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unCon 2013 Session: Getting Out of the Building: Tips for the Fast Cycle in the Startup World

Moderator: Jim Verquist, founder,
Jim Verquist, founder of ezProducer,
became an entrepreneur during the dot.com age in Silicon Valley, where the
process for starting a company was a linear, step-by-step process. “Back that
we iterated like crazy,” he said, “even faster than our burn rate.” However, as
the pathway to consumers and investors becomes a chicken-and-egg situation,
developing and sustaining your idea at the same time is increasingly difficult.
“Getting out of the building,” a popular lean start up term, no longer holds a
standard definition. What building? And where do you go once you get outside?
Verquist framed the conversation
with the story about his experience as producer on a film that his
twelve-year-old daughter recently directed. Just like most startup ideas, they
began with a script, which was later turned on its head, cut into pieces, and
boiled down to a quarter of its original form. Armed with a passion for the
project and the commitment to see the grueling process through kept the pair
going throughout the months of production. After writing, casting and filming
they cut the four minute clip down to 90 seconds, and plan to submit the piece
to film festivals upon its completion.  Verquist carries the aura that can
be seen in the eyes of many of the unConference attendees: a since of pride in
what he’s created and an unconditional belief in its potential to change the
However, the challenge of getting
out of the building when there are so many things holding us back isn’t easy.
The group boiled down a few concepts to keep leaders grounded and persistent
while moving the needle.
Gather diverse feedback. Soliciting the “gut feelings” from a wide set of consumers
is key during initial testing phase. Asking thoughtful questions about the
product will help surface unforeseen opportunities and challenges. The more
varied your feedback pool is—in experience and background—the less likely you
are to “caught up in your own bullshit.”
Identify and understand all
Businesses fail to get traction for
a multitude of reasons: from product malfunctions, message disconnects to
misaligned customer expectations. Identifying and testing each variable during
every stage of the growth process will allow you to make decisions that will
make your product and team stronger, smarter and more in tune with the
Create a highly flexible process. Just like Verquist and his daughter eventually gave up
their script, most business plans require a high amount of adjusting down the
line. Entrepreneurs need to find the balance of execution and curiosity, and
actively listen to the feedback from each step.
Stay grounded in the needs of the
end user.
At the end of the day, the customer
needs to benefit from what the product has to offer. Keep this group at the
center of every cycle of development. You can gain customer feedback in a
variety of ways: from pitching your idea at a network event watching for the
eye glaze or excitement, to testing the user’s experience in a closed setting,
to monitoring downloads and usage in a more quantitative fashion. The
validation of this group is crucial, and oftentimes shows through in their
actions rather than their words.
The new world is entrepreneurial in
every aspect–forcing us to decide to get out of the building on a daily basis.
To change the world not only must we stay rooted in our passions, we must
remain strong and open during each iteration.
Lizzie McQuillan

Scratch Marketing + Media

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