Long Island Business (NY)
September 13, 2012
A new national entrepreneurial movement is finding a foothold on Long Island. Less than a month after Tyler Roye and Brian Turchin began a local group dedicated to the lean startup concept, Stony Brook University has created a course based on the business development method.
Lean startup, a phrase coined by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Eric Ries, involves minimizing wasted activity by getting feedback from customers at each stage of a product’s creation prior to a full-scale release. Lean startup shortens the development cycle, while validating that the new product meets customers’ needs. Ries based the concept on a study of many Silicon Valley startups.
“Instead of building your product in a vacuum and hoping it sells, you’re building a minimally viable product and getting feedback very early in the cycle,” said Roye, co-founder of GroupGifting.com, who is employing the lean startup concept with his new business. “That feedback allows you to change course or pivot very quickly if need be.”
For Roye and his team, running lean has meant speaking with customers and early adopters to find the best way to implement each aspect of the group-gifting concept, such as getting customers to pick up their gifts quicker.
“We tried a couple different methods based on customer feedback and ran a measurable test against the metrics,” Roye said. “Once we got it right, we moved on to the next challenge. It’s a scientific way to move forward.”
Stony Brook created a course, “The Lean Launchpad,” which is open to anyone, including those who aren’t students of the university. Ann-Marie Scheidt, Stony Brook’s director of economic development, said the school is basing the class on a one-week version of the course she attended last week at Columbia University. That class was taught by Steve Blank, another proponent of the lean startup movement, who also teaches the concept at Stanford University and others.
The course at Stony Brook will itself be an experiment in customer development, Scheidt said, beginning as a one-credit course this semester before being offered for three credits in the spring, pending school approval.
If the course is successful, Scheidt said it’s even possible Stony Brook could be eligible for designation as an “innovation node”—an institution that has embraced the lean startup program—by the National Science Foundation.
Fewer than four schools will receive that designation this year; it carries a financial award of between $300,000 and $1.2 million for the school. For Scheidt, however, it’s not about the money. “The intent is to have a national network of these nodes that can act as a facilitator of lean startup concepts to others in the region,” she said.
Stony Brook is up against some big names. University of Michigan and Georgia Tech University were the 2012 recipients of node status, and Scheidt admitted the school’s own lean startup program is still only in its infancy. “We’re hopeful we can learn from others who have offered courses on lean startups,” she said.
The new class will meet at the Long Island High Technology Incubator, on the Stony Brook campus, Tuesdays at 6 p.m., beginning Sept. 19 and running through the end of the semester.
Stony Brook officials said the time was chosen to make it easier for those who are not full-time students to attend, although prior enrollment in the class is required. Currently, only about six students have registered for the course. Enrollment is still open, and Scheidt anticipates attracting 15 to 20 students by the time the first class begins.
“With it being open to anyone, I’m hoping we can attract someone with their own business to take the course. That would be enormously valuable for the students who are in the class to have someone to relate to,” said Scheidt, who has recruited several business leaders, including technology experts, small-business leaders, venture capitalists and attorneys, to act as student mentors.
While the lean startup concept is primarily used in the technology industry, Roye insists it’s applicable to any business sector or market. Research from the Kauffman Foundation found that startups create 3 million new jobs on average each year, while older companies tend to lose 1 million jobs annually.
“The concepts really speak to any folks who have tried to launch a new product,” he said. “You see products that are over-engineered without enough customer feedback and suffer as a result.”
Since September 2011, more than 400 lean startup groups have been founded worldwide, with 87,800 total members. The group started by Roye and Cape Horn Strategies President Turchin, in conjunction with the Long Island Software and Technology Network, at the Long Island Tech Mall—group No. 379—had its first meeting in August, and 44 individuals attended. The next meeting will be in early October.
Quality News Today is an ASQ member benefit offering quality related news
from around the world every business day.