Meeting 2 – Recap

July 20th, 2022


Our second meeting was fantastic. Cal Miller showcased a new board game he is developing. It is based off of chess. Each piece in chess has a value.

  • Pawn = 1
  • Knight = 3
  • Bishop = 3
  • Rook = 5
  • Queen = 9
  • King = infinite

This totals to 39 points per side. With Cal’s new Ultimate Chess, you can pick any combination of pieces you want. The only rule is that the summed value after you choose is 39.

This style of chess results in halting the standard strategies of chess. Your standard openers no longer work. Common chess strategies become more difficult. Players are forces to play with their more in the moment with on the spot planning.

Cal was able to bring a physical prototype to the meeting. He has a chess board and pieces that he passed around to the group. The makers lab at the Ion made this possible. Cal is working with a team there that helps design and make the prototype using high powered lasers to cut and engrave the board and pieces. Cal has plans to eventually box and sell his product.

Burning Question

After Cal’s showcase, we moved onto the burning question. What is everyone interested in gaining from Side Project Society. We heard similar things here as we did from meeting 1 during lean coffee.

  1. Where to find tools and assets
  2. A common knowledge base
    • Resources
  3. Legal
    • Patents
    • Trademarks
    • Lawyers
  4. Dive deeper into
    • Validation
    • Business model
    • Value propositions
  5. Develop a business plan

Guided Learning

The guided learning topic for this meeting was validation. Have you ever built something that never had any users or customers, and never gained any traction? Maybe it ended up in the side project graveyard. This is where validation comes into play. We want to validate our ideas will gain traction before we put in too much time and effort.

What exactly is validation?

  • Proving that your idea is needed
  • Does your idea exists already? That may mean someone else validated it for you.
  • Does it solve a problem?

What can be validated?

  • That your idea is solving a real problem
  • You can validate there will be revenue
  • You can validate individual features

How can we decrease cost, time, energy during the validation phase?

  • Build an MVP, prototype, mockups, or proof of concept
    • Do you really need authentication?
    • Can it be just a small hard coded static page?
    • Does your product (e.g. protein bar) need to be in nice packaging, in a box, with ingredients, or can you hand it out in Ziploc baggies?

When should you validate?

  • EARLY – before you even start coding, cooking, building whatever your product is
  • DURING – new features, UI and UX changes, marketing changes

How complex should validation be?

  • Strategic planning
    • Can take months
    • Requires an entire research team
    • Goes out and observes market, trends, other products
  • Lean experimentation
    • Instant feedback and guidance
    • Cost very little
  • Strategic planning and lean experimentation can be done simultaneously

What does validation really look like?

  • Interviewing potential customers
  • Demoing or sampling it
  • Observing customer interaction

What can I do to get more accurate results?

  • Do not asking leading questions
  • Don’t ask the customer what they want
    • They probably don’t know
  • Ask if the customer likes or dislikes something
  • Observe interactions and reactions
  • Think about habits, will the user download product, is there already a solution
    • Habits are hard to break. Users don’t switch from Google to Bing just because Google is better. It is a habit and it is difficult to convince a user to break that habit.

Examples of validation

Drop shipping – before you spend hundreds of dollars on equipment to make custom t-shirts, maybe you dropship them first. You find a vendor that can make and ship your t-shirts for you. The price may be a bit higher and you may make less, but ultimately you are validating your idea. Once your idea is validated, you can purchase your own equipment and start having a bigger profit margin.

Amazon – started in a garage selling college textbooks online. That went well and they expanded into other products. They validated their idea before purchasing tons of products, renting space, setting up distribution…

Amazon again – if you go onto Amazon and search “phone charger”, you will see thousands of results. But some of the first ones are labeled “made by/shipped by Amazon”. This was done very strategically. Amazon waited for other manufacturers to come out with these phone chargers. Then Amazon picked the top selling ones and manufactured and sold it themselves. Once they did that, the original seller never sold another unit. Is this ethical? Not really, but Amazon validated the products they make and ship themselves by seeing what would become the top first. They had other companies pay to validate.

Zappos – started by going to local shoe stores, taking pictures of the inventory and posting them online. They offered to give the shoe stores all the profits if the shoes sold. What Zappos got out of the deal was they validated the idea that people are willing to go online to purchase shoes before they put all the time and money into building an online e-commerce site, hiring staff, renting warehouses and coming up with distribution centers.

HP Volunteering – HP has a company wide initiative to push volunteering from their employees. They want to see a certain number of volunteering hours from everyone. They even setup a team to run this initiative. The team experimented with finding the best method to push this initiative by reaching out to different level employees (managers, supervisors, lower-level…) with various grades of seniority (veteran, newbie, intern…). They would see which volunteers returned, which ones recruited co-workers and from this they were able to strategize accordingly.

A good method to validating your product is to feature flag. Turn on and off different features and see how your customers react. Slowly rollout changes to your customers and you can see if there are issues or frustrated customers. Set up a system that allows you to test early and test often.

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