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How we used LeanCanvas (and the Republic of Costa Rica) to vet our next product

The first thing you need to know about TWG, is that entrepreneurship is a big part of our DNA. Whether we are helping a startup develop their big idea, cranking out quick iterations for clients looking to out-maneuver the rest of their industry, or nurturing our own great ideas into software products… we love to bring new ideas to life!

Being able to quickly appraise ideas and vet business opportunities is a challenging and necessary component to our business.

Thanks to the influence of some really smart and talented local entrepreneurs (the LeanCoffeeTO crew & StartupWeekend guys) we’ve discovered the LeanStartup / RunningLean approaches to startup growth to assist with this evaluation process. We’ve now realized how valuable this process is to all our business activities.

TWG recently returned from our 4th annual week-long winter retreat (this is the Costa Rica part). We use these trips to recharge our batteries, take stock of the year that’s been, and focus on our new product development ideas. In past years our team has organically come up with ideas at these retreats resulting in software products and tools like this, this, and of course this.

For 2011 we decided to take some of our startup learnings from the past year and do two things differently:

  1. Formalize our selection process; and
  2. Make this shiza competitive!

The Contest Rules:

  1. Everyone from our team of 10 (+1 boyfriend) can pitch an idea. You must have completed a lean canvas to make a pitch;
  2. Everyone votes for their top 2 choices – first choice worth 2 points, second choice worth 1 point. Once the top 2 projects are chosen, the teams are formed;
  3. Each team describes their objectives for the week, including a 5-month vision for their project/product (end of August);
  4. Teams have a budget of $1500 per team for hosting, marketing, etc.;
  5. Each team worked on their respective project in Costa Rica, and will continue during our Friday lab days and personal time.
  6. In August, each team will present in a Dragon’s Den type format to a bunch of tech and business heavyweights. The teams will be judged based the business’ viability at that time.
  7. There will be prizes:
    Winner: All profit to date; 30% ownership in the business; Internet fame.
    1st Runner up: All profit to date; 20% ownership in the business; steak knives.

Projects that were initiated:

1. Team FeedbackerHesham, Jack, Oleg, Jon
Feedbacker is a javascript tool that enables clients to give sprint feedback from directly inside the browser. Feedbacker then delivers this feedback into the dev team’s product/ticketing backlog for further processing and prioritizing.

2. Team ZOMG PoniesScott, Dessy, Stephen, Kon
ZOMG Ponies is an iPad scrapbook app for young girls to immortalize their photo memories with digital stickers, and share with their bffs.

3. Team Top Secret – TBA
(You know.. we’d have to kill you.)

We had a very productive week, and there will be more updates to come. Stay tuned.
In the mean time, have a look at the lean canvases for Feedbacker & ZOMG Ponies.

Pura Vida!

Costa Rica Sunset

2 Responses to How we used LeanCanvas (and the Republic of Costa Rica) to vet our next product

  1. Jon Lim says:

    That Kon guy doesn’t stand a chance.

  2. Brennan says:

    I’m not going to lie, I am super excited about the idea of ZOMG Ponies. =D

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