Startups, Skills and Diversity

Sunday Morning in New York's financial district. I'm asking women how they would feel if their bridesmaid hired a party planner to organize their bachelorette.

Some women roll their eyes like I'm yet another guy practicing my pick up lines.

I'm part of a team that is validating business model assumptions in a 48 hour competition, the Lean Startup Machine. The event itself defies stereotypes. There are lots of women and blacks. People of all ages. Men join teams led by women, and the two winning teams have a woman.

We had started with Kristen's initial idea of party boxes - decorations, accessories, drinks, mixers and food delivered to your door. Our first round of surveys and interviews show men don't throw as many parties. It's women that stress about them - getting RSVPs, choosing themes. Even the playlist is more stressful than running around to buy supplies. The party box idea has a 100% probability of failure, so we "pivot" or change our business model.

The worst of those parties? Showers and bachelorettes. One woman tells me she has to organize one for the end of March. "That's only 3.5 months away" I point out. She gasps and turns red. Better yet, she's not the only one to bring up that issue: we found a problem people care about.

When we present our findings the women in the audience are nodding their heads, but we're no match for businesses that have managed to get more validation. The winners went through 5 or 6 pivots and gathered over 20 letters of intent.

"You guys did in 2 days what we do in 2 weeks" says a mentor. It's been an intense experience. We've learned better  interviewing skills and techniques for quickly verifying a business idea has merit.

Kristen already has 2 customers for the concierge bachelorette party planning. Follow Partyflyny on Twitter if you'd like to stay informed about what she does with it. Like all new businesses, odds are stacked against it, but at least it got a good start.

Finally, if you're interested in practicing startup skills, I recommend you sign up for the next LSM near you.