For the past year and a half, a group of Peace Corps volunteers and I have been working with startup entrepreneurs and resource strapped NGOs in the Republic of Moldova. It was not until Matt Rutter introduced us to the Lean Canvas that we realized the power of lean methodology. After learning about and working with the tool, we then bestowed it upon our Moldovan counterparts. Now, we would like to take it a step further.
At the beginning stages of any business identifying problems and targeting the right customers is essential. Most entrepreneurs have great solutions but fail due to the lack of customer validation and a quick drain of financial resources. What’s needed is that entrepreneurs create hypotheses and perform small tests in order to verify their reasoning. Once experiments are tested, entrepreneurs can then begin to modify their business models in order to construct the right solutions, financials, and market channels to serve their target market.
In Moldova, the majority of entrepreneurs that I have worked with are not building online startups or web applications. This may lead some to wonder then… why teach or use this methodology? The essential part of the Lean Canvas is that it forces our counterparts to problem solve. I have been working with a local rabbit salesmen, Iurie, in Leova to elaborate on his ideas, to understand his financial projections better, and to discover where he will ship his products to market. At first he believed that he needed to apply for a sizable grant immediately to build an incubator, but shortly thereafter realized that his costs would heavily outweigh his revenues. The Lean Canvas allowed him to see that for himself.
Ash Maurya is the founder of the Lean Canvas. He adapted it from the Business Model Canvas created by Alex Osterwalder. The main difference between the canvases is that the Lean Canvas starts at the absolute beginning of idea generation whereas the business model canvas should be used at a more developed stage of a firm. Many of the Moldovan entrepreneurs that I have worked with at the business incubator in Leova and teams from the entrepreneurial competition Diamond Challenge Moldova believe that startups only work if entrepreneurs are given exorbitant amounts of seed capital at the forefront. This is not necessarily true (although that would be great!). What is most important is that the entrepreneur can identify what the customer wants and give it to them before going broke.
With all of the momentum gained in training startup entrepreneurs, NGO leaders, and youth in Moldova, a team of Peace Corps volunteers and startup entrepreneurs in Moldova created the following video to #BringAshtoMoldova and continue to support the entrepreneurial movement in-country.