Building a Lean Mean Startup Machine

Lean Startup Machine Customer Validation for Fantom Fit

Last week, the team from the Lean Startup Machine came to my entrepreneurial journalism class to share their tools and help us test out the riskiest assumptions about our customers and steer our business models accordingly. It was a great chance to learn about our customers and receive feedback outside the classroom.

My idea, is for a fashion app/website that allows users to upload street photos of people wearing things they want to buy and other users to help identify the products seen in the photos. Users will get points when they correctly identify items and score points redeemable for discounts and gift cards at retailers worldwide. [UPDATE: You can now visit and follow Fantom ‘fit on Twitter to learn more!]

First we defined what all the assumptions about a Fantom ‘fit customer were. What do we believe is true about this customer? We assumed the following:

1. Under 40

2. Fashion-conscious

3. Has mobile phone

4. Want to BUY the product

5. Make purchases at least once a month

6. Visit Everyday

7. Will tag photos for 20 percent off

After we decided on this list we voted on what we each thought was the “riskiest assumption” meaning, the one most likely not to be true. The votes tallied, the riskiest assumption was that customers actually want to buy the products they see people wearing on the street. The next step was to develop a short list of questions we would ask strangers out on the street to test whether this was true. These were the questions we asked: (You can answer these poll questions too and see how online customers answers compared)

We polled 25 people in the area near Astor Place and St. Marks in Manhattan. Every single person responded yes to the first question. What was more surprising was that each of them could also recall a specific time that this happened and the majority were within the last several days.  I knew I was onto something, but we were all surprised at the huge response.

Survey-takers also told us that the only way they could figure out what the products were was to ask or do an exhaustive Google search. Sometimes that worked and sometimes it didn’t.

The best part was when the survey-takers were asked for a better solution, some of them actually said (unprovoked) an app that could upload photos might work better. A cluster of six stylish high school kids near St. Marks came up with this and when we told them that’s exactly what were working on they wanted to sign up. Brilliant!

Overall this was a great way to test out our ideas in the real world and it reinforced some of the assumptions I had about my customer. The next step is to assess the riskiest assumptions in order and test each of them the same way. If the assumption isn’t validated, it presents an opportunity to pivot the business model and reassess how the product can better meet customer needs.