Alumni

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 next to you in your tiny wagon are the people who will be most important, who will be holding your hand, maybe screaming into your ear, maybe throwing their arms into the air – your team.

 

I founded my first startup, prior to PeekBite, alone. While challenging, going at it alone taught me will power, self-reliance and taking responsibility for my decisions. Yet, this is nothing compared to what I learned working in our team of four members during Summer Launchpad.

If you've found the right people, team work will accelerate any learning process exponentially. Who are the right people, though? In my opinion, this is a symphony of complementary skill sets, similar mindsets and equal work ethics. The skill sets will determine what resources the team has at its disposal, and the mindsets will determine how effectively the team merges and employs these resources.

 

These three little tips for team dynamics helped us to learn faster:

The Holy Rule: The Best Argument Wins

We did a lot of brain workouts this summer because of one simple rule: Each assumption about your business can be challenged, and the best argument wins. This implies some awesome skills to be learned: thinking fast and sharp, communicating these thoughts in a condensed, well-organized manner, and dissecting the arguments to test for their validity. The unavoidable side effect of those learnings is that business decisions and personal conflicts become straight forward processes that are detached from emotional white noise.

Three Little, Great R's

 

Another great lesson my team taught me is how valuable the habit of little feedback rounds can be. After each meeting or presentation, we did a short recap of what we took away from it, what each of us has done well and what we need to improve: Review, Reflect, Refine. This small habit helped me to realize areas for improvement, such as conversational and presentation skills, and further push my personal development. I'll definitely continue to practice this habit with all endeavors going forward.

 

Be a Player and a Coach

 

The most difficult aspect in a well-balanced team is the question of leadership. Who takes the lead when it is the best argument that always has the right of way? I learned that great flexibility is indispensable. In our team, we all took the lead, and we all followed, at some point of our Launchpad journey. This worked well because of our similar mindset and trust in each others' skill set.

 

After ten intense weeks full of ups and downs, some loops and free falls during Summer Launchpad, I feel a deep appreciation for my team. We made the most of the opportunity to learn and grow in an environment we call "brain paradise." It was hard, and it was fun. What a ride.

 

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