ThisFish team leader Eric Enno Tamm and lead engineer Clark van Oyen will be attending LeanCamp and the Lean Startup Conference to share our social enterprise experience and to learn about best practices from Silicon Valley’s best and brightest.
First proposed by entrepreneur Eric Ries in 2011, Lean Startup is a scientific approach for developing businesses and products. Based on his personal experience in startups, Ries believes that startups can shorten product development cycles by adopting a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and what he calls “validated learning.” At ThisFish, we call this approach “learn by doing.” The methodlogy uses a cycle of learning, building and measuring with a continuous feedback loop.
The crux of Reis’s idea is that startups should invest their time into iteratively building products or services to meet the needs of early customers. The idea is to create a “minimum viable product,” to validate or test it in the marketplace and then iteratively improve it over time.
For nonprofits and social enterprises, being lean is not an option: it’s a necessity. Wasting a lot of money on an unwanted product wasn't an option for ThisFish, because we simply didn't have any resources to waste. For that reason, the “lean startup” approach was a natural fit when Ecotrust Canada began testing our hypothesis about consumer-focused traceability in the summer of 2009. We took a “lean” approach to developing ThisFish from the very beginning.
Our minimum viable product was ridiculously simple: we fastened to fish coded plastic tags with a URL (www.ecotrust.ca/traceability) pointing consumers to a data table with the code and catch details about their tagged fish. At that point, we didn't even have a database running our traceability system. Fish harvesters simply called us by phone or filled out an online form to provide us with their catch information. We then edited the HTML data table on the webpage. The market immediately responded positively. Our first test was a success.
At ThisFish, we continue to try to put these "lean" ideas into practice and hope to be further inspired by the conference. Lean Startup has become incredibly popular and has grown outside its Silicon Valley birthplace. Many nonprofits are now adopting the methodology to create “lean impact” or “lean for social good.”
The day before the Lean Startup Conference, ThisFish will also be participating in LeanCamp hosted by the startup hub Runway.is. It’s going to be an exciting and inspirational three days in San Francisco. We’re looking forward to it.
We’d also like to thank Lean Startup for scholarships for our team members to attend the conference.