One Long Experiment

I’m a bit ashamed to admit this, but I’m in the middle of reading Eric Ries’ influential book The Lean Startup for the first time. Based on the books reputation I was fully expecting to have mind blown, yet nearly 100 pages in and my only feeling is one of familiarity. It’s occurred to me that I may not have read The Lean Startup but Walkabout has been largely built over the last 2.5 years with the Lean Startup methodology.

One of the key tenants of Lean Startup methodology is to experiment, early and often. Sure, a lot of words have been written about the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), but one of the most important aspects is to essentially use the Scientific Method to discover the most efficient way to deliver value to your customer.

We launched Walkabout in January of 2014 and within 5 months we’d built something approximating an MVP, and had secured some minimal (but important) seed funding. By June we’d secured our first paying customers, but the product wasn’t actually done yet. What we delivered to them looked alright on the outside, but behind the scenes it was essentially held together with the digital equivalent of spit and duct tape. But it was enough to get feedback form customers and users and to help secure our next customer.

By the end of our first year we only had 3 paying customers, but we learned a ton about what the users wanted, and crucially what our customers wanted. We learned this by asking customers what they liked, what they disliked, what they wanted to see, what they wanted to get rid of. We asked a ton of questions and we were honest about our early stage, and our gratefulness for their early investment in our product. In April of 2015 we delivered the first commercially viable version of Walkabout and 1.5 years later we’ve grown at an average of 350% year over year, and have well over 50 paying customers in 8 different states and 2 countries. But, we’re still asking questions. We aren’t content to just grow, we want to deliver continuous value to our customers, and so we’re always soliciting feedback from our customers and trying to find ways to be better.

After nearly three years it’s become clear to me that starting a company ain’t nothing but a long, open-ended conversation between you and your customers.