Day 04 — Setting the Oars

Resetting Invincible’s system for finding product market fit.

Rudders and Oars

Imagine a small row boat. Your goals are like the rudder on the boat. They set the direction and determine where you go. If you commit to one goal, then the rudder stays put and you continue moving forward. If you flip-flop between goals, then the rudder moves all around and it is easy to find yourself rowing in circles.

However, there is another part of the boat that is even more important than the rudder: The oars. If the rudder is your goal, then the oars are your process for achieving it. While the rudder determines your direction, it is the oars that determine your progress.

Today we’re talking oars…our system for achieving our 6-month goal of $6K in MRR by June 1, 2021.

1. Hitting the Reset Button

But today scared me. Today I admit I’ve been too slow to iterate from my initial Plan A. I’m absolutely proud of what we’ve built at Invincible and the learnings I’ve had so far on this journey, but in too many ways I’ve been playing defense and waiting for the right things to fall into place.

Since Day 1 at Invincible, we thought schools would be a core channel where we could solve meaningful problems to improve care for kids living with type 1 diabetes and other chronic health issues. From lots of school interviews to building an MVP that solved communication between school and home, to launching v1.0 of our app earlier this year, we made a lot of great progress toward doing just that.

But then the pandemic happened. It uprooted our launch plans with schools, including a pilot we were set to launch in March of this year. In hindsight, I wish I recognized that the pandemic would endure for so long and that schools would just not be in a position to resume school as we know it — let alone try a new technology. I’ve been so enamored with the solution we’ve built to address care challenges at school that I have been reluctant to commit to testing other use cases for our technology.

It’s time for a new approach.

2. Invincible Process 2.0

  • It must allow us to test new ideas, investing in the good and throwing out the bad.
  • It must value proof over conviction.
  • It must enable us to move quickly.
  • It must support our overall mission of helping kids with chronic health issues develop their superpowers.

So I went on a quest to find the perfect system:

How I read startup blog posts (from Steal Like an Artist)

I didn’t have to look too far — the Lean Startup was the easy choice. It checks all my boxes and is purpose-built for navigating the waters of product-market-fit. There are lots of tools to choose from (esp. Steve Blank and Eric Ries), but I really resonated with Ash Maurya’s practical application of these ideas and his own (source blog, powerpoint, website).

3. The Experimentation Process:

Step 1: Document Our Plan A

Ash Maurya’s Lean Canvas — from Leanstack

Step 2: Identify Riskiest Parts

Step 3: Experiment

4. Moving to Bite-Sized Experimentation with Agile

Just as we do with app development, we’ll track our work using a JIRA board:

I configured each card to include the key elements required to run the experiment. I started with the fields included from Ash’s work, but I’m 100% sure these will evolve over time.

Before a card can be moved to “Done”, we must run through the Build > Measure > Learn Loop and either validate or invalidate our given hypothesis based on data.

If we’re successful, the final result will look something like this:

5. Final Thoughts

Will this be the approach that gets us to our goal? Is it enough? Honestly I have no idea. But we’ll never know until we try. A car’s a heck of a lot harder to get moving from a standstill than one in motion. It’s time to build some momentum.

Tomorrow I’ll flush out our first experiments for Sprint #1 (I’m SUPER excited about a few of them already 🤩…ok, ok so I’m an optimist ).

My goals for writing this series are to 👇:

For the next 6 months, I plan to start building Invincible in public. What’s in it for you? Hopefully, mistakes you can avoid mixed with some good ideas and tools that can be useful to you. And for me? Getting back some accountability you lose when you become your own boss.

Startup founder surviving in his parent’s basement.