Lessons Learned Archives:

The Lessons Learned series featuring NYU entrepreneurs’ first-hand accounts of challenges faced in starting a business and the lessons learned along the way.


Lessons Learned: Do Customer Interviews Even When You Don’t Think You Need To

Sensory Percussion builds powerful technologies for creative musicians. Our first product is a new system for electronic percussion that captures the true expressive nature of drumming for artful control of digital sound. I admit to a considerable amount of hubris before entering the Summer Launchpad program nearly 3 months ago. I was excited to have the support and guidance of SLP while my brother (also, my cofounder) and I figured out how to turn our prototype into a business. But, I found the idea of…

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Lessons Learned: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone to Understand Your Customer

VoiceHacker (formerly Speech Empowered), helps busy professionals improve their public speaking and presentation skills through biofeedback and a supportive online community. VoiceHacker began as an iOS app that evaluates a user’s voice quality and walks the user through warm ups to achieve an optimal voice. As a voice teacher, I believed that this fantastic tool could solve a serious need in the market. However, upon initial customer development interviews, I realized that the market I thought would most need the app didn’t seem interested at all. This is how…

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Lessons Learned: How to Rapid-Learn in Brain Paradise

PeekBite started as mobile app for in-restaurant menus, food orders and payment.  Currently working on their next version of the product, they’ve documented their pivot as a comedic spoof here.    Customer development is like hopping on a roller coaster. For my team at PeekBite, our ride was ten weeks long and was called Summer Launchpad. 100 customer interviews mandatory?!? Wait! …but the security bar pushes down and – clunk! – locks into position. Hands on the bar, you turn to the left and to the right. Sitting…

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Lesson Learned: How to Maximize Mentor Relationships

SPARKBOX is a curated educational toy subscription service. One of the major benefits of accelerator programs is access to extraordinary mentors. As part of Summer Launchpad, my team had access to world class experts who were committed to advising and supporting a single accelerator team for the entire summer. However, while in the trenches of building an early stage startup, it can sometimes be challenging to make the most out of the opportunity to learn from mentors. Our mentors for the program were: Public Company Chief Product Officer…

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Lessons Learned: 4 Tips to Make Customer Development Surveys Suck Less

Sensory Percussion is creating a next-generation electronic drum that captures the true expressive nature of drumming. Used with any acoustic drum, it allows for intricate and natural mappings to any sound desired, from samples to analog and software drum synthesizers. As Steve Blank preaches in his book The Startup Owner’s Manual, you need to get out of the building for customer discovery interviews and see your customers’ pupils dilate when they see your product. Nothing beats meeting face-to-face with a customer. Yet, asking the same questions of…

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Lessons Learned: We Are Not Alone

HireCanvas is improving the campus recruiting experience for recruiters, universities, and students by managing data at live events. As co-founders of an early stage startup, my cofounder, Kevin, and I spent a lot of our early days searching for answers. And even today, during NYU’s Summer Launchpad, we are engaging our customers and mentors on a regular basis in search of answers and advice. As first time entrepreneurs, there are many things that we learned, and are still learning, for the very first time. We didn’t know…

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Lessons Learned: Putting the Minimum back in Minimum Viable Product

Democrateyes is democratizing beauty by bringing together experts to help consumers make informed decisions about makeup and skincare products and routines. At NYU, computer science majors take a senior-level course called Software Engineering. Based on the IEEE curriculum, we’re taught the waterfall model of web development. The problem with the waterfall approach, however,  is that you invest massive amounts of time and effort into building a product before ever showing it to customers, and often it fails to live up to the customer’s expectations.  So, I read about…

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Lessons Learned: Getting Beyond the Use Case

Somaware is working to launch its first product: eyes-free, ears-free, hands-free wearable navigation. One of the first things I noticed when my co-founder, Mike, and I began speaking to people about tactile navigation devices was how just about everyone had ideas about what (and whom) they could be useful for. It was encouraging, of course, to see that people not only understood what we were trying to do, but also found the idea compelling enough to begin imagining their own scenarios for how it might be used.…

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Lessons Learned: 8 Tips for Making the Best out of Your Customer Interviews

Sparkbox Toys is an online subscription service for parents to rent children’s toys. On one of the first days of Summer Launchpad, when Frank Rimalovski began a sentence with, “The number 1 reason start ups fail…,” I assumed he was going to say something along the lines of “finances,” “money,” or “capital.” To my surprise, he said “customers.” “Start ups fail because they don’t have enough customers.” Okay, that made sense. Customers are the focus point, they bring in the revenues that cover the costs, and you…

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Lessons Learned: Rethink Your Elephants

Limbr Activewear is designing next-generation fitness and training wear with built-in resistance bands to give athletes an effective, low-impact way to amplify their workouts.  The following is an old parable that I learned back in grade school: Once upon a time, three blind men are introduced to an elephant. Not knowing what the elephant actually looks like, each man reaches out and touches a different part of the animal. The first one feels the leg and says, “this elephant is like a tree.” The second one touches…

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