Tristan Kromer, as a Lean Startup Coach and advisor based in San Francisco, has a unique obsession: help product teams go faster. He has been doing this during the last five years working with product teams and innovation leaders to apply lean startup principles to teams and innovation ecosystems. Enjoy the interview we made him and discover his great entrepreneurial thinking and mindset.
Brief description about your background, experience, journey...
I've spent ten years in the music industry, five in IT security, and the last five years in startups. I spend about 50% of my time working with early stage startups and the other 50% professionally helping enterprises and accelerator programs develop their innovation ecosystems.
Imagine an entrepreneur with no experience but with a great idea and right attitude. Which would be your first three advices?
1) Your product idea is probably wrong. Focus on your vision instead. Find someone you really want to help. Someone in pain. That's your vision. Helping someone and solving a real problem.
2) Find team members with complementary skill sets who are able to challenge your perspective and add their own.
3) Go talk to customers.
How to find a good mentor for your startup?
Look for someone who doesn't give you their opinion but instead challenges you with questions that makes you think.
You are running different initiatives. Have you got any mentor? If so, who is he/she and why did you choose him/her?
My team is my mentor. The customer is my mentor. My friends are my mentors. I rely on other people to challenge my perspective. People like Sean Murphy, Spike Morelli, Laura Klein, Nick Noreña, Zac Halbert, Janice Fraser. People who are willing to question me or tell me I'm wrong.
There's a common buzzing in most of startups communities: Lean Startup vs Business Plan. What do you think about that?
The battle is over. The business plan lost. Some people just haven't noticed yet.
Which is the biggest barrier to implement Lean Startup in a company?
It varies by company. Some don't put together cross functional teams to get out of silo based, waterfall development. Some don't know how to evaluate early stage startups on the appropriate metrics such as iteration velocity or actionable metrics. Some simply don't know how to put together innovative teams. The scrappy people who break the rules and get angry when they see problems are often viewed as troublemakers and isolated. In Silicon Valley, we celebrate those people.
From accelerators perspective, What do you think about ...?
Accelerators shouldn't sit around playing hypothetical scenarios and critiquing business ideas. They should be sending entrepreneur's out into the world to figure out for themselves what's a good idea by getting data for real customers. The only thing that an accelerator might be able to do from an armchair is help identify which are the riskiest parts of the business that the entrepreneur can then investigate.
Startups should talk to customers. Accelerators should train startups to talk to customers. They shouldn't be in the room when that happens. They shouldn't be responsible to find the customers
In terms of Validated learning from customers.
What did you learn from music industry that you can apply now to startup scene?
The team dynamics are identical. It's a group of creative people with different skill sets who have to come together and play in harmony (and sometime disharmony when appropriate.) They are creating something new out of thin air.
Being able to understand who works well with who and how to get people to perform at their best is very challenging. I don't think I'll ever master it, but I'm getting a bit better.
Which was your biggest mistake launching a startup?
Not knowing how to code. I've since corrected that error. It's a basic literacy like reading an writing. Everyone needs to know at least the basics but preferably should be able to launch a basic prototype within 24 hours. There's so much great open source software out there that there is no excuse to not being able to cobble together an MVP.
Which is the most challenging project that you have now?
Recruiting and managing an all volunteer force for Lean Startup Circle. I haven't figured out how to scale that as an operation. We now have a very consistent group in San Francisco that shows up month to month to put on events but to get people showing up weekly or even daily to put in a few hours to build up the organization globally...that's a trick I haven't figured out yet.
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