I woke up on day 2 with the nigggling feeling from the night before, something was niggling the back of mind and as per usual the answer came unexpectedly – in the bath. We were defining our assumption questions that we needed to validate around our solution. This assumes that our product is already solving the users pain rather than questioning our assumptions about what the users pain is actually is. This was enlightenment moment number one for me as I realised this one of the biggest traps startups fall into. Even though you may not be asking leading questions, were you asking the right questions in the first instance.
It turned out that the issue around user research was exactly what day 2 was about. It was time to take two steps backwards in our to leap ten steps forward. This is a hard fact to accept but if we were truly going to a product that our users want then we needed to understand their perceptions, motivations and attitudes around careers and technology. On Monday, it was easy coming up with questions but now it was tough defining our assumptions never mind the questions need to validate or invalidate them. But again, we had excellent ball breaking mentors who kept us laser focussed.
Tuesday also happened to be EcoHack day (a 10 week programme at TechCity College where students are challenged with finding solutions fo real projects with business partnera), we had a workshop on Ideation which presented an opportune moment to do some interviews. Er, not so fast. When Elena started the workshop we suddenly realised then full attention of the teens had to be on the workshop. They also had a workshop with straight after then it was back to normal studies. All wad not lost however as Elena had hatched a plan to use Acorn Academy concept for their actual exercises. Eleanor also spoke to some kids towards the end of the session using the user journeys exercise to establish a rapport. The lesson here is, there is always a way if you try and iterate on the fly, literally.
Our biggest revelation was that although we were conscious of the language we use, we hadn’t realised how much we had to dumb down. The words startup, entrepreneurship and online learning had to go. In a class of twenty five teens, only five have considered running their own business. They wanted to study subjects like Accountancy, Economics amd Medicine. Whilst they were clear about the importance of technology in their future jobs, this was something that someone else did.
When we got back, we had some real data to work with to validate or invalidate our three key assumptions. Things started to feel a little more intuitive as we were now asking deeper questions because of what we now knew. Our first pivot came when we worked through personas of stakeholders. By understanding (or assuming as we were with some) their needs, motivations, goals etc it was easier to see who would pay and why. Revisiting our first years costs from the previous day alongside the personas meant changing who was paying from day 1.
At the end of everyday, three startups are called up to talk about what they’ve done and insights learnt. It’s based on progress made and shown on your Trello board. We knew today was going to be our day to be picked on. The idea was not just talk about what you’d done but share your dawning realisations. In truth, we didn’t do that which I thought was an opportunity missed for us and the rest of the cohort. It goes against our natural instinct to reveal that we are wrong or don’t have all the answers yet it is the most humbling experience when you do, it’s what makes us human. Entrepreneurs, in particular, have a tendency to be very protective about the reality of their business progress and success. Once success is truly achieved and are breathing a deep sigh of relief, they’re more likely to tell all as it becomes a brag. But then I do not and probably never will describe myself as an entrepreneur.