Lean Startup Methods: Hot or Not?

Eric Ries is in Toronto today so we are trying to determine where the tires hit the road with lean startup methods between startups and investors.

I am a lean startup fanboy.  We use customer development methods for Cdling and I attended the most recent DemoDay for Ann Miura-Ko and Steve Blank's engineering class at Stanford.

While still a class, teams were pitching real businesses, some had already received or were close to closing seed financing.

All of these "pitches" included business model canvas slides and they can get over 50,000 views on slideshare! Blank says that no business plan withstands contact with customers.

"We are not trying to be hip." says Iain Klugman, CEO of Communitech. "We are just trying to use the right tools.  For most startups we are not seeing business plans.  It's not an appropriate tool."

Communitech and other mentors across the province are encouraging startups to include a business model canvas in their standard pitch deck for investors but no one is saying that startups are taking this advice.

"The canvas is a great strategy and management tool but in a pitch, it is not the entrepreneur's job to teach the investor about new tools and methods, it's their job to get the potential investor excited about the opportunity" say Mark Zimmerman, Senior Advisor at MaRs Discovery District. "It's generally best to differentiate your startup on the content of the pitch not the format."

I can tell you that we usually drop the business model canvas slide from my startup's slide deck for this reason.

Should Founders view the business model canvas as a kind of cue to signal good investors?  "Not in my opinion," says Trevor Owens, CEO of Lean Startup Machine. "The best investors around like Mark Suster, Dave Tisch and David Lee are not asking to review a startup's business model canvas," says Owens.

Corel CEA's Scott Howard is seeing the canvas being used internally with 3 or 4 companies that he is working with. He says, "Investors seem to be less part of this leading edge."

"When a startup is looking for an investor or advisor they are looking for capital plus a value add for an area of expertise," says Zimmerman. "If state-of-the-art startup strategy is what you need from this person, then yes, take it into consideration."

"We are definitely seeing Canadian Angels and VCs adopt these formats. They will be front and centre in our new Hyperdrive program." adds Klugman.

The next Lean Startup Machine Toronto event for startups starts June 8.