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Fun and Learning

Last Saturday, I gatecrashed into a workshop called "Failing Fast: Idea Validation for Startup and New Businesses". I said 'gatecrashed' because I did not pay. It was a whole day workshop but I could not stay for the whole day. But I was very curious about what the workshop can offer to startups. Afterall, I am running a startup of sorts. So I decided to go there and take a look.

The organizer of the workshop was Mr. Carlo Valencia, founder of Startup PH Mentorship, an organization that has the objective to "match new and aspiring founders with mentors and use our experiences to train founders on how to fail fast and build a truly lean startup. All of this we offer to increase their chances of startup success." 

The workshop started at 10am, and when I arrived at around 1:30pm, the workshop was in full swing. I peeked inside a classroom that had groups of four to five people sitting together, and a tall and slightly bald guy was talking and walking amongst the groups. Thinking that the worst that could happen to me was to be asked to get out, I opened the door and walked in. Hey, I am a startup founder. If I could not even do that, I might as well pack my bag, right?

So there I was, walking around a room full of strangers, acting like I was looking for someone to talk to. Then someone asked, "can I help you?" I think I said something like, "I am looking for the organizer of the event. Are you the organizer? Can I talk to you for a minute when you are free? I will wait in the other room." I stepped out and waited in a room that looked like a library or common room, because it had selves of books, as well as some food containers scattered on a few tables. A few minutes later, the tall guy came and introduced himself as the organizer of the event, Carlo Velencia. He was very nice, and did not seem offended by my intrusion to his workshop.

I told him about my purpose, and he generously invited me to sit in his workshop, and even to participate. He explained that his workshop provided a methodological framework for would-be entrepreneurs to test the viability of their business ideas.  The framework was graphically represented by something called a Javelin Board Template. He led me back into the workshop and showed me a blank Javelin Board Template, which, in essence, is a list of questions that an entrepreneur must answer through research and field study in order to assess the viability of his or her business idea.

For example, we need to define who our customers are, what is the problem that our product is planning to solve, what are the assumptions that have to be made for the product to be successful, and identify which of the assumptions is the most risky.  Then we are to conduct tests with potential customers to see if the expected outcome is supported by the test result. I can see how useful this methodology could be for would-be startups, because startup founders can often get ahead of reality when they have an idea that they think will change their life, if not the world.

Photo above: an example of a Javelin board for validating a startup idea

All participants of the workshop were deeply immersed in completing their javelin boards. They were assisted by three mentors including Carlo who went around the tables to help participants answer their concerns. It was a very intimate and dynamic environment. The vibe of hope, drive and thirst for knowledge and success that the participants released at the workshop was quite uplifting. 

After finishing the first part of the javelin boards, participants left the room to find potential customers to validate their ideas using the javelin board methodology. So I had a chance to chat with Carlo and the three other mentors (one of whom only joined near the end). 

Carlo was an energetic guy in his early thirties. When he talked, his voice was deep and confident, and he gestured a lot to give emphasis to what he was saying.

Carlo's idea of starting this workshop came originally from his belief that the startup industry in the Philippines is akin to what the BPO industry was like 10 years ago. It will soon grow exponentially. Carlo came up with the idea of creating a platform for startup entrepreneurs to meet mentors. It is a nice concept, but does not have a revenue model. Then he found out that startup entrepreneurs often do not realize the importance of validating their ideas first, before starting their business. Hence the idea of running workshops like this one.

The anguish of building a startup company was on display in a small way. Based on the number of people who had replied to the invitation, Carlo had purchased food for over twenty people, but only ten turned up. Behold, though, there was another lesson. Carlo said. Next time, I won't hold a workshop on Chinese New Year! a sense of humor is what is needed for all Startup entrepreneurs, as a very high failure rate is part of the nature of a startup company.

I left the workshop before the participants returned. I had something to attend to, but also because I enjoyed finding out about the thoughts behind the workshop rather than the workshop itself. And I think free-riding should be done with restraint, hahaha. From what I had experienced, even though his is the only StartUp Mentorship club that I know about, I think it is pretty awesome.

Learn more about Carlo Valencia and his mentorship program at his Facebook page or that of the mentorship club.

The venue of the workshop, MINT is a college (be it of 'boutique' size) that has an interior design of a co-working space. Very cool.

Photo above is the library in which I waited for the workshop's organizer. Apparently it is also where the participants had lunch.

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