Lean Methodology by Mat Westergreen-Thorne

I took on the lean methodology class for SLP London 19/20.

This class was my first pick – not just because it’s an important topic – but because reading it was a bit of a tipping point for me. I spent probably a year thinking about starting a business up until reading Lean Startup. After finishing the book in one go on a long flight, I actually, finally, started work on it.

In planning the class, I reached out to Bhavan who had led the class last year. He was a fellow doc too and gave me some helpful advice. He taught me which parts of the class structure worked best and emphasised how quick you have to be to get through it all.

Most people are aware of lean methodology already, so there’s no need to go through things in great detail. The practical elements of the class are most important. However, I did try and emphasise what I think is the most important aspect of lean methodology. I.e., deciding what couple of metrics are most revealing about your business and then doing everything you can to increase those one or two numbers. It’s never revenue, it’s what drives your revenue, and finding out which metric is yours is crucial. WhatsApp is messages sent, for example.

Following the recap, we went onto the practical side of the class – getting real customer feedback. Two of the fellow founders kindly agreed to be test cases for the class.

We split the class around each founder and then debated the most important assumptions we could test of that founder’s business. This was tricky to do, in one case, as it was quite a specialist business dedicated to patients with a specific, quite rare, medical condition.

We decided, instead of asking members of the public about a medical condition most doctors (including me) had never heard of, we would ask them about how often they use the platform the founder was planning on recruiting customers from – Facebook groups.

The other founder’s business was based upon providing social activities for older people to combat loneliness. The assumption we wanted to test was regarding people’s assumptions of living in a nursing or residential home.

We broke into groups of two or three and collected real customer feedback from members of the public for the founders’ businesses.

Despite the skewed demographic we would find on the streets of central London on a Monday night, we got some useful insights.

Unfortunately, we found residential and nursing homes do still have a bad reputation amongst older people. However, reaffirming this will help the founder with careful advertising. Second, we found a surprising lack of engagement with Facebook amongst virtually all demographics, albeit with one exception: younger people born in countries outside the UK, using it to meet other people in London of their same nationality. So it showed that some people do have engagement when they were looking for others locally with specific and similar attributes.

My advice to next year’s CEO would be start early, give plenty of time for the customer research section and make sure you pick test case businesses for the customer research component that have assumptions easy to test by random members of the public. I.e., ask startups that will have broad appeal and aren’t focusing on a market niche.

Overall, the class emphasised the importance of customer research and understanding the key metrics that drive your business. Thanks to the other founders who helped make one of the first classes run so smoothly.

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