First Ideas and First Users

Last Friday, we registered your startups with Young Enterprise and introduced you to the associated constraints and considerations.  As discussed in class, there will be no competition between teams, we expect high standard business ethics, and finally – your business ideas are subject to business rules…with absolutely no exceptions… Please review these rules again (and again) before Friday class:

Almost a month ago, I set you a challenge:

Screen shot 2015-10-21 at 17.25.56

I understand this challenge was not easy but it was intended to train you for this moment. I imagine you spent the last few days since business registration searching for your business ideas – observing, brainstorming, talking with people, testing your assumptions… Did you?

A few tips to help you:

It will not work if you don’t care about it. If you can’t find a reason to care about it, why would you expect anyone else to care about it?

Last Saturday I visited the Cosmonauts exhibition at the Science Museum, and it is probably the most inspirational exhibition I have ever visited. I expected ‘the story of Russian space travel’ but I did not expect the story of passion, true grit, sacrifice, and innovation that I found. I never knew that the idea of space travel came from a man who as a boy suffered an illness that left him handicapped – he turned his handicap into a life-long project of passion, and inspired generations AND nations…


Ideas work best with passion applied.

(Go see the exhibition!!!!)

Rules of brainstorming – an old favourite:

Ideas are (cheap and) everywhere…

…Execution brings success (or not).

A $1.5M Kickstarter Project Fails, Leaving Most Backers Without Their 3D Printer via @techcrunch

You are a startup. You will start with no more than £1000 startup capital. All team members have an equal share in the business and can only invest as much as the other team members.

Be realistic and honest with yourself. As explained in class, the difference between a team of students and a team of NASA scientists proposing to build a rocket is in the feasibility of the proposal. You should have access to your users (customers). You have until March to turn a profit.

You need to have your first product ready the first Friday in December. You will present your product to a panel of judges (Dragons) in the Dragons’ Den on 11 December and they will give you feedback which you will use to improve your product. For this reason, do not make a large quantity of products just yet…

Understand your capabilities. It allows you to focus on what you can achieve in the time you have available.

The same old obvious solution is not what you want and need. Read up on informational vs transformational knowledge:

and why it matters – for example:

Beware of the enemies:

CB5 CB4 CB3 CB 2 CB 1


Don’t forget about design thinking!

It often happens that students want to forget about design thinking as soon as we turn to their businesses. Remember: design thinking is the difference between the meaningful, user-centred solution and the solution that prescribes/dictates user behaviour.

For example, I had to spend some time in hospital this week and these photos illustrate the reality of the experience. The ceiling is what one sees most of the time spent in hospital.

Hospital ceiling

And this pile of instructions is intended to help one navigate through the journey of the treatment.

DT Hospital

But how can this be done in a human-centred way, keeping the wellbeing of the user as a priority?

One of my favourite examples is still the New Evelina Children’s Hospital in London, built as the antithesis of traditional healthcare design, with a rocket slide in the atrium and with superheros washing the windows:

Or how about this example of patient-centred communication materials for breast cancer detention:

Know your lemons

Worldwide Breast Cancer


On Friday, come to class armed with your ideas. You need more than one idea. One idea at this stage is simply not good enough.

Think about, discuss with your team, and document the following, for each idea:

  1. What is your idea about? What is the driving force behind it? Provide key information about the problem or need you have identified.
  2. Who is this idea for? Who will buy or use your product or service? Your persona – what are their needs, what do they care about and why?
  3. Your solution to the problem/need identified – how does it work?
  4. …then find 8 first users (real people!) your persona represents (2 per team member, so not that scary!) and talk with them about your idea in order to learn (NO SURVEYS, please, thank you)

We will review your ideas and personas work/learning in class and enable you to get deeper into the problem so you can assess the feasibility of the idea for your business.

Bring materials you need to build your first (quick & dirty) prototypes. Pens, paper and post it notes provided, as usual.

See you all Friday!

P.S. A question (leave your answers as comments on this post): what is a start-up? Deadline: Friday 2PM.

12 thoughts on “First Ideas and First Users

  1. I have to say it wasn’t until you asked that I realised I didn’t know what by definition a start-up is. So, after a bit of reading (and realising everyone has their own definition) I’d say that it’s someone -person or group- developing a potentially good idea with the intention of making money out of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had exactly the same problem as Inyaki. The definition of start up seems to be quite obvious. I believe it is a company in the evolution phase that introduces an innovative service/product to the market. However, after further reading I realised that an important quality of start up is also their approach to business. Start ups promote more casual and modern management methods stimulating creativity and efficient work flow in the work place, what makes them different from traditionally run businesses.


  3. I would say a start-up company is not necessary new found business but to be a problem-solving business. It usually combine bright ideas with smart business model. A successful start-up company will have a strong team member to run the business and always look for the advertuare and surprise.


  4. There are different definitions for a start-up, some of them focus on the actions that are associated with a start-up such as solving problems, generating ideas , creating new products and services, other definitions concentrate on the area which the start-up engages in for instance establishing businesses, others emphasise the time frame of the start-up for a classification.
    According to Eric Ries the author of The Lean Start-up, a start-up is “A start-up is a human institution designed to create something new, under conditions of extreme uncertainty””
    There are three main elements that constitute the definition, these are:
    1. The human institution; which can be small or large companies, profit or non-profit organisations.
    2. The creation of something new, which can be a new product or service (or company).
    3. The condition of extreme uncertainty: this reflects the challenges that the start-up faces.
    The definition is useful as it gives a general understanding of a start-up; i.e., no specifications for the size and the type of industry of a start-up, and no time frame for categorizing a start-up.


  5. Have you ever noticed, when you are looking for something you can not find it easy. however, when you do not need it, it is always there right in front of your eyes. How funny !!!!
    This is related to my group mate and I situation’s currently. we came across with lots of interesting ideas for our business whereas these ideas are not either doable or they are involved too much complexity somehow. I have been looking for a business idea since last week but unfortunately, I just noticed whatever comes to into my head has been already done by someone else. What the creepy world !!!!.
    At the moment, the start-up of a business course has not been started for me. This is because, my groups mates and I could not think about any business idea.
    Perhaps, one day Apple may hit my head like Issac Newton which would lead me to find an idea. We’ve all heard the story. A young Isaac Newton is sitting beneath an apple tree contemplating the mysterious universe. Suddenly – boink! -an apple hits him on the head. “Aha!” he shouts, or perhaps, “Eureka!” In a flash he understands that the very same force that brought the apple crashing toward the ground also keeps the moon falling toward the Earth and the Earth falling toward the sun: gravity. So what? I have visited different places since previous class but I did not manage to find a good idea. There is possibility that old techniques like visiting new places, observing new environments or alternatively talking to people for solving their existing issues may not as efficient as before.


  6. Pingback: Building products that customers love | Design Thinking for Start-ups

  7. What is a Start up? It is a vehicle (legal entity) established to support the development and delivery of revenue generating ideas. The ideas focus on needs and wants of identified users & other stakeholders within the value chain associated to it. The Start up seeks to commercially satisfy those needs in new ways, and/or in a more efficient manner than currently exists.
    Characteristics of a successful Start up include being a good relationship builder, having a positive outlook, listening to users, learning quickly, having integrity and high ambition.
    The goals of a Start up is to create & harness demand in the short term and achieve scalability & growth in the longer term.


  8. What I know about start up is to make life better, it is about improving, creating, solving problems in our daily lives. It can be a simple ideas that solves problems. Sometimes it is hard to really “start” up, because most of people are feeling safe in their comfort zone and lazy to begin with ideas. Only when ideas that being implement or carry out that could be really call a “start up”.


  9. Hi Janja

    …what’s a start up besides a contemporary buzz-word you ask? Hmmm, yeah tricky one that. Much like Inaky, I only really gave it due attention when when the question was posed. I ventured into what it is not, and I concluded it is not the ‘traditional/as we know it’. It celebrates (effectively) young inexperienced but determined founders, it focusses on low cost risk talented employees (aka ramen noodles diet and no kids) and the brave who do not shy from the commitment it demands – there is no room for cold feet in a start up. I think these facets sets itself apart from ‘business as usual’. While Business As Usual does create value, start up’s risk more readily, and are unencumbered by layers of previous ‘know how’. Empowered by ‘different’ not slowed or analyzing what it means to be different. That’s what makes it intoxicating and that’s what makes it just as scary.

    It may be lofty, but I’d venture to concur with P. Thiel (Zero to One) that start ups are a means to create value by being envisioned in the now but firmly rooted in the future and that is what makes its truly special.



  10. Hi Janja
    A startup is a young company that is just beginning to develop.Usually they are small and initially financed and operated by a few people or by 1 individual.These companies offer product or services that either are not currently available on the market or it is about redesigning an existing product or service.

    Every business when they are created , it has a unique value proposition same for a startup but i believe a star up is more about starting small addressing a specific problem and mostly it is about ameliorating an existing service…e.g. if we take Watsapp creation or Uber …They were startup which expanded exponentially at a later stage but the idea is of an add on service to an existing product or service, making it more efficient .



  11. Hi Janja,

    After some thought, I think, to put it in simplistic terms, a start up is just what its name says, it’s an idea in the form of a young business with its crosshairs aimed at starting up a successful enterprise, company or organisation. Whenever I hear the word ‘start up’ I think about turning on your game console to play a game that is bound to immerse you completely in it and spark your imagination. I think about starting up a car by juicing its battery with some power. I think about opening your recharged eyes in the morning to begin a fresh new day.

    In conclusion, a start up to me is a business with a skeleton of an idea that uses it as its fuel to take more carefree risks with great rewards, to venture courageously the least travelled path and to steer clear of prohibiting traditional business strategies. But, do not confuse a start up as a reckless endeavour, because as we can see with a plethora of examples just how successful a start up can be if managed correctly.

    Liked by 1 person

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