Lean at ITP – Spring 2015

Apply as a team, launch an MVP in one semester.

NYU ITP is offering for the second time a for-credit Lean class designed to get your team to a minimum viable product launch within one semester. This course is open to all enrolled NYU students, and you are invited to join a team or submit a team for consideration. We embrace a creative, iterative, and collaborative approach to making things: software, hardware, and things in between.

Our method: we offer equal parts Lean Startup/Lean LaunchPad methodology, with a hands-on approach to learning user experience design (even if you have only sketched wireframes in your mind before taking the class). We have re-designed the course for Spring 2015 to get you to value proposition fit by the end of the semester. The course is taught by adjuncts Josh Knolwes and Jen van der Meer, and is supported by a tremendous network of mentors and advisors who are actively involved in the class.

2014 Syllabus

2014 Mentors and Advisors

Course text: Business Model Generation

How to apply:

Come to the Lean at ITP Team Building Info Session:

Saturday, November 15, 2015 at 3:00

We’ll introduce you to likeminded entrepreneurial teams who are forming to apply for the course, and give you an overview of the lean method as it has been adapted for ITP, and the mentors, and advisors signing up for the spring semester. We recommend team members with core skills of entrepreneurship and making including design, code/engineering, ethnography, and customer development/networking.  Come if you are an individual looking to join a team, or you have a fully developed team and are curious about how the course will be structured.

Apply as a Team by December 5, 2015


  •      An initial concept, well articulated
  •      At least three team members
  •      At least one team member with “making” skills – design, code, engineering, hardware (related to the concept)

Remember to Sign up for the NOVEMBER 15TH Info Session (Required):  http://lean-in-at-itp-info-session.eventbrite.com

Team Interview Day for consideration: Scheduled before December 19, 2015

Teams will be invited to present concepts and participate in an interview with the course instructors and mentors. We will curate a mix of concepts and teams for maximum diversity of ideas, skills, and collaborative team member experiences.

Contact Jen van der Meer – jd1159@nyu.edu to for questions about how to apply, or watch for updates on the class blog.



Lean LaunchPad Lessons Learned: The NYC Ecosystem is Real, Growing Fast, but Different

What happens when you ask your network for help?

Here’s the first thing I learned when teaching Lean LaunchPad at NYU ITP. The structure and blueprint as taught at Stanford was essential to strengthening the ecosystem: a large group of Advisors as lecturers and helpful participants, and individual Mentors assigned to each team. The Mentor ask was big in a town filled with busy people – come each week for the full 3 hour class, and then host additional time with the teams to keep them progressing through the Business Model Canvas, and the course.
There was skepticism that NYC, and NYU, and ITP was ready for this level of commitment, on a volunteer basis. Would we really get people to show up every week? I was skeptical of my own network – I had spent my career based in NY, but often tethered to the Bay Area. Did I have in my own network the former founders, investors, and experts we’d need to structure the course? Could I compel these people to give so much time?

The first person I asked was incredulous that anyone “worthwhile” would have the time to be a mentor. He wanted something back. Money, stats, something in exchange for this time. I doubted myself, and all of New York City. Would we ever build a successful ecosystem if everybody in the food chain wanted cash, upfront?

I hesitated for a whole week, wondering if I should restructure the mentor’s role, but then started again, looking for people that were former founders who had exited, former big execs who were about to leave their big companies to found a startup, and actively engaged experts who were eager to support startup teams.

Then it turned out – everyone I asked, or Josh Knowles my co-teacher asked, said yes. At local conferences, even at SXSW in Austin, we picked up more advisors, more lecturers – looking not just for the easy success stories, but those that had recently exited or folded their businesses, or those that joined after the founding team got started, or those that we about to begin again. Along the way visiting advisors asked if they could come back again, and we gained a few more mentors along the way.

Thank you mentors:

• Tom Igoe – ITP, Arduino
• Julie Berkun Fajgenbaum, Stern, Yolko
• Michael Levitz, R/GA
• Sarah Krasley, Autodesk
• Chris Milne, IDEO
• Ajay Revels, Polite Machines**
• John Bachir, Medstro**

**Advisors that become Mentors

Thank you Advisors and Speakers***:

• Adam Quinton, ASTIA Angel Network
• Ajay Revels, Polite Machines
• Andy Weissman, Union Square Ventures
• Angad Singh, Lolly Wolly Doodle
• Anthony Viviano, Lean UX Advocate
• Ben Borodach, Hublished
• Britta Riley, Windowfarms
• Carrie Barnes, Elise Communications
• Christin Roman, UX Designer
• Corie Hardee, Little Borrowed Dress
• Frank Rimalovski, NYU
• Jennifer Hill, International Tech Venture Lawyer
• Jess Eddy, UX Designer
• John Bachir, Medstro
• Josh Klein, IMAX
• Leah Hunter, FastCo
• Lindsey Marshall, NYU
• Michal Krasnodebski, Shutterstock.
• Miguel Senquiz and Sam Valenti IV, Drip.fm
• Peter Fusco, Lowenstein
• Matt Harrigan, Grand Central Tech
• Matt Jones, Google
• Nihal Parthasarathi, CourseHorse
• Phoebe Espiritu, TechStars
• Phin Barnes, First Round Capital
• Robert Fabricant, frog design
• Summer Bedard, Betaworks
• Tarikh Korula, Seen.co
• Travis Hardman, Annotary
• Thomas Gerhardt, Studio Neat
• Vlad Vukicevic, RocketHub

And thanks to NYU ITP, and the NYU Entrepreneur’s Institute for supporting this big experiment.

Lean LaunchPad Class 11

First – we’re excited for next week’s lessons learned session – here are the recommendations for both the video and presentation from class 9’s slideshare.

Thank you Peter Fusco of Lowenstein Sandler, for braving broken ribs to teach us about the essentials of startup law, having seen 480+ pre Series A companies:

(thanks to John Bachir for detailed notes)

The benefits of the Delaware-based C Corp:
If your company plan is to be a tech company, incentivizing with options, looking for venture investors, you want to be a Delaware C Corp to start.
Investors understand the structure —officers, directors, shareholders. Becoming a Delaware C corp is the easiest process, and it’s the most common.

Why do some NYC companies opt for LLC?
This is only optimal if they are services-oriented, such as consulting.
For the technology-based company wanting to raise capital and incentivize with options – they are tricky.
The promised big advantage is that the LLC is not taxed as an entity. The members are taxed, usually in ratio to their ownership percentages. But for a negligible profit technology company, by the time you take advantage of pass-through taxation, you’ve been funded and converted anyway.
There are significant complications with convertible debt deals and any seed or VC money raised outside of the US
For a group of people that are talented consultants, who also create products – then structure an LLC, and when you are serious about a product build, spin out a C Corp subsidiary, or spin it out completely.

Why you should figure out who owns what, early
This is the top thing founders don’t do but they should: don’t figure out who owns what.
Conversations are had, but not formalized, and 6 months later, people remember things differently.
The first thing you do, talk about who has what equity/percentages. the earlier you get your stock, the less value there is, and the valuation from a tax perspective is more honest.

83(b)! 83(b)! If there is one thing to remember!!
First, figure out how you are going to split the company.
Then, issue equity agreements.
Then stock restriction agreements, and file your 83B!!!
An 83(b) election lets you decide at the start of your vesting agreement to be taxed for the entire amount that will eventually vest at the present value.
83(b) is important! otherwise the IRS taxes you every time restriction lapses. The company is worth little today, but the company could be worth a lot of money later.
Vesting is good to protect founders against one another in beginning. 2, 3, or 4 years vesting. longer vesting is more in investors’ favor. Investors are investing in a team mostly — they have to see that everyone is appropriately motivated. With restricted stock you have it all up front, but company has the right to buy it back..

If you file 83(b), then you either pay tax on gain, or fair market value, then you don’t pay tax again until you pay tax on capital gains from sold stock.

How do we deal with some founders putting in money, while others are working?
If someone puts in money for server space, incubator space, put it in as a convertible note. A simple 1-page founder notes with a grid on the back, and note the expenses to pay off the contributing founder when you are funded.

For further questions – reach out to Peter and join him and his team at the various NYU Incubator office hours sessions.

Lean LaunchPad Class 9

Thanks to the Drip.fm and Ghostly founding team – Sam and Miguel for telling their story as it is unfolding.

And to Corie Hardee telling us about what it took to get LittleBorrowedDress.com off the ground, from deconstructing the dress making industry, finding pattern makers, and the value of Net Promoter Score in determining the assortment and style type.

We’re getting to the end of class so teams should be working with Josh to nail down the translation of Customer Validation data into feature set for MVP build.



Lean LaunchPad Class 8

Thanks so much to our guest speakers –

Ben Borodach founder of Hublished and Michal Krasnodebski at Shutterstock.

From Ben we learned about the software selling cycle of enterprise, and useful tips for how to A/B test everything, even LinkedIn outreach.

From Michal we saw how Shutterstock experiments with new product types to fit key personas, and then brings them into the fold of the main product to generate revenue for the core.

Here are the current batch of student team updates:


Sam Slover, Shilpan Bhagat, Max Ma

The team pivoted from a mobile in-store product information app to become “nybl is ‘Consumer Reports’ re-imagined for the Millennial generation” and launched their prototype this week.

Blog overview: http://launching-nybl.tumblr.com/post/81121720774/introducing-nybl

Landing page: http://www.nybl.io/

Demo video: https://vimeo.com/90037176


Sergio A Majluf, Su Hyun Kim, Christina Yugai

The team has pivoted from an online learning discovery tool to a very specific focus – the visual syllabus – and pivoted with a first pass prototype in one week. Their first prototype solves a unique problem for many professors – both traditional and those involved in the flipped classroom approach in Lean Launchpad – how do you capturelearning-along-the way of a syllabus, and encourage student contribution.

Cognitive Toy Box:

Lindsey Jones, Tammy Kwan, and Shun Huang

Cognitive ToyBox develops toys backed by science, bringing cutting edge academic research from the lab, to the marketplace, and to the home. Their first product – a toy that introduces the concept of shape bias. This team of Stern students has made use of ITP to build multiple prototypes, and expand beyond their original form factor.



Rodrigo Derteano, Maximo Sica, Alejandro Puentes, Alon Chitayat

The team is pivoting from a 2 way marketplace connecting traveler insiders to solving the needs of international travelers relocating to a new city. Here is their latest customer discovery class presentation.










Lean LaunchPad Class 6

We focused on activities, resources, and costs – with a deep dive on finances and innovation coming from the JOBS act, and the America Competes Act in the US.

And we augmented the Lean LaunchPad method with a deep dive on Customer Development – translating personas into the first set of features, and marketing measures to test. Here are Ajay Revel’s slides – and please reach out to her as you do these exercises on your own.

And class notes with next week's assignment -

Lean LaunchPad Class 5

Thanks to guest speakers Travis Hardman, and John Bachir.

Quotes from class:

From John Bachir:

“Customer experience means build to what your customers are saying they will do vs. finding a cool technical reason to build something.”

“Being too good at business development meant multiple pilots, building entirely new products. Have a filter for knowing what components to build, and quickly release, onto your existing product, instead of flexing your technical skills each time a new request turns a feature into yet another product.”

And from Travis:

“Falsify, instead of validate, your customer development hypotheses. People want to like your idea, so they will tell you yes, they want your product, until it’s time to ask them to pay for it.”

“Pitching for investment while doing customer development can affect how eager and enthusiastic you become at selling what you want to build, at some point in the future (your investor vision) vs. what you have now, or will have soon. You can disappoint your customers if there is a big delta between those realities.”

And the “Ghandi moment” – “Pick an idea that is the change you want to see in the world. You will grow tired and frustrated – make sure that the passion is there before you begin.”

Here are class notes:

Josh’s Development Planning advice:

Lean LaunchPad week 5:

Lean LaunchPad Class 4 NYU ITP

This week: Guest Speaker Phoebe Espiritu from TechStars, and our Mentors.

Here is this week’s lecture/workshop on revenue and distribution. We are glad to have incredible variety in direct vs. indirect, web vs. mobile vs. google glass distribution.

For next week: What experiments will you run to test your revenue strategy?

Watch Lecture Customer Relationships—take the quiz

Watch Lecture Partners
Read: Business Model Generation 180-225
Talk to 5 or more customers face-to-face, Survey Monkey if relevant. Post discovery narratives
· Cover slide
· Latest version Business Model Canvas with changes marked
· Updates to Market size (TAM, SAM, Target Market)
· Results of last week’s experiments. What passed, what failed, what did you learn?
· Proposals for next week’s experiments. What constitutes a pass/fail signal for each

Lean LaunchPad NYU ITP Class 2: Value Propositions and Pain

We covered the Value Proposition, and pain-driven design, and with additional design research and lean ux approaches to get underneath stated, easy-to-find pain points.

Thanks Tarikh Korula for telling us the story of Seen.co.

For next week:

Watch the Customer Segments lecture.

Read Business Model Generation, 126-145.

Read 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

Post discovery narratives on your team blog.

How to format for next week – and this is critical to ensure that your team can cover what you need to cover in the 5 minutes.

  • Cover slide WITH YOUR NAMES and your quick description.
  • What hypotheses related to your value proposition and segments did you test last week. What did you validate. What did you invalidate. Who did you talk to in order to validate these hypotheses.
  • Share the Latest version Business Model Canvas with changes marked
  • Share any updates to your Market size (TAM, SAM, Target Market)
  • Propose experiments to test your customer segments. What constitutes a pass/fail signal for each test?

Links for further understanding:

Value Proposition Canvas: Business Model Generation

Legal Zoom Kauffman Foundation Startup Environment Index 2012

Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights: Steve Portigal

Universal Methods of Design: Bella Harrington, Bruce Hanington.

DSchool Bootcamp Bootleg

And this just in from Ash Maurya: How to Interview Your Users and Get Useful Feedback