Lean Startup Day Paris 2018: Convincing dinosaurs to start dancing

#LSD18, Lean Startup Day Paris 2018, was a new edition after the success of its first event in 2017. The second iteration of this MVP was “bigger, faster & more furious!”. It took place in the heart of the beautiful city of lights on 15th February 2018 in partnership with ESCP Europe.

Convincing dinosaurs to start dancing

It was over a glass of good French wine on the eve before the event that Dan Toma and some fellow speakers fixed the title of his opening

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keynote. Instead of “Disrupting & unbundling incumbents” it became “Convincing dinosaurs to start dancing”. And I feel that fits very well to describe the situation in many large companies. Dan’s story was about the challenge that Corporates are facing as startups are taking business from them bite by bite. Nothing alarming in the beginning as they are very small. But as proverbs say: “Many pennies make a dollar” or “Every little bit helps”.

If some hundreds of FinTechs are trying to just get one bite of for example HSBC, then one day the bank might be left with little profitable business. Or as Dan cited W.E. Deming in his speech:

“It’s not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.”

Not only financial institutions are running the risk of being unbundled by startups. The challenge is to innovate differently, to start dancing.

How to learn dancing?

#LSD18 was full of presentations, workshops and keynotes on how to learn dancing. 40 passionate speakers, 8 hands-on masterclasses, 10+ Corporate and startup stories, 10+ inspiring talks from opinion leaders were packed into the program. More than 250 participants joined this learning day.

“Think and move like a startup”

was the workshop by Franck Debane from TANGO. He shared with us many blockers in Corporates stopping intrapreneurs from

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dancing, such as: “You can’t talk to our customers” by the head of sales, “we have already done this, it’s not working”, “this is my area of responsibility, not yours”, “it’ll damage the brand”, “what is the RoI?”, “it’s not possible with IT”, “legal won’t allow it”, and so on, and so on. Sounds familiar, have you already heard these?

How to start the movement in such a situation? Learning #1: before having 1 million customers, start having one customer! Learning #2: Customers will not buy a product, but solutions to their problems. Here is the starting point of the dance: do not think about a solution – get to understand customer problems and needs. Franck made workshop participants try this approach right away.

How to be inspired by customer problems

“How to discover real problems and needs of my target group?” was the question I (@mstrudthoff) worked on with the participants of my workshop at #LSD18. The objective was to discover the Design Thinking method to immerse into customer’s daily reality. In the learning-by-doing exercise, the four groups selected a business context and target customers. Based on the customer journey map participants described a persona, laid out their journey step by step and identified the emotional status line before selecting potential opportunity areas for innovation.

This classroom exercise allows for a first shift of perspective to get closer to the point of view, aka problems, of the real user. However, in real life it is crucial to get out of the building, to talk to real users, to get into the shoes of the user. This typically shifts perspective a big time as workshop room hypothesis don’t get validated in reality. So, never miss to get out of the building.

How to test innovative ideas in the market?

“A 6-step approach to market testing innovative ideas” shared Professor Martin Kupp from ESCP Europe in this session. The steps start by selecting a target prospect and positioning without doing lot of market research upfront. Rather follow your intuition: formulate your

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positioning hypothesis – who will buy this product and why? Then make your idea tangible with a prototype. Prototypes may be ready-to-use-products, a representation of an idea or disguised an existing product (meaning that the customer thinks that they are buying a finished product but in fact they are buying something that does not exist yet). Then put a price in relation with the perceived value to the customer.

Step four and five consist in locating prospects and starting to sell the idea directly to them in a pitch. This shouldn’t be confused with classical marketing communications. Promoting the prototype is just a small amount of communication to close a sale. This can be direct contact with the target, a web page or a flyer.

Final und very important step: measure the result. There are different ways to measure potential demand, here are four:

  • DIRECT SALES: Full payment or down payment
  • BINDING AGREEMENTS: Signed quotes, other contractual commitments
  • NON-BINDING AGREEMENTS: Credible commitments, usually contact information
  • COUNTERFACTUAL AGREEMENT: “YES, I would buy this at that price if it were available”.

ESCP Startup Pitches

After sharing his approach Professor Martin Kupp got six start-ups onto stage for a pitch of their idea. Participants in the audience and jury members were asking them questions after their pitch to better evaluate the business ideas and gave feedback to the start-ups. Ideas and feedback were diverse, and the session was inspiring and enjoyable.

What if: stop making products but focus on deals

The keynote by Thomas Guyon made me think. He explored the difference between “product makers” and “deal makers”. The first type,

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90% of innovators, is focused on one single project = the product. The product is priority number one, the innovator takes personal risks to drive the idea and thinks that everything else will follow once the product is good.

On the other side is the deal maker, 10% of innovators. He or she is keeping many options open, focuses on the business model and not the product, explores many projects in parallel and hates to take personal risks.

Now the question is: 70% to 95% of startups fail, if there were more deal makers and less product makers, would this failure rate come down? However, Thomas would rather like to see 50% deal makers and 50% product makers to improve innovation performance.

Freedom, Inc – closing keynote 

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“How freedom and responsibility in the company unleash initiative entrepreneurship, and innovation” was at the heart of the closing keynote by Isaac Getz, Leadership and Innovation Professor at ESCP Europe. It was another inspiring hour allowing to get going new thought processes.

Keep on dancing

For me Lean Startup Day Paris 2018 – get more reactions and shares on Twitter with the tag #LSD18 – was an inspiring day. I could only participate in a limited number of presentations and sorry for missing out in this article on much of the other great content. I am very impressed by the team who organized this day with limited time and resources. Bravo! #LSD18 has been initiated by Lean Startup Experience. The associated meetup group counts almost 10.000 members, click here to find future events.

I am looking forward to #LSD19. More and more dinosaurs feel the need to learn dancing. It’s a big challenge. Lean Startup Day showed fast and furious ways to start dancing. And many of them are fun or at least enjoyable, giving back meaning to the way innovation is done. See you there in 2019.






Maike Strudthoff