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Congratulations to SoapBox, the winner of the first annual Chicago Lean Startup Challenge, for an excellent presentation and execution of the lean startup ideals.  They’ve created a controlled digital space, designed to improve student engagement by breaking down the barriers students face when deciding whether or not to participate in class, that gives teachers a concrete assessment of student comprehension in real time.  Now students have the ability to ask questions digitally, without the embarrassment of raising their hand, and teachers have a tool to understand their students comprehension in real time.  Our fantastic sponsors provided $75,000 in cash and prizes to SoapBox  and our other finalists to continue their endeavors.

A Great Group of Finalists

A special thank to our finalists ScoutmeCoach, Farmfixe, Travel720, and all of this years participants. It was incredibly hard to pick a winner with the high level of competition.  The agility, ingenuity and persistence all of our finalists demonstrated on Thursday night was awe-inspiring.  These fantastic founders made great progress over the 3 months of the challenge, and we are eager to see how their companies continue to evolve. 

Making a Difference

We created theChicago Lean Start Up Challenge to teach Chicagoland founders how to practice the lean startup method in order to create a wave of lasting startups in the Chicagoland area. Based on the presentations by our finalists, the first season was an overwhelming success.  Our finalists showed not only a great depth of knowledge, but the value of developing a idea based on reality, not assumptions.  Each of our finalists developed their original idea based on actual feedback from their target customers, be they teachers, organic farmers, college coaches, travelers, students, or even strangers at the grocery store.  This feedback allowed each team to modify their original assumptions, and rapidly evolve their business model based on the reality of the market place.

Crain’s Chicago had a nice feature on the event last week as well, so it seems we’re making something of a wider impact.

The 2012 Lean Startup Challenge

In true lean startup fashion, we’re gathering lessons learned from this year’s competition and applying them to make next year’s contest even better.  If you want to keep up to date on next year’s contest, or are interested in applying, join the Lean Startup Challenge mailing list.

In September of this year, Pathfinder’s Bernhard Kappe and Broker Savant’s Todd Wyder organized the Chicago Lean Startup Challenge. It’s the opposite of a business plan competition.   Instead of creating huge documents and proformas based on assumptions, contestants spend ten weeks making meaningful progress on their business based on real market feedback.

On October 1st, 146 startups answered the call, and entered “The Challenge”.  The teams have spent 10 weeks running experiments validating their business models and building their companies.

Out of this group, they’ve picked the four leanest, meanest startups to tell their story and pitch our judges for $75,000 in cash and prizes.

These are the finalists:

FarmFixe helps local foodies discover and buy the best local artisanal foods. In doing so, FarmFixe helps local food producers find new customers and develop impactful brands.

travel720 is focused on providing funding solutions to students and travelers who want to study/volunteer/work abroad.  We help the traveler earn their trip through through creating a budget & savings plan, then fundraise money through upcoming gift giving occasions (e.g. birthday, holiday, graduation) – turning gifts into educational experiences that are shared with family & friends!

SoapBox is a controlled digital space, designed to improve student engagement by breaking down the barriers students face when deciding whether or not to participate in class, and gives teachers a concrete assessment of student comprehension, in real time.

ScoutMeCoach connects college coaches with student athlete prospects so they can recruit while they sleep. Say goodbye to filling out lengthy profiles and say hello to a more timely and cost effective recruiting experience, in a few clicks.

Who will be crowned the Lean Startup Champion, and collect $75,000 in cash and prizes? 

Come to the finals on Thursday, December 15, and watch the four finalist pitch to a panel of judges and a select audience of 250 entrepreneurs and investors. Network with other entrepreneurs and investors over beer and wine, listen to 4 fantastic pitches, and ask the finalists your own questions while they are on the hot seat in real time via twitter.

The Sponsors

This competition would not have been possible without the help of our sponsors. In addition to Pathfinder, those sponsors include:

About the Lean Startup Challenge

The Lean Startup Challenge is the opposite of a business plan competition.   Instead of creating huge documents and proformas based on assumptions, contestants spend ten weeks making meaningful progress on their business based on real market feedback.

Interaction with today’s touch interfaces feels numb and yet it seems that device manufacturers are steadily adopting that design solution. I deeply empathize with Bret Victor’s description of “picture under the glass” effect in his article “A brief rant about the future of interaction design“.

I’d like to inquire about the motivs behind why did the “picture” end up “under the glass” and what is an alternative.

Enabling enabling

To start, I am curious to hear what do you do with your smartphone and tablet. Please tell me.

On my smartphone, I:

1. Look for driving directions
2. Send and read messages
3. Check my bank balance.

Yet my smartphone enables me to do so many more things. I find that to be a failure of design to a degree.

Let me put it in a user story:
As a smartphone user, I don’t want to be distracted by all the possibilities that I can use the smartphone for because it’s a waste of time.

With a knife, I cut. Having a knife in a drawer enables me to cut things in my kitchen. Nobody ever blames a knife for not being able to integrate with GitHub. It’s design is complete by the nature of its purpose.

I can use a knife as a door stoper, per say, but that is clearly not its purpose which we can conclude from its design.

Problem with “picture under the glass” design is that it is devoid of purpose – by design.

We are supposed to add the purpose by buying an app that fits our need. In order for a multitude of apps to work using the _same interface_, it needs to be very flexible. iPad design achieved this by making the interface entirely absent and therefore ulitmately maluble.

It seems to me that we spend so much time on the enabling part that we forget to do.

Out of the box

We are already enabled to do a lot of things. Like compute. Our brain is fantastic at computing. The span of movement we can perform is astaunding. We can talk, read and write! These are all amazing capabilities!

So we all have a lot of great things going for us out of the box. Before adding more capabilities to our list, we should ask the question “What am I doing with what I already have?”.

Infinite loop

If we don’t ask that question, we put ourselves in a infite loop of increasing our potential for when we _might_ need it. While it seems like a good idea, one can spend a lifetime of enabling and not _do_ anything.

This situation is humorously described by Joel Spolsky in the article “Why I hate frameworks“.

The Future

My vision of the future of interaction design is about making tools that allow us to _focus_ on the purpose of our action.

That action should not come through a compromise of having a plethora of options that I _might_ use. That action should be the razor’s edge of it purpose.

Would you rather eat your steak with a steak knife or a swiss knife?

In the future of interaction design, I see devices created with their purpose hard coded into them. I see software that doesn’t have configuration options. I see people having the balls to stand behind their design. And if it fails, throw it in the garbage, note lessons learned and make a new one.

Hard coding a purpose into an object requires determination that stems from the belief in its purpose which liberates us to create an _uncompromising_ design solution.

Otherwise we shoudn’t waste our time when we can go dancing instead.

In September of this year, Todd Wyder and I organized the Chicago Lean Startup Challenge. It’s the opposite of a business plan competition.   Instead of creating huge documents and proformas based on assumptions, contestants spend ten weeks making meaningful progress on their business based on real market feedback.

On October 1st, 146 startups answered the call, and entered “The Challenge”.  After 8 weeks of accelerated experimentation we are down to 10 semi-finalists. After December 8th only the four finalists will remain.  

Who will be crowned the Lean Startup Champion, and collect $75,000 in cash and prizes? 

Come to the finals on Thursday, December 15, and watch the four finalist pitch to a panel of judges and a select audience of 250 entrepreneurs, and investors. Network with other entrepreneurs and investors over beer and wine, listen to 4 fantastic pitches, and ask the finalists your own questions while they are on the hot seat in real time via twitter.  

This event will sell out, so if you want to be a part of the biggest lean start up even of the year, sign up today.   

The Semi-Finalists

myTalentloops

A new site that’s going to revolutionize the way human capital and opportunities are introduced, matched and placed. Whether you are a talent candidate or a talent seeker you will gain a commitment while saving time and money.

ScoutMeCoach

Connects college coaches with student athlete prospects so they can recruit while they sleep.

Say goodbye to filling out lengthy profiles and say hello to a more timely and cost effective recruiting experience, in a few clicks.

travel720

We help get your trip started, then turn your travel experiences into a gift registry.

SideStax

Connects your book to the power of online media, while preserving your reading experience. Our ebooks expand on what you’re reading, let you browse without leaving the comfort of your book and provide an intuitive system for navigating enhanced ebooks.

Vreaze

Making it easy to promote your vacation rental through social media

SoapBox

Is a controlled digital space, designed to improve student engagement by breaking down the barriers students face when deciding whether or not to participate in class, and gives teachers a concrete assessment of student comprehension, in real time.

myeuphoria.me

Myeuphoria is a mission driven Social Events Search Engine that provides responsive and efficient methods to promote social events by using a combination of marketing techniques to make your social event better and more desirable for the consumer. Let party for a Cause!

Property Panda

Developed to give landlords of all sizes the ability to minimize the time spent on their investment property while still maintaining a strong level of control. Property Panda gives property owners the tools to process applications electronically and safely including credit and eviction checks.

farmfixe

Is redefining local food, members gain access to our inspired selections of artisanal food.  

RedRadius

The team at Red Radius is working hard to come up with a comprehensive, user friendly tool to help Medical Science Liaisons properly Identify and Establish relationships with key opinion leaders.

Who will win?  Join us on the 15th to find out.

Our Sponsors

We’re very grateful to our sponsors without who’s support we would not be able to put on the Chicago Lean Startup Challenge:

We’re doing a 3 hour workshop on how to integrate Lean Startup, User Experience Design and Agile Development on January 20th.

This is a more in depth workshop that extends the sold out one hour workshop we gave at the Chicago Product Management and Association in November.

Lean Startup, Pragmatic Marketing, User Experience Design and Agile Development are all approaches to improve your odds of creating successful products. Are they mutually exclusive, or can you assemble them together to make a lean, mean product success machine?

Join Pathfinder Software’s Amy Willis (UX) Bernhard Kappe (Products Strategy) and Reid MacTavish (Agile Development) as they share their lessons learned in making lean+ux+agile work.

We’ll cover:

  • Pragmatic Marketing and Lean Startup- which is right for you?
  • Lean UX – Design as the differential gear between customer development and agile development
  • How to run a successful inception
  • It’s never too early for metrics and analytics
  • Agile practices and pitfalls
  • Continuous deployment and A/B testing
  • Team composition and how to hire

Are you hungry, smart, and analytical?
Can you write persuasively?
Do you dream about changing the world with technology?

Pathfinder is at the epicenter of Chicago’s tech scene. We mentor and incubate startups, build and launch products, and run things like the Chicago Lean Startup Circle and Lean Startup Challenge.

We’re looking for a marketing intern to join our team. You’d be working directly with me organizing, writing, running experiments and learning on your feet.

If this sounds a challenge you’re up for, put on your AIDA hat and write us why you’d be the right person for the job. Extra credit for getting someone we know to refer you.

Bernhard Kappe
Founder and CEO, Pathfinder Software
Organizer, Chicago Lean Startup Circle and Lean Startup Challenge
Twitter
LinkedIn

Pathfinder’s Amy Willis (UX), Reid MacTavish (Agile) and I are giving a presentation on November 15th to a joint session of the Chicago Product Management Association and Chicago Agile Project Management group on how to integrate Lean, UX and Agile. We’d love to see you there.

Here’s some more on the presentation:

Lean + UX + Agile: Putting It All Together

Lean Startup, Pragmatic Marketing, User Experience Design and Agile Development are all approaches to improve your odds of creating successful products.

Are they mutually exclusive, or can you assemble them together to make a lean, mean product success machine?

Join Pathfinder Software’s Amy Willis (UX) Bernhard Kappe (Products Strategy) and Reid MacTavish (Agile Development) as they share their lessons learned in making lean+ux+agile work.

We’ll cover:

  • Pragmatic Marketing and Lean Startup- which is right for you?
  • Lean UX – Design as the differential gear between customer development and agile development
  • It’s never too early for Metrics and analytics
  • Lean + Ux + Agile: putting it all together

If you’d like to join us, you can RSVP at the Chicago Product Management Association site. Space is pretty limited, so it’s good to sign up early.

I came across this infographic earlier today that illustrates how quickly physicians are embracing mobile devices and mobile healthcare solutions. Presented this way, it’s suprising how much faster demand for mobile healthcare solutions is rising than in other areas. But if you look closer, it’s not surprising at all. Healthcare is an almost perfect setup for mobile: Physicians usually don’t sit at desks, but are at the side of the patient, in the operating room, doing rounds, or taking call from home. In all of those situations, they need information at their finger tips, clearly presented, in context, and in real time. We see this every day in our work with physicians, hospital systems and medical software companies.

Hat tip to the fine folks at Airstrip and the creators of the infographic at spinabifidainfo.com.

I was at the dentist this morning. When they went to take x-rays of my teeth, it started as usual, with the lead bib to reduce radiation. The technician stuck the uncomfortable contraption in my mouth to hold the film in place, stepped away, zappo, and came back to move it to the next position.

That’s when things stopped being usual. The first thing that struck me was that she looked over my shoulder back toward her work area and remarked “they look good”. What looks good, I’m thinking? Then, without putting new film on the contraption, she re-positioned it and took another set of x-rays. Now I knew something was up. So I asked.

Turns out my dentist does x-rays digitally now. Although it still includes a dose of radiation, it’s apparently a lower dose than traditional x-rays. Plus it allows the dental staff to easily compare images from year to year, enlarge them to see particular spots, or increase the contrast for a better view. They can also share them more easily and clearly with other practitioners should the patient need to be referred to a specialist or change dentist. All around, better for the patient and better for the dentist. Oh, and just in case you were curious. No cavities!

Pathfinder Software are looking for talented and team-oriented user experience designers who want to design commercial software products. We do a lot of exciting work for both start-ups who have never launched a product and established firms looking to launch something new or redesign an existing product, in industries ranging from medicine and education to consumer services.

We have built a strong reputation as the top software development firm in Chicago that incorporates lean startup thinking, lean user experience design and agile development, and and are looking for more great team members to continue accelerating.

We take great pride in our work environment. We believe in highly collaborative teamwork, informal communication and pairing with co-workers to puzzle through tough problems and generate creative ideas.

Our office is a big open loft space in Chicago’s river north neighborhood, with lots of whiteboards, glass and distressed hardwood, with walls covered in project artifacts, with after work activities like yoga, game nights and happy hours.

We are highly interested in designers with the following qualities:

  • You have solid UX skills in the areas of user research, personas, workflows and wireframes
  • You will thrive in a team environment and be supportive of the give and take needed to work in a highly effective way with others
  • You get a great sense of pride building strong and empathetic relationships with clients
  • You can understand a complex domain and come up with UX solutions that are simple and well-organized
  • You can write very clear and complete logical requirements – familiarity with Agile methods such as user stories and acceptance tests is a plus
  • You can quickly visualize ideas with simple low-fi tools such as markers, sticky notes and a whiteboard
  • You can generate multiple design directions for a given problem
  • You can prioritIze what is important in a design and help clients figure out what “Release 1” looks like
  • You are capable of leading group workshops to come up with user personas, user goals, workflows and rapid storyboards
  • You want to give back to the design community by furthering the state of the art, writing helpful blog articles, speaking at professional meetings and conferences from time to time

If this sounds like it might be up your alley, we’d like to hear from you. Go to our careers section and submit a resume and cover letter telling us what you’re passionate about and how you approach design.