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The final peer-to-peer coaching session of the LaunchLab program of YES!Delft. After validating their startup concepts for 10 weeks, I asked the early-phase startups to present their personal lessons learned. One of them said: “I heard all the startup lessons before. But now I understand them.”

Three personal lessons learned by the startups

1. Be curious, and continue being curious

“Entrepreneurship is more about experimenting than anything else. I really love the title: chief experimental officer (CEO)”. We teach the startups not to fall in love with their technology, but to fall in love with the problem of their customers. But in order to do that they must develop enormous curiosity. Why? Because entrepreneurs are keen to start building once they heard what they wanted to hear. One of the entrepreneurs said that because they had to keep on validating, they learned exactly which customer was interested in which feature, for which reason.

2. Adjust your speed to the timing of the market

This great TED talk on the importance of timing was very helpful to the teams. One startup decided in the end not to continue with in the fast pace they actually wanted. They realized timing was not good: “there is no urgency and awareness on the problem we are solving yet”. Another startups however realized that exactly now is the time: “This is the time, we should go go go, and we will!”

3. Quality of validation outfperformes quantity

We encourage the teams to get out of the building as much as possible. But as one of the teams mentoined, you should “listen before talking”. It it’s better to ask the right questions that to ask many: “the best interview question for us was under what conditions would you be willing to do an experiment with us? I was surprised by the positive responses we got to this question”. Not a question you should start with to validate the problem, but excellent to validate real interest in your solution.

How to learn about entrepreneurship and innovation?

Many people say that you can’t learn entrepreneurship and innovation by reading books. I say you can learn about it by reading books, but you can only really understand it by doing and reflecting. As always with every (startup) advice; nuance is crucial.

The reflecting part is essential hereby. At YES!Delft we organize (next to expert coaching) peer-to-peer coaching to enhance the learning. Because the teams frequently have to present their learning to the other teams to get questions and feedback, they keep being focused on learning.

“Learning by doing is OK; learning by reflecting on doing is better”