Lean Startup Machine Toronto - Awesome

By tony.

This past weekend, I attended Lean Startup Machine Toronto, and WOW... it was amazing, exhausting, information-packed, dynamic, exhilarating, inspiring... did I mention exhausting?? 

I've started and restarted a post about this weekend's LSMToronto multiple times over the last couple of days.  The closest I've come is a brain-dump in email form to my weekend teammates on lessons and impressions and what I believed to be next steps for the group.  I'm happy to say that the core of the group plans to stay together and, while I can't participate actively in their day-to-day activities, I hope they'll take up my offer of letting me stay on in an advisory role.  We've grabbed the domain and setup google apps and the buzz of activity has been great, so stay tuned.

That said, there was so much to absorb over the four days (day 1 was Thursday evening) that most things are still fairly fuzzy in that part of my brain where things go to percolate before they become fully formed. So instead of trying to recap the entire weekend, I'll just jot down a few points specific to my findings, and then I'll link to a few articles that describe the experience much better than I'm able to!

  •  - This weekend we were exposed to the Validated Learning Canvas - which seems to have been developed by Trevor Owens for Lean Startup Machine.  I REALLY think the Validated Learning Canvas method that we learned, practiced and executed this weekend using the canvas was AWESOME!
  • - Essentially, the canvas drives home the idea that for any problem/solution hypothesis-pair there are a number of assumptions, and of those assumptions there is 1 that is the riskiest of them.  That one assumption is the one that needs to be focused on and tested to the exclusion of all others.
  • - Being able to focus on just one thing, giving yourself permission to put everything else on the back-burner, I think, was what let us identify what concrete validations needed to be done for that ONE assumption and let us iterate through so many items with confidence - again AWESOME!
  • - That said, I think the use of the original Business Model Canvas or the Lean Canvas, which is a variation by Ash Muarya, would be a good supporting tool to ensure that all the bases are covered in terms of assumptions. To be clear, this is not a criticism of the workshop at all.  I was looking forward to being able to use one of these in practice as opposed to the theoretical scenarios I've tried, but the weekend was busy and action packed enough as it was. 

As mentioned before the bullet points, here are a couple of articles on the weekend that documents the lessons much better than I can:

And lastly, here's a couple of relevant links to resources and videos on the business model canvas method and its variations.  Hope this article's been helpful, comments and additions are welcome!


  • Business Model Canvas - the book, the iPad app and the canvas all in one place
  • Running Lean - Ash Muarya's PDF book soon to be a full book published by O'Reilly.  The PDF version is no longer available to order, but if you preorder and send Ash your receipt he will send it to you (if you read his summary of how he wrote the book and got picked up by the major tech publisher, you'll see Lean at it's full potential, very meta)
  • Lean Canvas - Ash Muarya's adaptation of the BMC tailord to his framework for Lean Customer Development the first link is the article (it's also described in his book), and here is his Lean Canvas SaaS offering
  • LeanLaunchLab - a SaaS offering 'innovation management software for lean startups and cust dev teams' partnered with Mr. 'get out of the building' himself, Steve Blank [sidenote: I guess with this trend we might expect to see Trevor's Validated Learning Canvas on a SaaS platform - note to next Lean Startup Machine participants!!  Build this and sell it in-session ;) ]
  • Lean Launchpad Stanford University Online Course - I am VERY excited about this!  This is the Steve Blank's Lean Launchpad curriculum offered free online.  The start date shows Feb 2012, I've signed up and I'm hoping it's not just a landing page MVP ;)

The next two points link to videos that give great overviews of the canvas tools mentioned above