcarraldo” by Werner Herzog.  The movie is old (1982), but things down there don’t change much.

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Handling A Medical Emergency In Latin America

I’m going to write the full story of what happened and how I handled this situation, in case any of you are ever in similar circumstances.

On the second last day of my trip to the amazon, I started to feel funny.  My eye looked like this:

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It didn’t look that bad.  But I felt terrible.  I told my guide and he said it was nothing and not to worry about it (as you can see in the photo it doesn’t look very serious).   So I let it go.

But the headaches continued.  I’ve had various infections before, no big deal.  But never at the same time as a splitting headache, and not in the jungle which is a pretty hostile environment.  I’m pretty used to travelling to unusual places, and nothing had ever happened before.

So I decided that I’d give it a couple more hours and if it wasn’t improved, I’d organize an evacuation back to Leticia (pop 30,000) to see a doctor.

By 2pm I still felt really terrible.  So I asked my guide to organize for us to return.  We packed and waited for the 4pm boat to arrive, along with another few people.  My guide really didn’t want to do this; he didn’t feel it was serious, but I insisted.

Unfortunately the boat came, but didn’t stop.  It was full.  Uh oh!

I told my guide we needed to find a way out.  He felt we should just stay the night and return the next day.  I insisted, and he had to make several cellphone calls back to his manager at his company.  Finally, he asked around and one of the local indigenous indians had a boat they could take us back to the city.  This was a special and unusual event.  I thought it might have cost several hundred dollars since we had a private boat for 2 hours and it was an emergency.  I was prepared to pay it .  However, it cost $4o.

This is a lesson I learned after 10 years in the Dominican Republic – sometimes the value of money, particularly in an emergency situation can be very different between you and the local people.

On the (slow) ride back, the tour company sent us a fast boat to pick us up.  So we got back to the city in about 90 minutes.

We rushed to see a doctor.  I think the guy thought he was Tom Cruise from Top Gun.    He asked me what happened, winked confidently at me and told me he’d get me some antibiotic drops to fix it.  I asked him if he was going to examine my eye.  He finally did for a second and said his first opinion was exactly right and this was not a big deal at all.

The next morning my eye was worse – a LOT worse.  I could barely move my eye.  The tour company took me to an optometrist across the street.  They were very nice and did an examination.  Unfortunately she was just an assistant as the optometrist comes in infrequently – we were in a small border town.  At the end I asked her if she thought it was serious.   She got a dark look on her face and said that it might be.

After this I went to the airport for my previously arranged flight to Bogota, the capital.  I was next going to catch a flight to Medellin to visit some of my colombian friends I hadn’t seen for 15 years.  And I called of them to ask him to make an appointment with a doctor in Medellin for when I arrived.  He did so.

However during the flight to Bogota my eye hurt.  A LOT.  Here’s how it looked

Screen Shot 2013-06-18 at 3.00.18 PM

And, I had a massive headache so I wasn’t thinking very clearly.  I was in a country I wasn’t familiar with.  I had no cellphone.

But I decided I couldn’t take the risk.  So I asked one of the other passengers on the flight if I could borrow his cellphone when we landed.  He agreed, and as soon as we landed I called my friend and asked him to find the top hospital in Bogota.

Then I went and picked up my bags and went straight to a taxi.  I asked the taxi driver to borrow his cellphone and we figured out where the top hospital was and got going.  By doing this I lost my prebooked flight and hotel.  But it meant I would get to a doctor 15 hours earlier and in the top hospital of the capital city.

The hospital’s name was Santa Fe de Bogota.  When we got to the emergency room (my first time ever) I went through triage and was walked through their system.  By the time I was properly examined I was feeling like I might fall over.  I couldn’t carry my bags anymore

At first they didn’t think it was too serious – and then they took a second look and freaked out.  I was admitted into hospital and 5 hours after arriving I was connected to high dosage antibiotics.

They were very shocked when they examined me and told me the infection was so serious, not only would I have lost my eye without treatment but that I would quite possibly die.  They put me on very strong antibiotics 24 hours/day applied through IV – which were extremely intensive and felt like my brain was being napalmed!

It turned out that the infection was on the way to infecting inside my eye, which would have cost my sight in that eye.  And may have been on the way to infecting my brain.  They told me on a scale of 1-10 it was a 1 if treated properly, and a 10 if not treated soon enough (meaning I would die).  They said this was an infection which could have happened anywhere, not just the amazon.

The next morning they sent me in for a cat scan to see if inside my eye had been infected.  It had not.  Did the fact I jumped off the plane early save my eye?  Maybe..

For the next 6 days I was in hospital receiving antibiotics almost 24 hours/day through IV.  My eye oozed yellow stuff.  But over time the infection became less and less until after 6 days I was allowed to leave.

The hospital was excellent.  They had been trained by Johns Hopkins and have been rated as the 4th best hospital in all Latin America.   The doctors made sense and knew what they were talking about.  So my friend gave me an incredible recommendation during a very risky moment.

You can see Fundacion Santa Fe in 4th place on this list:

Screen Shot 2013-06-18 at 3.32.46 PM

Source:  ranking_hospitales_2012_2

In terms of cost, I was confident I would be covered because I had my american express starwood points credit card and I knew they had travel emergency coverage.  The hospital asked me about my insurance and said, “no problem, it will be post-paid”.   So I charged the bills to my amex.  I did not have the ability to make phone calls however I did have internet.  I certainly didn’t have a very clear head.

When I came back to the US I looked into getting the money back.  Of course after I called Amex, it turned out it was not covered at all and they only cover death or dismemberment.  So, dear reader, keep that in mind for your future travel that the so-called health insurance we are offered on our credit cards is generally not real.  If you are going someone dangerous you can pay extra for health insurance and I would suggest doing that, it only costs ~$50.

I’ve submitted the bill to my US insurance company and am waiting to hear if they cover it.

However there is good news – this was 6 days of 24/7 care in the top hospital IN ONE OF THE CHEAPEST COUNTRIES IN LATIN AMERICA.  So the total cost was just under $3000.  This is the full scan of my paperwork from the hospital and accounting here:  santa-fe-bogota

As of today I’m fine.  I can see perfectly out of my eye.

The interesting lesson out of this is that if you pick your hospital carefully in latin america, I think medical tourism CAN be ok.   I felt very comfortable at Santa Fe De Bogota and they took good care of me.

Why did this happen?  I was putting on a lot of mosquito repellent each day to try to ward off dengue and malaria.  Some of it went into my left eye.  There wasn’t really any place to shower during the trip so I think the repellent got infected in my eye.  I avoided the crocodiles, snakes, slipping on the wood, eating the local food and every other calamity, but this got me.  C’est la vie.

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Indigenous Business From The Amazon?

A few weeks ago I made this post about going to the amazon to spend time living with indigenous indians.  They’re pretty disconnected from the business world – or are they?

To get there required flying to Leticia (pop 30,000), a city in the south of Colombia.  This city is at the bottom tip of the country, on the border with Brazil and Peru.  It is so far south that it is actually below the guerilla activity in colombia (normally in colombia you hear don’t go to the jungle in the south because you can get kidnapped).

Then you can either drive into the amazon (about 90 mins) or catch a boat (about 2 hours).  We did both.

One of the big things that surprised me was that they have CELLPHONES working in the middle of the jungle!  We had coverage all over the place – apparently the per minute rate is the same as in the capital city.

Most indigenous groups had a couple of people with cellphones.  And they would occasionally take calls.  They’re not used all the time, just occasionally for important messages.  These people have an income of ~$50/month, so a cellphone bill is significant.

So a few things are clear – transportation to get from indigenous settlements to small towns was easy and could be done once per week.  And cellphones work.  No, I don’t know if data works yet, probably it does not, but I’m sure it will in the future.

Electricity was either non existent, or one group had it working from around 1pm until 10pm each day.

 They currently sell lots of trinkets to tourists who come by.. But its not that reliable a business.  Currently they are dependent on the government for building their housing..  Their clothes are used clothes from the first world.. Plastic plates are a big innovation for them.

I also noticed they didn’t really understand capitalism.  They didn’t have the concept of having a dream and then working really hard to make that dream happen.  I am quite sure this CAN happen, and once they are exposed to these concepts that they can progress economically at a great rate.

Right now they are subsistence living, but if they were given access to international market places via the internet, combined with local ingenuity I am quite sure they can learn to produce many useful things for sale internationally.

Go down there sometime.  Its really fun and interesting.

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I’m Going To The Amazon To Live With Indigenous Indians

I’m about to leave for a trip to the Amazon jungle to live with indigenous indians.

One of the most interesting trends is that we’re flattening the economy.  Friction is being removed at a very fast rate.  Adam Smith’s invisible hand may crush the 99% completely out of the economy.  If that happens, what happens to capitalism?

Naval Ravikant from Angellist told me “There will be information tech based small businesses, where you roll out of bed in the morning and you get assigned a task by an Android phone, maybe it’s in a bidding market place, you choose what you want to do, you get rid of it at the end of the day, and you’ll work for yourself.”

So I’m going to spend some time living with indigenous indians.  They don’t have electricity or most of the things we take for granted.  I had to get a yellow fever shot which made me sick.  There are guerillas who kidnap people in the area.  But it should be very interesting.

Should we disturb their traditional way of life?  Of course not!  But large numbers (the majority?) of indigenous people do not want to continue their traditional way of life so they move to major cities.. But they are often unable to adapt well – we have seen this frequently in Australia with the australian aborigines.

What if we had a netflix prize, which rewarded finding the highest hourly rate possible in a scalable way for indigenous groups?   Lets say the average hourly amount an indigenous person could earn while living in their traditional environment was $1/hr.  What if we could bring this up to $5/hr?  Would this enable more of them to return to their traditional lifestyles while still gaining some benefits from modern civilization?

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How I Do Referrals

Since I’m a connector, I often make referrals.  However my referrals are different, since I am able to make connections across unusual markets or very far away internationally, both cases where there is much less trust.

Fred Wilson and other well known venture capitalists now ask for double opt in introductions.  Fred writes:

When introducing two people who don’t know each other, ask each of them to opt-in to the introduction before making it.

http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2009/11/the-double-optin-introduction.html

I don’t do this, because its I think we can do better.  I’m glad to make unannounced introductions.  However we need to do the introduction REALLY WELL.

Here’s what I look for:

  • If I’m forwarding along an email from you, is your explanation of what you’re looking for clear, well written and something the other person will immediately want to jump on?
  • Are you willing to do something of real value for the person?  If you’re well known that may be enough – or it may not be.  Maybe you will need to be willing to jump on the phone to give some free consulting.. Or take them out for a nice dinner.. Or gain special access at an event..
  • Are you willing to jump through hoops and be super responsive to the other person, even though this is something someone of your status in your market would normally never have to do?

This can be hard to take for people who are used to being top dog in their market and used to special privileges.  But the way different markets interact can be complex – what you have achieved in one arena may not translate to another.  And I’m not a world famous guy like Bill Gates.  I’m not listing these things  for fun, I’m bring these points up so the introductions will WORK.   And I’ll work with you in whatever it takes so we get it right.

I’m glad to do referrals and like to help my friends out.  I want my referrals to be powerful and useful so the person receiving them instantly says “yes, that is definitely something I want” instead of viewing it as an imposition.

And for those receiving my referrals, if I got it wrong and the referral isn’t useful feel free to just ignore it.  I’m very clear that I have to bring value.

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Beginner Internet Business Setup

If you’re getting started in an internet business there’s a few services you should sign up for.  Even if you have some of these services elsewhere, in most cases you will be best off moving everything to this setup.  A lot can go wrong with this stuff and you want to spend as much time on your business as possible with as little time as possible on the technology.  I’ve had this conversation with enough people that I’ve now decided to put it into a blog post.

1.  Domain name: namecheap.   You need a domain name of your own.  I host using name cheap.  Its cheap and reliable.

2.  Your website should be hosted on WordPress.com  This will let you map your domain name properly and make it very easy for you to edit your site.

3.  Google apps email.  Get a business account which gives you email + a host of other services.  This will avoid a huge number of problems such as getting your email delivered.  Your email will be all set up using your domain name.  Its also a good idea to start using:

  • google docs (replacements for word, excel, etc) inside google apps – as your team grows it will make collaboration easy.
  • google drive (similar to dropbox), making filesharing easy.

4.  icontact.  To connect with your customers you should be using email regularly.  I use icontact.

5.  Facebook / twitter.  Everyone tends to start with these.  Social media is good.  Just make sure you have the rest as well.

You can hire a company to get everything set up.   There are lots out there.

With a setup like this you’ll be stable, have to spend a minimum of time on technology and can focus on building your business.

Update:  one of the nice things about this setup is all security is handled by other people.  So you don’t have to worry about things like this.

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I am legend

For those who visit me in New York, you may end up with a photo like this one of my mother standing in washington square park.

Image

Well, I watched the movie “I am Legend”, with Will Smith yesterday.  And almost the entire movie takes place in the apartment with the white door to the right of this photo.  All this happens right down the street from my apartment.

Here’s a video someone made talking about it

I know the jaded new yorkers will not find this too amazing, but I grew up in a small town in australia so this was pretty cool.  Check out the movie, its great!

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