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All kinds of new and new-ish faces among the 21 attendees at this morning’s #OpenCoffeeLou. We were especially excited to hear that a number of people showed up this morning because they heard about the event from Insider Louisville. Bill Dawson and Lisa Bajorinas were there representing GLI’s EnterpriseCorp (Executive Director Tendai Charasika is on a well-deserved family vacation this week).

University of Louisville’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence Suzanne Bergmeister moderated the event. Bergmeister just returned from the Lean Launchpad Educators Class last week at Stanford University, near Palo Alto, California– deep in the heart of Silicon Valley’s startup mecca. This class, taught by the iconic Steve Blank, was a class for educators, mentors and accelerator leaders– it was a class to teach teachers how to teach Lean principals.

Palo Alto was a revelation, explained Bergmeister. Gas, she says, costs a full dollar more than it does in Louisville. A salad and an iced tea in a restaurant ran her $35.

The tradeoff for the astronomical cost of living is how deeply startup culture is ingrained in the city. Everyone is in a startup. A “not very successful startup” can exit for $12 million.

“Even the bartender has a startup,” says Bergmeister. “The taxi driver has a startup.”

In Palo Alto, you can go to a different startup event every night and not see the same faces twice. In Louisville, maybe there’s a benefit to the fact that we cross-pollinate.

There were 91 students at the Educators Class, 8 of whom were from Louisville, including Bob Saunders, Steve Huey, Jackie Willmott, Bergmeister and two others from U of L’s business program.

At a previous class, attendees included Tendai Charasika and Tony Schy from the Louisville area.

This impressed Steve Blank. Bergmeister said he “was fascinated that there was so much entrepreneurship activity in Louisville.”

While Blank did not write the book, Business Model Generation was the core text of the class. It espouses the instance that entrepreneurs, get out of the business and do customer discovery face-to-face. Ask questions about people’s pains and prove or disprove your hypotheses about your own business. The Business Model Canvas is a “business plan” on one sheet of paper, but it is a fluid document that should change with each phase of customer discovery.

Bergmeister highly recommends Blank’s videos on UDACITY.com. In fact, even in his own courses, Blank espouses the methodology of a “flipped classroom” which means that students watch his lectures at home for homework and in class the students take the reins and give presentations and lead discussions. There are nine lessons available at UDACITY, and they are free.

There is concern though that while startups and entrepreneurs are catching on to the Lean Startup methodology, investors are doing so more slowly. People are worried that when they pitch to investors that they’ll want that 20-page business model and multi-year projections that are still being taught in MBA programs.

Bergmeister explained: The more that investors learn about this method, the more that they’re going to catch on that the traditional business plan isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. No one hits their five year projections, anyway. But if you’ve talked to 200 potential customers who are behind your product, that reduces the risk to investors.

Elizabeth Rounsavall says that Chrysalis Ventures rarely gets the 20 page business plan any more. And when they do get a plan, it’s usually not worth looking at.

Vik Chadha says that Backupify started using Blank’s theories very early. Backupify is one of the case studies in Ben Yoskovitz’s book. Customer discovery was critical to their success. Getting out of the office…

Dana Cosby, business strategist, asked: How do you identify who you should be talking to?

Bergmeister said: Just get out of the office. She recounted a medical startup company telling Steve Blank that they set up a table in a hospital lobby and just stopped people to ask them questions. They got thrown out of the hospital, but Steve Blank gave them a standing ovation.

Charasika often says, “If you’re not uncomfortable with it. You’re doing it wrong.”

Kelby Price said that this weekend during the Tactical Urbanism Streetscape Intervention on East Market Street, the organizers used customer discovery models to take the temperature of the public’s reaction. First they changed the configuration of the parking and took out a lane from the street (click the link above to read the whole story), they then observed how people parked in the reconfigured parking spots (for example) and then they asked users tons of questions.

Cosby said that small business development centers throughout Louisville (and elsewhere) are still teaching 20-page business plans, are still getting governmental grants to teach this kind of business development. When a small business person goes to one of these centers, they essentially receive training and literature on how to apply for a loan.

“It’s like you’re in a different Louisville,” says Cosby.

Bergmeister says that Steve Blank calls these “Main Street Entrepreneurs” and says that Lean methodology is still for them.

Network for Entrepreneurial Women (NEW) has a lot of Main Street Entrepreneurs, says Bergmeister.

Emmanuel Jackson, CEO and founder of Evanston Technology Partners, a cloud-based communications company that is relocating to Louisville’s West End from Chicago said, “I seem to know more about Louisville than other [local entrepreneurs] here. Even though I’m from Chicago.”

He says that when it comes to small business Louisville is one of the most open places he’s been. (And he’s been “everywhere.”) All you have to do is Google Louisville and entrepreneurism or co-working space or startups and free and accessible resources come up.

Jackson says that co-working space at the NIA Center is three times the cost of iHub. “The idea that people don’t know this place is here is unacceptable.”

Jackson came to Louisville because of the national reach of companies like ResCare and Kindred. He’s moving his business to the West End because, he says, “It was important for me to have my company have an impact on the neighborhood. We were never going to move downtown.”

Our conversation, once again, ran overtime, so there was no time for announcements. Here are some resources and announcements I have compiled for you:

Here’s a link to Tendai Charasika’s “Get out of the building” speech from the Lean Startup Convention in 2012.

Lean Startup Meetup Louisville July 2 with Tendai Charasika and others from EnterpriseCorp.

This Wednesday, June 26,  at 6:30 p.m. at Sweet Surrender on Frankfort Avenue is Let Them Tweet Cake:

Smart! Geeky! Interesting women! Are you a fan of Twitter? A Pinterest power user? An Instagram addict? A blogger extraordinaire? A mobile app obsessive? Are you a new media using, technology savvy woman who lives (and possibly works) on the internet? If you said yes then the honor of your presence is requested at Let Them Tweet Cake!

If you are a tech-oriented woman (or a man who doesn’t mind being surrounded by brilliant tech-oriented women) this is a don’t-miss quarterly event.

Elizabeth Rounsavall: wanted us to know about the CGAMESUSA 2013 International Computer Games Conference coming up here in Louisville. It is an academic conference on gaming now in its 18th year. July 30-August 1 at the Galt House Hotel. I see some familiar faces in the photos from last year’s conference. This year’s conference includes a field trip to Dave Durand’s Forest Giant HQ. Look for not one but TWO articles about what’s up with Durand and Forest Giant on Insider Louisville this week.

We saw on Twitter that Velocity Accelerator residents GreekPull is hiring a front-end developer. Is that you?

More events available on the Louisville Startup Calendar.

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One thought on “#OpenCoffeeLou: Lean Launchpad class recap from Suzanne Bergmeister

  1. Cool. I would think there are many opportunities out there for startups such as this to expolit items and areas excessively off-shored. They may not be wild moneymakers, cutting edge innovative, or sexy. But they can turn a profit and they do fulfill a need. A very narrow focus on niche products also creates true expertise and, I would think, respect from customers.

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