The amazingly good feeling of shipping.

Do you like to check boxes?  I sure do. Recently, I started using trello to organize and run scrum/agile at the Texas Venture Labs.  We all love scrum and I can tell you why: it feels good to ‘move a ticket to done’, e.g. to check the box.  Done.  Shipped.  Over.  Fini.

What else is done? My book, Lean Startings, is done!  I shipped it yesterday 3/16/2017.  To Amazon.  It’s available now for Kindle ($9.99) or Paperback ($24.99) on Amazon.  It feels oh so good.  Ahhhhh, shipping!

So, how did I do it?   How did I write a book while raising a family, working full-time, and working on my own startup?  The same way that I got my PhD while working 2 full-time jobs and raising a family: persistence and daily progress.  In fact, I broke the book down into 36 chapters, and wrote a chapter a day, skipping weekends.  I finished the book in about 3 months (a few days I was traveling and couldn’t write).  Yep, in one summer, I created something, something that could help people succeed in startups better than ever.  Along the way I got to check 36 boxes (each chapter), and just now, the final checkbox (shipped!).  Shipped is the best one to check by the way, and I’m only sad I didn’t check it sooner!

So, what are you sitting on that you could ship?  Don’t wait for perfection, ship it now.  You can always revise it later.


(My reward yesterday for shipping was: gaming, beer AND bourbon)

p.s. Got feedback on my book? I welcome it here or directly to me by email.

New Year’s 2017: Startup Resolution Revolution

This is an opus, a plea, a dream. This is 2017.
Let us agree to put an end, to the old startup trend.
Old startup was weak, it had a faint reek.
It smelled of false hopes, of untested dreams.

In 2017, we dream big still, but without the frill.
We dream and we test, and leave out the rest.
We give all we have to Lean, Lean Startup I mean.
No false hopes, just tested and true.  Lean Startup starts with you.

It’s a revolution, not just a resolution.
It’s a way of life, not just a passing trife.
Your way is simple, if you choose to accept it.
Just test your idea, before you reject it.

Get started today, if you want to, you may.
Don’t fear the failure spider, to fail is more righter.
It’s right to fail small, so try it all.
Lean Startup is trying, with the minimum of lying.

If your a funder, I plead. Demand more than greed.
Demand proof of their traction, before you do the deed.
Make sure they are tested, and validated and nested.
Make sure their growth, value, and problem, are all three fully vested.

So, this opus to you, this silly sentence so true?
It’s about you and your startup, and starting up too.
Get started with Lean, buy my book to help the team.
Make progress without funding, and deliver the dream!

Harlan T. Beverly, PhD
The University of Texas at Austin

UT Austin Campus-wide Cofounder Speed Date 9/29 6 PM @ McCombs School of Business

UT Austin Campus-wide Cofounder Speed Date 9/29 6 PM @ McCombs

Being run by Dr. Harlan Beverly, McCombs lecturer of Lean Startup Essentials (MAN 338) at UT Austin (open to students campus-wide)
Join a Student Startup
-or- Find a Cofounder
  RSVP Required

  • Who:   Any UT Austin full-time student interested in joining a student startup or finding a cofounder
  • Where:   McCombs School of Business, CBA 3.304
  • When:    Thursday, Sept. 29 from 6 PM – 9 PM
  • What:    Students will meet in a speed-date format for five minutes each.  Students with a skill looking to join a startup (part of the RSVP process) will circle through the students with ideas looking for cofounders. Each student will be given a stack of 20 business cards with their name, email and EITHER their startup idea or their skill. Matches will be made at the option of the student.  Learn more at  

A formula to tell if your idea is good: for Engineers & logical thinkers.

Is your idea good?  This comes up in a ton of contexts, from entrepreneurship and startups to brainstorms and even into big companies and small projects.   Even if you are just coding up something, you are usually working from an idea.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know if your idea is good, perhaps even BEFORE you’ve tried it?

The following logical flowchart is designed with that in mind.  Enjoy!

Step 1: Do you think your idea is good?
IF YES: Proceed to next step.

Step 2: Do others think your idea is good?
IF YES: Proceed to next step.
IF NOT: STOP!  MEET with those others and talk through what’s not good about it, improve it, then go back to Step 1!

Step 3: Will your idea take less than 1 day to build and test?
IF YES:  GOOD IDEA!  Build and test it!   It’s almost always worth it to test an idea you think is good, and get the results of the test.
IF NO: Proceed to next step.

Step 4: Can you build a “fake version” of your idea in less than 1 day and test it?
IF YES:  GOOD IDEA!  Build and test it!   It’s almost always worth it to test an idea you think is good, and get the results of the test.
IF NO: Proceed to next step.

Step 5: Can you build a “REAL or fake version” of your idea in less than 1 day and then test it in less than 1 week?
IF YES:  GOOD IDEA!  Build and test it!   It’s almost always worth it to test an idea you think is good, and get the results of the test.  Sometimes the testing takes longer (like an A/B experiment requires time to gather data).  Still, worth it!
IF NO: Proceed.
Step 5: Is there a way to measure if your idea is good?
IF YES:  Proceed.
IF NO: Rethink the idea to include a way to measure if it’s good or not, then go to Step 1.

Step 6: Work hard to see if you can build it faster in a way that can get you ‘measurable results’ if your idea is good or not….   and then build it and measure it.

That’s it!

I know maybe you were thinking there is some algorithm to “actually” tell you if your idea is good or not… newsflash, it cannot exist.  What can exist though is a new kind of thinking: think measurement first!  If you can’t tell if your idea is good or not (by some measure) then why even ask the question?

No go out there and Measure!

The Lean Startup Toilet Bowl Trap of Getting Nowhere Slowly

Progress.  That’s a nice word.  “We’re making progress…”, says the workers cutting the road through the forest.   Then, a wise leader climbs a tree and says “but you’re going the wrong way!”

That’s all fine and good, and a good lean startup does this often.  It’s called “Pivot” and it’s central to the Lean Startup concept.  But what happens when you just keep pivoting?  Aren’t you chasing your tail?  Suddenly, you have a road to nowhere, or worse, a road that goes in circles.

This is a TRAP!  Your “lean startup” just got into a slowly dieing spiral of doom.  Your dream is getting flushed in the toilet because you keep climbing that tree and realizing that you’re going the wrong way!

Here’s an example of the Lean Startup in the Toilet Bowl Trap:

  1. You build a website and collect some preorders (yeah, progress!)
  2. You ship the preorders and get feedback from customers that they love/hate certain features (yeah, progress!)
  3. You fix the product based on the feedback, and nobody buys it (yeah, progress!)
  4. You PIVOT to a new product and collect some preorders (yeah, progress!)
  5. Jump to step #2, repeat, all the way to the toilet’s flush.

So, how do you get out of this toilet bowl trap?

First, remember, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing expecting different results.

You have to do something different!

In many cases, the problem is not ‘your product’ or ‘your idea’, but the marketing instead!

Instead of constantly pivoting on “product” you might need to pivot on some of the other 4 P’s of Marketing:

  1. Place: Maybe your lack of orders is because it’s not available where the customers are… and particularly where the customers are that are in the buying mood for what you offer!
  2. Price: Maybe your lack of orders is related to the pricing or pricing structure of your product.  Maybe you need to sell it in parts, or with different options.  It could even be too low!
  3. Promotion: Maybe your lack of orders is related to how you are attracting customers.  Sure, you’re getting a lot of ‘views’, but are those customers: the right ones, in the right mood (buying), with the right goals, with the right problems, with enough education about your solution, etc.?  Or Maybe, your just not reaching your right audience, or just not ‘appealing’ enough to their needs (messaging).
So, avoid the Toilet Bowl Trap: run Lean Startup Experiments on more than just ‘the product’…

Harlan Teaching “Lean Startup Essentials” at the University of Texas Austin – Spring 2016

This coming semester, I will be teaching Lean Startup Essentials!   The 2-3:30pm section (section 2) still has seats open.  
NOTE: THIS COURSE IS OPEN TO ALL UT STUDENTS ( from any College, not just McCombs School of Business )!
 Tuesdays & Thursdays from    2pm-3:30 in CBA 4.344

If you are a UT Student, you can login with this link to register:

Want to know what this course is all about?   
First, hear what some students had to say:
  “great class”
  “awesome teacher”
  “course was awesome”
  “most practical class … at UT”
  “unique content and very useful”

Okay, interested?  Here’s the course description:

This course uses the “Lean Startup” concept as a canvas to give students the essential knowledge needed to either start their own business or join a startup and be a major contributor.  In addition to learning about entrepreneurship, the legal aspects of starting a business, and the life and experience of working at a startup, students will get hands-on skills they can use in any startup or to start their own business.  Every student will practice these skills in-class by building a real startup business (based on a pre-set collection of products and services).  This course focuses on the “Lean Startup” methodology, but will also cover the traditional new venture development and the entrepreneurial process (problem identification, innovation, business plans, fund raising, launching, and managing a startup). This course will also cover the essential knowledge derived from entrepreneurship research covering proven keys to success as well as scientific research about what it takes in an individual and group to succeed in entrepreneurship.  The final project is one of the pre-set business ideas, up, running, and operating in the build-measure-learn cycle that is the core of the “Lean Startup” methodology.

Prerequisites: None.

Need more?  Here’s a link to the syllabus for this Spring: 

Got a question, email me!
harlan.beverly@mccombs.utexas  (and dot edu of course)

Small Thinking; why Austin entrepreneurs need to think bigger!

I teach a class at UT Austin called “lean startup”, I also help run the UT Texas Venture Labs and I volunteer at Capital Factory.  I mentor or advise dozens of startups.  I also run my own startup and have started 3.   All this is to say, I am plugged in to startups in Austin.  As with all my blog posts, this is not anything official from UT or anywhere else, just my own opinions.

I see probably 50 (or more) startup pitches per year.  One thing I have noticed recently, since Venture Capital has mostly dried up in Austin and worldwide, people have stopped thinking big.  I see so many deals where “the startup” is really “a product or service”.  For example, your app idea, your IoT idea, your new restaurant concept, and so on.  If it could be done on Kickstarter or bootstrapped in a year or two, it’s probably not big thinking.

This article is a call to get entrepreneurs to THINK BIGGER!  It is also hopefully a few tips for entrepreneurs to do just that.

First, let me explain what I consider ‘small thinking’.  Small thinking is when an entrepreneur is so focused on ‘the first product’ or ‘getting to revenue’ that they fail to communicate (or possibly fail to think) what the big picture is.  If you are not thinking past ‘your first move’, you are playing Startup Chess with a massive handicap.  If you don’t have ‘a second move’, you are failing to plan.  In both cases, you are not THINKING BIG!

Now, let me explain what I consider ‘big thinking’.  Big thinking isn’t doing, it’s thinking, and maybe talking.  Doing is what you are doing first and now (probably being Lean and Agile and building an MVP and focusing on Getting Customers and Feedback)… all very smart and important stuff.  However, while you are off ‘Doing’ that important stuff, you should be ‘thinking’ and probably ‘communicating’ your big vision a bunch more than you are.

Big thinking is having a big vision for wanting to ‘change’ something.  ‘Change’ is the operative word, and it implies a disruption in the status quo.  Big thinking is having ‘the end in mind’ before you begin.  This is more than a personal financial goal (which is also important).  This is understanding where your company might play in the big picture of the world.  This requires understanding ‘the world’ e.g. your market today, and where your market will be after you have risen to power and achieved your ‘big vision’.

Here’s the problem.  Many companies in Austin simply do not have this ‘big vision’ in mind for their company.  I ask you, how is your company going to change the world?  How are you going to “shake up” your industry.   If you do not have an answer, then you are not Big Thinking.

I urge you now, go out, and think bigger!  If you do it, WHILE staying focused on “DOING LEAN” there are so many awesome benefits.  Here are some personal examples I will share.

At my first company, Bigfoot Networks, our “big vision” was to End All Lag!  In fact, we even had a website, t-shirts and events, all around “Ending Lag Now!”.  We had a clear big picture mission, near 0-latency & 0-lag online gaming.  We were going to change the world… and as a result:

  1. The press cared about our story… even though many didn’t believe we could do it, it was still a story (rather than a non-story).
  2. Employees LIKED working for Bigfoot Networks… we all understood our mission and it gave us energy to tackle the day-to-day “Doing” because we knew where we were ‘Going’.  
  3. As a result, my attrition rate was lowest at Bigfoot Networks than any other company.  And my recruiting was the easiest.
  4. I was able to raise ‘big’ VC money, not because of our results (which were average), but because of our vision (and technology to back it up).
At Karmaback, my second company, our vision was also clear… we wanted to ‘Prove Social Marketing Works”, and create analytics behind social network marketing.  What is interesting here is that we did so many ‘day to day’ “Doing” that did not line up with this goal (to pay the rent) that we ultimately lost sight of this vision… when that happened, we had to sell the company.  It just wasn’t honest to say “this contracting job” had anything to do with our vision.  Had we stayed truer to our vision, Karmaback probably would have been even bigger and sold for much more.
So, I hope you can see where I am headed.  Have a big vision, execute on a plan towards doing it, and change the world!   If your company does NOT have a ‘change the world plan’… maybe it needs to get one.  Personally, I am on a mission to make sure all my endeavors have one.  At U.T. Austin, “what starts here changes the world”… and I’d like to see all of Austin take the charge and “THINK BIGGER”!
Harlan T. Beverly, PhD + Daughter, think BIGGER in Denali National Park

5 Ways to Test your Startup Idea – Lean

So, you have an idea?  An invention even?  How do you know for sure it is any good? Here is 5 ways you can test your idea without building it first.

1.) create a free website at and make 2 pages.  Page 1 describes your idea, and includes a link to Buy Now!  Page 2 says “sorry” out of stock and asks for an email.  Now send everyone you know to the page… And see how many you ‘sell’.
2.) Setup some interviews with people who should really want your product/service.  Ask them about the idea and ask how much they might pay for that…  judge the amount as validation!
3.) Go to a trade show and try to hand out a flier about your idea… Judge people’s reaction and ask them what they think.
4.) Search the web for similar products and especially for  targey customer types actually complaining about the problem your idea solves.  Hear nothing/find nothing…. Probably not good for your idea.
5.) Make a mockup of your idea and stand at a corner where target customers might walk by.  Ask people if they would like to learn and what they would pay for that. 
The key idea is: will your target customer pay for the idea?
Go out and see BEFORE you build it.
Thats lean startup.

If you build it, they will come. Bad advice? Or maybe good!

The old adage that “if you build it, they will come” is usually considered very bad marketing advice.  In recent times, however, I actually think it has become Good advice, especially if reworded just slightly…

“If you build it, they MIGHT come” is probably some of the best marketing advice I can give.
In this world if lean startup, minimum viable product (MVP) and bootstrapping entrepreneurship, one of the most important things to do is to”ship it” and see if customers come and like it, and iterate quickly based on that feedback.
At Key Ingredient we recently formalized these concepts and declared ourselves an “Agile Company”.
What will you ship this year?
My thought?   See photo I took at CES 2015 below!