‘Startups — the user-centred way’

Having just relocated to Bristol and keen to explore the burgeoning startup scene which I had been hearing about, I attended the Google Launchpad and Edo run event at M Shed on 21st Sept 2017; ‘Startups — the user-centred way’.

We had three presentations in the morning focused on leadership, customer research and the use of KPIs and I was then lucky enough to be matched with a mentor for a 3 hour 1-to-1 session in the afternoon.

I’ll give a quick breakdown of how each part played out to hopefully give you guys an understanding of the day for anyone who is thinking about attending the event in the future!

Kate Gray — Leadership and Culture

Having 25 years of board level involvement with global and local organisations, Kate came with a ton of credibility and experience and put across a really interesting and passionate presentation.

The crux of Kate’s content revolved around 4 key factors that any founder or entrepreneur in any sector would do well to learn from:

1. Be calm: take time/think it through

2. Be curious: be the example of continuous learning

3. Be cautious: understand the risk of mental models

4. Be committed: actively be in the work

These seem so simple yet often get forgotten in today’s fast paced world and it’s important to remind yourself of them daily. She was particularly wary of ‘Founderitis’, a trait were founders, just because they began the company, always assume they know the best way forward. This simply just isn’t always the case and it’s important to listen to and act upon the advice from your closest team members.

She was a huge advocate of reading regularly, “How else do you challenge your own mental models and begin to think new thoughts?” and recommended a few books such as the Innovators Dilemma and Turn the Ship Around. Check ’em out!

And of course no leadership presentation would be complete without a few great quotes. A few personal favourites…

“Management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right things”

“There is only one boss: the customer. And he can fire anyone from the CEO down by spending his money somewhere else”

“Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves”

Andrew Muir Wood — Asking the right questions of your users

Advising numerous startups on design research and UX, Andrew has heaps of experience with customer research and gave some really great specific advice on different methods to use. One being a ‘user experience map’, which is an important design tool in understanding how users interact with your product. It is a visual representation that illustrates the user’s flow and highlights their wants and needs.

For SYZO, this could start with the moment a potential member moves to a new city and is searching for a place to live, to ending up living in one of our homes. Mapping this experience on the day was hugely valuable and allowed us to identify key pain points for the member, which we can now work to alleviate.

He then set out a basic structure for a survey to help get an understanding of the problem your (our) startup is trying to solve:

Current solution: can you describe the last time you solved X?

Frequency: how often do you do X?

Cost: how much did X cost/how long did X take/how stressful was X?

Context: what happened immediately before/after you last did X?

A basic but effective survey and something to consider if you’re looking to more deeply understand your users relationship with the problem you’re trying to solve.

Bob Harper — Measure what matters most

Bob mainly focused on KPI’s and understanding how as a company you can use them to your advantage. There was some grumbling and a few thought that KPI’s took the fun out of a startup and made it too ‘corporate’. But it’s clear they have their place in any well-structured and ambitious company.

He also advocated the need for transparency throughout organisations and the requirement for praise to be given when and where it is due.

He encouraged all startups to set 90 and 30-day goals to keep you focused as well as weekly tasks to help you get there (all S.M.A.R.T, obviously).

1-to-1 Mentoring

The afternoon then consisted of me having an in depth chat with one of the Google Launchpad mentors, a fantastic experience which delved deep into our business plan and raised key points to work on.

Overall a great and valuable experience and I would highly recommend anyone who is thinking of doing a similar event in the future to jump in and get involved! Not just for the mentoring, but also the networking with the other startups and entrepreneurs who attended.

As always if you have any questions drop me a line on jono@SYZO.co or check out our social media pages on @getSYZO.

Thanks :)