How a Lean startup exercise helped me raise funds for a trip to Tibet and sell my first book!?

Taken from a pass in central Tibet

One foggy morning I jumped from my sleep with a surreal idea.

I wanted to write about Alexander the Great’s conquest of ancient India.

Hmm.. I can’t recall smoking anything last night.

The story would have begun from a very unique moment which history tells almost nothing of. A small event which I considered to be one of the most disruptive moments for the young conqueror of Ancient Macedonia.

The moment when he meets an Indian naked philosopher sitting by the river and start a rich philosophical discussion with him.

I wanted to take the story further and actually reconstruct what exactly happened during that event.

Then I wanted to turn it into a book.

Almost immediately that big evil wasp of doubt which usually attacks every first time book writer stung me.

Is this going to be a book the modern people of Macedonia would want to read?

See, in my case the question was very relevant.

It was not just about writing a pure fiction book where you exercise your writing muscle and do what you love most no matter if people would appreciate it. The book I had in mind would involve months and tons of research to back my thesis and add relevance to the entire story.

Is this going to be worth the effort?

There was one way to find out for sure.

I decided to run Lean!

My “initiation” into the Lean Startup approach through the work of Eric Ryes, Ash Morya and Steve Blank.

I was marveled by the concept and it’s powerful simplicity and pragmatism. Build something bits by bits then go out of the building to test and see whether people would actually make an effort to get your product. Then get back to your lab and build even more bits.

It didn't take long to realize that the Lean Startup approach is applicable not just for travel startups but for every project you’d ever wish to pursue.

I decided to put the concept into practice and see if the book I plan to introduce would be worth the effort.

As per my book’s story line the naked sadhu will use his spiritual powers. He will deliver an out of the body experience for Alexander and will decide to take him on a pilgrimage. Alexander’s grand adventure across ancient India will begin and will ultimately end in Tibet on the foothills of the Holy Mount Kailash.

I was put on my toes by the idea. My book’s final chapter waiting for me in Tibet. I had to visit Tibet and find out what is there for me. I must go there.

This desire simultaneously became my experiment’s ultimate test

It became my experiment’s hypothesis.

If the people of Macedonia would be attracted by the idea of such book, then I would be able to gather the necessary funds for my trip to Tibet.

My riskiest assumption — Not being able to raise the funds. This would mean — The book is probably not worth it!

So how did I proceed?

I wrote a 2-page synopsis which explains what the book is all about and how the story goes.

Next I made a 2 minute video where I explained the concept and the story line of the upcoming book.

This was my MVP: a 2 page synopsis and a YouTube video.

I placed my campaign on a local crowd-funding network. Then I started campaigning and inviting people to contribute in raising funds for the trip to Tibet. My pitch was telling that I have the book ready and only the last chapter is yet to be written.

I have given myself only 20 days to conduct this experiment.

Is this thing really going to work?

On the 6th day of the campaign my campaign was 110% funded.

My experiment was validated!

The people of Macedonia would love my product. They paid in advance for it.

I got the funds I needed and in October 2014 I spent the best 20 days of my live exploring Tibet.

By the end of December 2014, the first draft of The Man After The Bridge was ready.

Here are some takeaways:

Everything you do is a product — your own dream startup, a book, a painting or your career.

Every product can start with an MVP. Think out of the box and figure out what your next initiative’s MVP would look like.

Do not be content with a mere “Yes, this sounds cool, I like it. Ensure that people take an action, a small stretch to get what you potentially want to build before you proceed building it.

Have you done anything similar? Do share your experiences.

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