How is Hardware Different

Because we’re at ITP, we’ve seen a mix of web and app companies along with hardware companies, and we always feel we need to give extra love to the hardware team. Hardware is, well, harder. But potentially less hard, according to Scott Miller from Dragon Innovation and Bolt Ventures, who visited the Lean at ITP class on April 13.

We know Scott is a trusted source of hardware knowledge because his first boss at Disney was ITP’s Eric Rosenthal, and because he’s been super helpful in the class.

While most of the projects that are potential companies are in the sub-5,000 range of product development – this does not mean that it gets easier or that you shouldn’t think through scale issues as you test business model assumptions. Scott’s team works with a number of crowdfunded companies who simply fail to raise the right amount of capital in order to actually ship their product – and his team is able to grade the readiness of a project.

Scott has also started a seed investment fund – Bolt Ventures – to stimulate early stage startup formation in hardware.

Dragon Innovations has a treasure trove of hardware advice – how to pick a factory, how to manage costs, and a course on Design for Manufacture.

Dragon DFM Course (Injection Molding, etc)

  • Dragon Blog(How to Pick a Factory, etc).
  • Dragon Presentations (How to manage cost, quality, schedule, etc)
  • Dragon Hardware Grader(A great way for companies to get feedback on the readiness of their products)

Lean at ITP Wisdom at the MVP Stage

At this stage in Lean at ITP, we’ve moved from the canvas to agile MVP development. Sometimes defining the MVP feels like you are killing your dreams, your big vision, as you cut out features and benefits that are just too hard to build quickly, and not high priority enough to prove your initial use case. If done well, the MVP is the raw test of the most pressing problem your “hair on fire” customers have articulated, in their words.

But fast growing, scaling companies often start with the MVP. All of our guest speakers at this stage in the course are deliberately chosen –they know how to start with an MVP, and stay lean and agile as they grow large scale businesses.

Wisdom from Angad Singh of Lolly Wolly Doodle:

Angad joined Lolly Wolly Doodle when it was so lean, it was just a Facebook page, but one of the largest social commerce success stories to date. Founder Brandi Temple started her Lexington, NC as a happy accident from leftover remnants from making her daughters’ dresses. She posted a few samples on her Facebook page, offering to make-to-order, and sold out instantly.

The company still operates on the same feedback loop mechanism, using social to determine need and solicit orders, and mass producing the most popular dresses. Temple stumbled upon a business process and business model innovation but not following the typical rules of e-commerce or fashion. With little to no inventory, and few returns, the company has redefined how a clothing company can scale and deliver.

Temple’s story and connection to the NY tech and VC community has been well documented if you want to learn more.

Angad came on board to help build the technology that powers the business, including the first e-commerce site and iPad app for the company’s end users, young girls, to design their own dresses.

Lessons from Angad: how to build a strong, low cost, high outcome engineering team:

• Learn how you work together to solve problems before you hire. Angad is a fan of defining a discretely scoped 2 week project that can be accomplished in a 20 hour period. Pay the potential employee for their work – rather than asking them to invest the time value add. This is the best way to evaluate someone’s thought process, ability to learn a new coding language and solve problems.
• Avoid code tests. A smart engineer and problem solver can learn any new type o\f code or process. Find full stack developers, the cream of the crop.
• If you choose to work with developers overseas (in Angad’s case, India) make them part of your team, don’t just outsource. Motivate them with equity and upside as you would a US-based engineer.

Lean ITP Class 6: Revenue, Not-For and For Profit models

Thanks to our guest speaker Alex Herrity – who showed how far you can come in one year from NYU to finding our team to acquihire to starting again. A great class discussion on how to think about the Apple Watch introduction. ITP folks are hesitant about the Apple Watch – it’s not designed for a student’s lifestyle, it’s considered a bit to upper income and therefore not entirely relevant for the age target most are typically aiming for. Lean teachers and advisors are more likely to get the Watch as some have already designed Apps for the Watch interface, and others are curious to think about this new interaction paradigm.

Alex’s approach is convincing: you have to believe that a wearable idea will work, you might as well experiment with something as large scale as the Watch.

Also last night we covered not for profit, for profit, and scaling goals and we’ve learned that we have 3 C-Corps and 1 B Corp in class this year.

More on B-Corp here.

For next week and the next five weeks: Your team has 5 weeks to get to MVP. Please schedule time with Josh, who will help you with your Agile process and who has offered many times and who can consult on the iOS app builds.

Next week we’ll focus on UX process and design.

Lean ITP Class 5 Get, Keep Grow

Huge thanks to Albert Lee of All Tomorrows for sharing his approach to solving for the mental health/personal wellness need.

Albert’s background – architect > worked for Gehry > realized how long buildings take to build > MBA > ran IDEO NY > All Tomorrows.

All Tomorrows started as a company that was going to make multiple businesses using human centered design principals to solve for social impact. Their current structure: one company, one team, and investigating a platform approach. Their most famous app was developed w/ your Lean ITP co-instructor, Josh Knowles – Emojiary.

One of the team’s core insights: the target he is seeking that is in some level of emotional discomfort is deeply dissatisfied with the self help industry. They “turn the spines” of the self help section of their bookshelf because they are embarrassed by the titles, the language, and are seeking something that speaks to them.

My favorite Albert-Isms:

Value propositions are not products. They are value propositions. Test many to see if you are resonating with your target.

Zero mental calories: users should have to learn nothing when they use your app. Nothing.

Toothbrush test: can you find a reason why they would use your app 2x a day, to create those reasons to engage.

Trojan Horse it: you can’t always give people what you think they need, especially if you are meeting a need they are uncomfortable talking about. So find out what their discrete top level painpoint is, and create the front door that meets that need. You can solve for deeper emotional needs not at the value proposition level, but in the product design.

What was true at IDEO that does not hold true in a startup: human centered design is great for insights, but does not help you disrupt or understand business model dynamics. You need to get your MBA brain around that.

Suggested reading that came from our discussion:

Phin Barnes of First Round Capital (former Lean ITP Advisor) – Raise Money to Buy Data
The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm – prepping yourself for the onslaught of press you’ll get

— During spring break – you are refining your value propositions and customer segments. Each team needs to spend more work on the customer segment definition – we are still too broad, so any customer discovery is not going to give you repeatable patterns or signals. Go narrower! Call us if you need help. —

Lean ITP Class 4 Customer Relationships and Channels

Thanks Lean at ITP mentor Julie Berkun Fajgenbaum during your first 2 weeks of launching Tweed Wolf. Julie took us through the 10+ questions she brainstormed at the start of her business- the reasons why it would never work. And then went out to disprove her hypotheses, utilizing task rabbit album makers, surveymonkey audience quant surveys, and noticing the repeated inquiry of fellow parents at school pickup who are all clamoring for her photo album service.

We covered Customer Relationships and Channels. Always a fun discussion with students who can elegantly pivot between hardware and software.

Lean ITP NYU Class 2: Value Proposition and Customer Discovery

We have settled on four teams, four concepts –

(Our descriptions – we look forward to your more refined Value Propositions as you progress).

Jewelry with digital memories
Modular car dashboards that are contextually aware
Volunteering apps connecting uneaten restaurant food to soup kitchens and shelters
Self-care social communities and product recommenders for chronically ill patients

Thanks to our guest speakers Chris Milne from IDEO and Travis Hardman from The Daily Voice for telling us about prototyping, and focusing on a narrow problem to solve.

Our lecture notes gave guidance for how to start the customer discovery process when you’re at the fuzzy front end of company development. Lean ITP style means more room for playful design research exercises before we narrow in and get super rigorous in future weeks.

The following sources are guidelines for how to ask questions in numerous styles and methods to get around the cover stories that we tell each other, and the lies we tell when answering questions about our unmet needs and pain points:

Actual Books:

Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights: Steve Portigal

Universal Methods of Design: Bella Harrington, Bruce Hanington.

Free Resources:

DSchool Bootcamp Bootleg: PDF Download

Talking to Humans: Giff Constable with our NYU Innovation lead Frank Rimalovski

Here are the lecture notes:

For Next week – Please tighten up your presentations and don’t make us do so much work to understand what you are trying to do.

Watch Customer Segments lecture.

Business Model Generation, 126-145.

The Founder’s Dilemma (HBR) and optional – The Founder’s Dilemma Noam Wasserman (Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Podcast)

The Lean UX Manifesto by Anthony Viviano

Talk to at least 5 potential customers. Post discovery narratives on your team blog, or in an appendix in your presentation.

Prepare a presentation – guidelines below:

  • Cover slide
  • Latest version Business Model Canvas with changes marked
  • Market size (TAM, SAM, Target Market)

Total addressable: how big is the universe

Served available market: how many can I reach with my sales channel?

Target market: who will be the most likely buyers?

Propose experiments to test your value proposition. What constitutes a pass/fail signal for each test?


Lean at NYU ITP Class 1 February 2, 2015

Once again, we repeat our Lean experiment at ITP.

Here is our first week presentation of the basics and background for Lean, and our particular brand of Lean we run at ITP. This year our shift is to get more agile, and to get to MVP and beyond.

Next week:

Alexandar Osterwalder on Business Model Canvas Video

Or go see him live and in person at the Leslie Center eLab on Thursday!

Read: Business Model Generation pp. 14-49.

Video Lecture: Value Proposition

Talk to at least 5 potential customers. Post first discovery narratives on your team blog.

Prepare a presentation – guidelines below:
· Cover slide
· Latest version Business Model Canvas with changes marked
· Market size (TAM, SAM, Target Market)
Total addressable: how big is the universe
Served available market: how many can I reach with my sales channel?
Target market: who will be the most likely buyers?
· Propose experiments to test your value proposition. What constitutes a pass/fail signal for each

See you next week.

Lean at NYU ITP Syllabus 2015

Syllabus For Lean at NYU ITP

Instructors: Jen van der Meer, Josh Knowles
Days and Times: Mondays, 6:30 PM-9:00 PM
Location: ITP NYU 721 Broadway at Waverly, 4th Floor Room A/B
Text: Business Model Generation

We embrace a creative, iterative, and collaborative approach to making things — but launching a product out into the world takes a somewhat different set of skills. How does one make sure people want to use what they make? How does one create a business plan to support the idea? Is the idea strong enough to turn into a job — or a career? Enter Lean LaunchPad, at NYU ITP – the experiential course in entrepreneurship.

Based on Steve Blank’s Lean LaunchPad and the NYU Summer LaunchPad Accelerator, we are applying the curriculum developed at Stanford and Berkeley for the NYU community. This course has been developed with support from the NYU Entrepreneurship Initiative, and aims at mixing the best of the methods from the Lean LaunchPad methodology with the best of ITP’s methods. Over the spring semester, student teams participate in an iterative approach to startup development, a combination of business model design + customer development + agile development.

Alexander Osterwalder’s Business Model Generation is used as the basic framework for business model development, and we utilize UX methods and tools to ground students in an understanding of how to successfully move through the early stages of product development. Students work in self-formed teams of 3-4 to develop their business model and product/service over the course of the semester. The primary focus of the course is the work of customer development, speaking directly to potential customer to help define opportunities that the startup is designed to solve, and early stage product development. The ITP curriculum will augment the LeanLaunchpad method with additional approaches from design thinking, UX, and ethnography to accelerate the understanding of both explicit pain points and more latent or hidden challenges that people face, in their jobs and their lives.

Continue reading

How to Apply for Lean at ITP Spring Semester 2015

You are hear perhaps because you are attending the info session, or heard how great this class was last year and just learned you actually have to apply.


We want motivated team members that genuinely want to understand what entrepreneurship is all about, and may even be interested in launching their concept as a business.

We are curating for diverse ideas, backgrounds and skillsets.

Form into teams (3-4)

Agree on an initial subject area or a more detailed concept

Assure your team has the ability to make an MVP (developers, designers not just networkers)

Complete the slides:

Idea/subject area

Team composition

Business model canvas v 1.0

Optional links to sketch, rendering, video, prototype

How to apply:

Develop a presentation to apply using this template here.

Save, and send to Jen van der Meer: jd1159 at nyu dot edu by 12/5/2015.

You’ll then be invited to a pitch day and you’ll hear before the end of enrollment/advisement.