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The Startup Dragon (wesleytansey.com)
54 points by tansey on Jan 15, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 15 comments

While I agree with your sense of how valuable your time is, (really in any endeavor, not just startup life), I disagree with the implication that just doing more, quickly, will help you slay or avoid the startup dragon.

It is often the case in my own life that one or two days of solid, no-stress thought time can save many weeks, sometimes months of effort.

I think it can be particularly hard to take this time when you're cashflow negative, in the press, and the clock is ticking.. That is precisely when you most need to take that time, of course. :)

Tansey is a great commenter/submitter and I respect his opinion, and I also mean no disrespect to the people working on LLL, but honestly the reason I wouldn't use a tool like this is because I don't think it is useful.

Look at the screenshots. https://www.leanlaunchlab.com/#screenshot-canvas

"Key activities: Write code. Meet entrepreneurs. "

"Cost structure: Employees. Rent"

These are obvious. These arn't things that need to be written down in a planning app. A 10 minute smoke break and it should be in your head for good. Then a month later they are in an accounting app or spreadsheet with hard figures on them.

Then there is an internal blog with commenters talking about learnings and whether or not angel funded startups have board meetings. Common, do people really needs this?

It's starting to feel like everyone talking about "lean startups" is just trying to "play business" instead of making an awesome product that solves a real problem and hustling hard[1] charging people as much as they can for it. The whole thing reeks of MBA BS.

[1] (read: meeting clients, split testing, funnel marketing, optimizing adwords, etc. not writing internal blog posts about how you feel things are going)

Fun article to write. I crowdsourced all those images on Mechanical Turk in about an hour. Best $2 I ever spent! :)

I actually thought this was kind of boring and wasn't going to upvote, until I read that the images were from Mechanical Turk and your instructions.

Nice one. And that's awesome. Do you have the mturk job writeup? Curious to see how the description matches the actuals.

I didn't save them. They were something along the lines of:

"Draw a man in a cave being chased by a fire-breathing dragon. He is desperately trying to remove a bunch of stones that are blocking his path. A fairy and a forklift just appeared beside him."

I can only hope that I made the turkers laugh a little bit when they saw that. :)

Cool. Yeah, my favorite part of turk is using it for more creative jobs like this, had to ask. You should make this a habit with your blog posts - I'd read every post, just to see how a turker interprets your startup experiences.

I actually am planning on doing that! I had an idea for one today that I'll probably post later next week.

Personally, when ever my back is against a pile of rocks is when I decide to try out the forklift. When ever I have a pile of schlep that I've been doing manually (or when I see that I will have to do it manually) I usually opt for the forklift if I can see it will reduce that schlep and net me some time.

The payoff can't be a thin margin either. If doing it manually vs learning a tool will save me a few hours total, It's not worth it. However if writing a script will save me days on end in the long run I'll think about it.

Read Four Steps To The Epiphany. Steve describes exactly what you're writing about, pretty much even the dragon:

"The hero’s journey is an apt way to think of startups. ... Obstacles, hardships and disaster lie ahead... It tests their stamina, agility, and the limits of courage.

Most entrepreneurs feel their journey is unique. Yet what Campbell perceived about the mythological hero’s journey is true of startups as well: however dissimilar the stories may be in detail, their outline is always the same. Most entrepreneurs travel down the startup path without a roadmap and believe that no model or template could apply to their new venture. They are wrong. For the path of a startup is well worn, and well understood."

Lets take the analogy a bit further. Lets say you've now determined that unless you move the rocks faster by finding a better way to move them, there just isn't enough time to move the rocks before the dragon gets you. To continue to do what you're doing, knowing you will fail without getting better is pretty foolish now. To me that's the one of the essentials of lean. Having the adaptability to learn and the recognition of when that time is necessary and crucial.

Sure there are tons of Lean and Agile tools out there that waste more time than they save. Where a whiteboard will do a better job and do it faster and cheaper. I agree many of these tools should have the stamp "Cargo Cult" on their landing page (caveat: I've never used LLL, but I love the lean canvas, it's just that pen and paper is good enough for me). I'll even go so far as to say that I think the market for "tools" exists at least in part for people who are not interested in really learning, but want to follow a step-by-step road map through the product development processes. This is clearly wrong and a colossal mistake. How can anyone honestly learn from the product development process if they are just following the prompts?

So while I think you've probably made the right decision, your analogy makes me wonder if you've done it for the wrong reasons.

This is where having lots of experience comes in play. It's possible to hire lots of people, someone to operate the forklift, a geologist to evaluate the stones, a physicist to plot flight paths for the stones, etc.... but each hire will slow your startup down. Work with someone who has done a startup before, or get mentoring from that person. This will teach you to use the right tools at the right time before you end up in such a pinch.

I kind of stopped using LLL as a tool because initially it was really horrendous and frankly, convinced me that release early is not as smart. I checked it out recently, it is much better... still, whole idea about canvas is that I can draw it on paper, I kind of like that. I might use LLL, but not as primary tool for sure.

I'm not in a startup and I know nothing about LLL but I do know this: if you're firefighting and say that you don't have time to draw breath, and that you don't have time to learn the right way to get things back onto track, then that means STOP! Reassess where you're going because you're heading for a crash. Take some time out to get things in perspective and take the time to do it right. Cut back a bit on those tasks that seemed so essential but perhaps you could afford to skip them for a week or two.

upvote for the drawings

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