Ep530: Ash Maurya – Focus On Customer Development Before Product Development

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Quick take

BIO: Ash Maurya is the author of two bestselling books, “Running Lean” and “Scaling Lean,” and is also the creator of the top-rated one-page business modeling tool “Lean Canvas.”

STORY: Ash had this social networking idea that he thought was unique, so he kept it to himself as he built on it. He never tested the market until he launched, and the network was a flop. Ash kept building the network in isolation until seven years later when he realized he was supposed to be building a customer base, not the perfect product.

LEARNING: Take at least 90 days to test a new idea before launching it. You need customers for your business to survive.


“You can actually sell before you build.”

Ash Maurya


Guest profile

Ash Maurya is the author of two bestselling books, “Running Lean” and “Scaling Lean,” and is also the creator of the top-rated one-page business modeling tool “Lean Canvas.”

Ash is praised for offering some of the best and most practical advice for entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs worldwide. Driven by the search for better and faster ways for building successful products, Ash has developed a continuous innovation framework that synthesizes concepts from Lean Startup, business model design, jobs-to-be-done, and design thinking.

Ash is also a leading business blogger, and his posts and advice have been featured in Inc. Magazine, Forbes, and Fortune. He regularly hosts sold-out workshops worldwide and serves as a mentor to several accelerators, including TechStars, MaRS, Capital Factory, and guest lecturers at several universities, including MIT, Harvard, and UT Austin. Ash serves on the advisory board of several startups and has consulted with new and established companies.

Worst investment ever

In 2011, Ash came up with a social networking idea that he believed was so good that he couldn’t tell anyone. The friends he told, he swore them into secrecy. They all convinced him that this would be a perfect idea.

Ash took all the money he had, got a small team together, and spent a year building the network. He never talked to anyone about his idea during the building period. Nine months into that journey, he heard about Friendster, the first social network launched. Someone had beat him to it. However, Ash was still convinced his idea was unique, so he continued to build on it.

Ash finally launched his network and spent another year trying to get everything right, but it didn’t work. Then he took a hard pivot and had a lucky break when another company that liked the technology he was using licensed it for a little while. But it was still not Ash’s big outcome story. His co-founders lost interest in the network and walked away. Ash kept plugging along and bootstrapped until the five-year mark, building his product.

After about seven years, Ash realized that he had been looking at all his ideas from the inside out. He concentrated on building a product for himself instead of creating a customer base first.

Lessons learned

  • When building a business, focus more on purpose and meaning. Ask yourself if you’re creating what the customers needs.
  • Give yourself 90 days to test the market and demonstrate traction if you have a new idea.
  • If your customers aren’t paying attention to your idea, building a product will not make a difference.

Andrew’s takeaways

  • To turn great ideas into great products, the people around you should always be confident that you can implement them.
  • Decide the minimum number of customers you need to stay in business and when. Be as specific as possible.

Actionable advice

Set a goal and a deadline or a timeline. Then ask yourself what’s the smallest outcome that would deem this project a success.

No.1 goal for the next 12 months

Ash’s goal for the next 12 months is to get from 1 million people on his platform to 10 million or at least within the next three years.

Parting words


“Look for problems worth solving.”

Ash Maurya


Read full transcript

Andrew Stotz 00:02
Hello fellow risk takers and welcome to my worst investment ever stories of loss to keep you winning. In our community. We know that to win in investing, you must take risks, but to win big, you've got to reduce it. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm on a mission to help 1 million people reduce risk in their lives to reduce risk in your life, go to my worst investment ever.com today, and take the risk reduction assessment I've created from the lessons I've learned from more than 500 guests, fellow risk takers, this is your worst podcast host Andrew Stotz, from a Stotz Academy, and I'm here with featured guests, Ash Moria. Ash, are you ready to join the mission?

Ash Maurya 00:44
I'm ready as can be. I feel

Andrew Stotz 00:46
like of all my guests, you're someone that has been spending your life trying to help people not make big mistakes in their business ideas. And I want to introduce you to the audience. So let me do that. Ash is the author of two best selling books running lean, and scaling lean, and is also the creator of the highly popular one page business modeling tool, lean canvas, asked tell us a bit about the value that you bring to the world through these books and your other knowledge that you have.

Ash Maurya 01:20
Sure, I'm sure we'll get into a little bit of my worst investments. But a lot of the work that I do is trying to help entrepreneurs make sense of their ideas, all ideas in the early honeymoon phase sound like these amazing, amazing ideas that will just surely work. And only a little bit of time kind of corrects for that. So what we try to do is really help entrepreneurs find repeatable and scalable business models as quickly as possible.

Andrew Stotz 01:48
And when you say that they appear like they're good ideas. Is it a little bit like how every parent sees their kid as the best and the cutest and loveliest? Or is there something beyond that? Or is it just simply that we go into that entrepreneurial seizure that I think Michael Gerber used to talk about, when he talked about the idea, you just get so obsessed with your idea that you just can't see that it wouldn't work?

Ash Maurya 02:16
Yeah, I think it's a combination of all things. It certainly starts as a colonel like a parent with a baby. But what I've observed is that we put on our myopia glasses, and we started bringing in a lot of biases into play. And this is where our brain tricks us, we try to be different, and we focus on the wrong things at the wrong time. So there's this a whole list of symptoms that we can get into which all compound in a very unconscious manner. And the next thing, you know, the two week little side project becomes a two year or three year journey, and and you're still kind of spinning wheels, so. So I find it's like it's a combination of everything you just said there.

Andrew Stotz 02:57
And I know that there's plenty of my listeners that are like me, and I come up with some new idea to solve a problem in my life. You know, to give an example, I was seeing that my research team was making mistakes in their forecasts and valuation, maybe just using too low of a discount rate, or they were just forecasting that revenue growth was going to go off the charts when it hadn't been going off the charts in the past. And then I noticed that my students in my valuation masterclass, were doing the same. So I decided, oh, okay, well, why don't we just create, in my model, a error checking thing, you know? And then why don't I come up with my top errors that I see and write a book about it. So I wrote a short book nine valuation mistakes and how to avoid them. And then I built this into my model and all that. And I thought the world would love this. Of course, my students love it. And they'd like in my clients. And in my team, we've reduced errors. But that doesn't mean that my ideas scales, and everybody wants to read that book. And everybody wants that in their life. And I'm just curious for those people like me, that are listening to podcasts that have ideas and all that, what would you say is kind of the first, there's two things that I want to ask you one is kind of like, Well, how should I be thinking about these types of ideas? Number one, and number two, where's the what's the best place to start in getting your information about, you know, you've done a lot of different things, you've written a lot of different stuff, where's the best place for me to go to kind of start to absorb what you've learned?

Ash Maurya 04:32
Or so I would say, and we can get into like, like some of those biases I was talking about. When we get hit with an idea, we very quickly see the solution and fall in love with the solution. And I just call that the entrepreneurial bias or the innovators bias, and then that becomes our sole purpose. every waking moment is about how do I bring this thing to life? What I found is that if we actually pause a little bit and try to ask a different question, which is not Can we build it? But rather should we build it? And what space will it occupy? And again, it sounds like your classic marketing positioning, but we take it, of course, a level deeper. And that's by doing a bit of a study in the best way to do the study is not doing, you know, industry research by looking at, you know, what's been published, but actually looking at your target, early adopter profile of a customer, and see the space that you're in when they need and you describe the book. So when they are trying to make better investment decisions, or whatever the job to be done is, what do they reach for? And why are those things failing? Like, why are those things falling short. And that's where you find something that's different, because again, when you're bringing something new, it has to be different, it has to create a switch in people's minds where they see this new thing. They see what they're doing, and they think this could be better. And that's how the journey starts. If we just take a very simple example, I know you're in Bangkok, and there are so many food places around you. If a new restaurant opens, the first question you ask is what's different about this from everything else I've seen, right? That's the first thing we pay attention to. And that's the fundamentals how customers think. And so if we can start seeing our ideas are try at least attempt to see it from the eyes of the customer, we are bombarded with so many choices, so many solutions out there, can we actually get this definition of better or there's a value proposition in front of them, that's, that actually resonates with them. And that starts the journey.

Andrew Stotz 06:31
And part of what I'm hearing is kind of the shift from focusing on my pain and solving my pain, to understanding the customer's pain as I get it to go.

Ash Maurya 06:44
And so many ideas, start with a scratch your own itch, which is I have this pain, so I am the customer. But you're all automatically disqualify yourself, because you have the pain and you're trying to solve it, your customers aren't trying to solve it, they're struggling. So their pain is different than your pain. So just just by that definition,

Andrew Stotz 07:02
actually, I have to say, out of all of my guests, this, this discussion right here makes me kind of feel sort of embarrassed, you know about so many things that I got so excited about and tried to get other people excited about. But really, it was just something that was you know, going to solve some pain in my life. So thanks for that wake up call. And I got to think about that, as I'm looking at the products that we're bringing out to the market. And that's a great help. So the second question was about where can people go, where's the best place where people go to follow you or to learn from you?

Ash Maurya 07:37
Sure. So over the last several years, I've taken my journey started with a with the blog, and then some books that I wrote along the way that you're going to mention in the intro. But over the last five or six years, we have compiled a lot of resources on a website called Lean stack. So that's Lea mn sta ck.com. And that's where you'll find a lot of my writings, you'll find some of the tools were built. So yeah, that would be a place to start. And there's lots of free ways to get in. It is a subscription based product. So if you, you find that you get sucked in some of the things we talked about. There's other, you know, lots of other things you can do on there.

Andrew Stotz 08:16
Fantastic. Well, I'm looking at it right now it looks pretty cool. And for the listeners out there, I'll have that in the show notes for the link, but it's just lien stack.com. Well, Ash, now it's time to share your worst investment ever. And since no one goes into their worst investment thinking it will be. Tell us a bit about the circumstances leading up to it, then tell us your story.

Ash Maurya 08:40
Sure. So I'll actually start with where I am. So as we have discussed, I teach people how to be lean, a lot of people first misunderstand what lean means they oftentimes think lean as being cheap, or it's bootstrapping, you're trying to try to build something on the cheap. And while if we go back to the definition of lean all the way back to the Toyota way lean manufacturing, that's where it really comes from. The big mantra is, be less, be less wasteful waste is the thing we're trying to avoid. And when manufacturing when Toyota was applying the Lean thinking, they were trying to reduce waste and costs were a part of it, because they were trying to force build cars. In today's world, as we just discussed, the bigger challenge is not can we build products, but rather should we build it. And so I find that the biggest waste that we actually encounter is not as much money or effort, but rather it's time how much time are we really spending. And I did this math once is that as a entrepreneur, when you have a good idea, it's probably going to last at least five years, maybe 10 years and when you have a bad idea usually takes people on average two to three years to figure that out. And so you can do the numbers. If you're an entrepreneur, you only have so many chances at that so you I have to really conserve that, that time very well. And that's what my story is how I actually wasted seven years of my entrepreneurial journey. Before I became lean before I kind of had this mindset shift, and really approached every product very, very differently. So I started when I was in, I saw I was in college, I got recruited by a startup shortly after, and that like all products had a few false starts, we were building products, the first one failed, second one failed. And that was in hindsight, a good learning experience, because you can learn a little bit from others, others failures. The third one was actually, you know, it, you know, it was it was a was a home run, they got acquired, and then I left the company with a little bit of saved, saved capital there and decided I was going to do the thing I always wanted to do, which is a startup. And like a lot of entrepreneurs, I get hit with an idea. That's so good. I can't tell anyone, right, that's the and I go into the stealth mode, I'll tell you what it was basically this concept that I ran into, I'd seen the six degrees of separation movie, I'd read a book about the six degrees of separation. And this was right after 911, where there was, at least here in the US a big recession that followed, and a lot of people got displaced. I said, Wouldn't it be cool to connect lat long lost friends together. And so it was kind of a pre social networking idea, before it was even a term but I thought it was so good. I couldn't tell anyone and the friends that I did tell, I saw them into secrecy. And they all you know, convinced me this was going to be really good. Hi, then, you know, take whatever money I have, I get a small team together, and we spend a year doing nothing. So we don't talk to anyone, we just go into this build mode. And nine months into that journey, we hear Friendster, this friend sort of thing is out there. And that was the first social network that launches and we're like, Oh, my God, the cats out of the bag, you know, how did that happen? And that's what that's what I mean, by the, the, the naiveness of how, when we are first approaching ideas, we think we have something so unique, so amazing. And we try to protect the idea. But the thing we have to realize there's a billion people out there, lots of people will have similar inspiration, similar motivations, similar epiphanies. And so obviously, that was Friendster. And so we look at them. And we're like, Well, the way we are, and this is the lies, we start telling ourselves, they're building it this way, we're gonna, we're building it very differently. So we'll still win, because you know, ours is going to be better. I'm not gonna get into all the details. But we said we'll we'll were shortly after they were three or four competitors, again, all kind of doing things differently than we were. And we're like, oh, yeah, we'll still be fine. And so we started going down. And one hour difference was privacy, all the social networks were about friending strangers and sharing your information with strangers, which, by the way, still happens to this day, we wanted to build a private decentralized social network. And as you can imagine, we were way too early for the market, because no one really cared about that. So we spent a year we launched, it was kind of a very first level launch, we spent another year trying to get that right. Didn't really work. And then we took a hard pivot, and I had a lucky break, where there was another company that liked the technology we were using. So they licensed that for a little while. But it was still not our big, you know, our big outcome story. My co founders laughed, they lost interest. And I just kept plugging along. So I kind of bootstrap petered my way up to the five year mark, just continue to build my product. So I kind of tell this story of entrepreneurs in that metaphorical garage, just waiting for that inflection point in the hockey stick, where things will start will align and someone will knock on the door. And it'll be like, we want your thing and things take off. It never came. But five years into that journey, maybe more like six years, I ran into a lecture by Steve Blank. And then shortly thereafter, Eric Ries and they started talking about this notion of developing customers. So customer development before product development, and a light bulb went on. That's when I began to realize that I had been looking at all my ideas from the inside out, which is what can I build? What problem can I solve? And a lot of it was for myself, I was just I was customer number one. And what I just told you a few minutes ago, I made that same classic mistake everyone does. So by the way, that's just the entrepreneurial bias. I think everyone starts that way. But it took me seven years to make that shift. And kind of in hindsight, if we start calculating the investment, the way I like to think of time versus money is that money is a leveraged asset. You know, you can invest money in many different places you can even kind of diversify. So an investor putting money in Angel Investor putting money in a startup is not as risky as the founder putting their time in a startup, because when they commit to an idea like I did, that's the only thing you work on. So at some point, you forego sound Hurry, you're only working on this. So lots of ways to calculate the value of time. But I would say that even if we, even if we adjusted for risk, if we just looked at market rates to get a salary seven years times how much you would have made that just opportunity cost. But then if we talk about the chances of getting a return, which for the startup is, you know, one in 10, everything becomes 10 times more expensive. So if that seven year journey was led to say, $700,000, in lost income, we'd want to multiply that by 10, to kind of get a true sense of how bad of an investment of time that was, there were many other things that one could have done in that time. I'll stop there, but that was probably my, my worst investment

Andrew Stotz 15:40
yet. Let me ask you. One question is, can you kind of remember the day that you just woke up and you realized, you just spent five or six years and it's not gonna work the way you thought?

Ash Maurya 15:52
I think it was. And this is when I talk about the lies that we tell every year. So I have this habit of and I think a lot of people do, of course, but at year end, we all kind of assess the year and say, you know, was it a good year that I hit my goals, what plans for next year. And so every year, I did that, but it was probably in the fifth year where I saw myself sounding like a broken record I was making excuses for next year is going to be different. So it took five years to get that point. Because there was always some, there was always some glimmer of hope, you know, year one, we built a product, where we still have this notion that we'd be different. In year two, that bubble burst. But then we got this customer saying, oh, we'd license your stuff. And we're like, oh, we are still we're still alive. So that took us to year three. And then I don't remember, probably year three, we started to shift into a different type of a pivot into a different product direction, so I had to make some revenue. So it was all of those things. And then you begin to realize when you do the math of where you are, where you wanted to be, and just where you could actually go from here we started, I started seeing us as a zombie startup, we were not dead, but we weren't going to spring into life either. And so that's when you begin to realize that we need to do a hard, hard course correction there.

Andrew Stotz 17:08
So how would you summarize the lessons that you learned?

Ash Maurya 17:12
So the biggest one, and I describe this, of all many entrepreneurs I see is there are generally three stages they go through. And we can see this in young people like Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs have kind of displayed some of this in his career. So you can look at a lot of entrepreneurs. And you'll see this, of course, a different I'm not talking about the scale, but just the mindset and the thinking, a lot of the first part of the journey I described as the artist phase, where we are just trying to build amazing art, we just want to build really cool stuff. And that's where I got enamored by the six degrees of separation idea. And that was it was like, if I do this, it's just going to be something that won't have seen before. And that's enough. But then at some time, at some point, you realize that most artists don't don't really make it just for there are many artists star. And that's the trigger moment for the second stage where you start realizing that you've got to build a business, we started thinking about sales marketing, I came from a tech background. And so all of those things, I said, oh, we'll just fix themselves. If I build a great product, everything else fixes itself. Of course, not true. So then I started getting more into learning about pricing and money and conversion rate, all that stuff that you got to learn in the startup. And so that's the second phase. And so for me, that was that five year point where I started to do those kinds of things. And then beyond that, once you that two is a skill. And once you can learn those, I find that many entrepreneurs at some point realize that money is great, but they've got probably enough for they kind of have a point where there are diminishing returns, you know, we build the kind of businesses we want to. And then it's more about purpose and meaning, am I building the right things and I'm at that stage now like now, I wouldn't just entertain any opportunistic idea. It really has to have a purpose or a mission. But that's kind of how I describe that journey.

Andrew Stotz 19:04
I just wrote down so many things as you were talking and maybe I'll share a few takeaways. The first thing is we always talk about runway and you know, having a certain amount of runway to start a business. And normally when we're talking about runway, we're talking about capital, enough capital to get this idea out there to the market to where it can start to generate its own capital. But to me, that's kind of the easy part. The hardest part I call it is not just capital but confidence runway. First you've got and you mentioned that some people kind of got disillusioned with the idea and they left you even if your ideas great if the people around you lose confidence that you can implement it. You're going to run out of confidence runway and then you highlight a third point which is competitor runway, like a good idea is eventually Are they going to be done by a competitor. So you have these time pressures coming down on you, the capital runway, the confidence runway in the competitor runway. And then, you know, I guess you could add into that kind of your own resources that you have, personally of your time that is limited as you, you know, I think what you discussed about time, versus money and kind of being able to really leverage that money. But it's harder, you know, you can't really leverage time individually, let's say. So that's kind of one of the first things that I thought about as I was listening to you, or the other thing that I thought about, you know, when I had, one of the startups that I did in 1995, was a coffee factory. So I wasn't very innovative in the sense that it's just coffee, and we set it up in Thailand, they didn't have fresh coffee at the time. So it wasn't a little bit innovative there. But you know, over time, we figured it could succeed. And here we are 27 years later, and it has been a successful company. But I think back and I was thinking about the customers that I we got in the beginning, there was one customer, we were so desperate as we like, do it ever we could to get this order. And it was an export order to the Ukraine, in fact, and basically, the guy just pushed the price down to the absolute minimum, we had to buy a bunch of capital equipment to do the roasting and the grinding, and it was filling up these containers of coffee. It just didn't suit anything that we were set for. But we took it and it almost killed us. And I basically went to Singapore, and sat down with the guy. And I just said I was actually as working as an analyst. So I was on a trip for my investment bank I was working for I sat down with the guy and I just said, Look, we're not liars, we're not deceivers, you know, what I'm just going to tell you is we can't fulfill this contract at the way that it's going, this is going to kill us. And he knew he had really, you know, negotiate it down. And so sometimes you have to think about a first customer could be a very bad customer. Now, why do I bring that up, because in fact, you could actually argue that that first customer that licensed your technology was a bad thing. It was like, you know, like it, you don't see it at the time. But the other challenge is to get out of it and realize, look, this is just gonna keep us alive. You know, for the wrong reasons, in some ways. So that was the other things that I was thinking a lot about is getting No, I just want to tell one other thing about a customer we got many, many years ago, that is a global restaurant chain. And they came to us. And they said we need you to roast coffee for our chain in Thailand, which is just going to continue to grow. And then they brought in someone from the US and they came to our factory. And they did all these quality audits. And they helped us a lot. They said, We're here to help you. We never want to lose you as a supplier. And I was like holy crap, this is the customer that we need. That's upgrading our quality is not messing around with price and all of that. So those are the things that I took away. Anything you would add to that.

Ash Maurya 23:04
No. So I think that those are all like great insights and nuggets there. The thing I would maybe just add is the difference between timing and time kind of time investment. Because I think that's an interesting take as well. Studies have been done. I think Bill Gross, who runs a big, big, big accelerator, has studied a lot of startups. And he came and he did a TED talk. And he concluded that the biggest factor for Project startup failure is timing. So being too early being too late. The thing now, while he concluded that, and when I took that away, I was like that's interesting. But timing is a factor in many ways of luck. And I'm always, you know, luck plays a role in a lot of these things. But how can we increase our surface area of luck? How can we increase those odds that we would be lucky? And so the answer that I came to is that if you can test an idea in a time box, so So while we may not be able to time an idea, just like any stock or investment, you can time the market, I think it's not a good idea, but we can tell if the timing is right or not with a little bit of analysis. And that's the approach that I now take with all ideas. So if I have a new idea, I give myself 90 days to go and demonstrate traction. So the interest and this is the stuff we techniques and things we have developed in the lean startup. Can we go and actually demonstrate demand for the idea, can we So in my example, I was locked in this metaphorical garage, didn't talk to customers. But could I have actually gone out even back then and pitch the idea to customers and gotten a signup list and show that there was demand for the idea? If I would have if I had done that I would have been able to tell that nobody would have cared for privacy at that time. And that would have been a big red flag and I would have to figure that out. So I've taken that approach. And so when I say where I was then and where I am now is very different. When I write when I read in books when I build tools before writing the books, I actually try to find a way To test it with my book, I did a table of contents, I did a little talk identity, a little workshops, I taught everything in the book before I actually wrote a single word, and pre sold the book before it actually launched. So in hindsight, you can actually do those kinds of things. And if you don't get interest, which as we said, is that first currency, if your customers aren't paying attention to your idea, even building, it's not going to make a difference. So you have to start with that restaurant concept, if no one even wants to ask about, oh, when are you opening? Why open the restaurant? It's that kind of a. So it's a very common sensical thing. But it again, takes us quite a bit of time, because we are, we have got our head stuck in the wrong place, which is I need to build this before anyone will buy what we have actually learned that you can actually sell before you build. And if we do that, and you can do that quickly, if you do that, you can actually remove a lot of that risk, or at least a lot of the customer and market risk, you still have implementation or technical risk, but you're removing a big part of the risk that trips up a lot of a lot of entrepreneurs.

Andrew Stotz 26:05
And when you're talking about timing you were talking about earlier, and you give yourself 90 days, and then you're trying to test the market. I guess what you're recognizing is that you're testing not only is there pain out there, is there interest in this, but you're also getting some feedback if now is the right time for this also, like that's another thing that you maybe you didn't think that you were testing for that. But you are in fact testing for them.

Ash Maurya 26:31
Yeah. And it's so we're testing customer behaviors and kind of their interest. But then we're also testing feasibility, which is could we actually do this? Is it possible? So one of the other, you can say mistakes that I made with my approach is I assume that just because I had broadband, and this was the early 90s, everyone would be getting broadband, you know, just just around the corner. And that was a big gross miscalculation. And again, that's one of those things. What I said I was too early, that was a big factor of being too early in that story.

Andrew Stotz 27:01
So the next question, I'm going to ask very differently this time compared to all of my other guests, normally what I say okay, based upon what you learned from this story, and what you continue to learn what what action would you recommend our listeners take to avoid suffering to fate, but I'm not going to ask you that. I'm going to make it very personal and possibly painful for me. And I'm going to just describe a situation that I am in that somewhat similar to what you talked about 30 years ago, I started teaching finance. So I was always teaching while I was working in finance, and I developed courses that I taught at university. And mainly I was focused on equity valuation. About six years ago, I decided I'm going to stop teaching at university all the time. And I'm going to develop this into an online course. And it's called valuation masterclass at valuation masterclass.com. So we started to create good content, and we were getting people going through it, you know, little trickles, and all that, but I had other parts of my business and all that. And then we iterated and we started realizing recently that, hey, we could do this as a boot camp as a boot camp, it's much more hands on, we're guiding them, we're helping them get a job, you know, and, and we're getting some corporate sponsors, they're gonna pay more, so it's better for us, we get more money to basically keep growing this thing. And, and then I tested it first by asking if anybody wanted to pay for a certain price, let's say, and I did it at my house, basically, in Thailand for six weeks. And I got eight people who came every single day for six weeks. And I thought, Okay, this is interesting. Then we decide, okay, let's shift it online. And then we got like, 15 people online, then we decided, Okay, let's try it again. For another six weeks, we thought we're gonna market this and all that. Yeah, we got 18. You know, not bad, but you know, it's a global product should be global. Then we just launched yesterday, or sorry, Monday, and we got 40 students. Now we did do discounting and all of that. And we did scholarships, where I reached out to CFA societies and gave partial scholarships and things like that. So we did some, a lot of work to get to that 40. So here I am thinking man, this could be 10,000 students a year, or maybe I should shut it down. So with that in mind, what one action would you recommend that our listeners or in this case me take to to take this to see if I should take this to the next level?

Ash Maurya 29:24
Yeah, so great question. And I would say that the way that I like to think of it is, when most people get started, they don't they don't set a goal. It's like let's see how big this can get. And let's just kind of go with the tornado if it becomes one, and that's where we get into trouble because we don't have a, a deadline or a timeline and, and or a goal. So goal setting is the first thing the next thing is that when we are asked to set goals, we also don't know how to set them a lot of people will think of the maximum upside potential which is how big could this get and you know, you're like, oh, this could be 10,000 people this could be there. 8 billion people We start doing top down sizing. And then we get this illusion again. And that's the fantastical Excel magic stuff that we do. And we're like, wow, that this will just be huge. And so that's the danger we get into and everyone gets involved into that trap, I like to ask a different question of the folks that I work with, which is, what is your minimum success criteria. So let's pick a horizon, I like to pick three years, because as we we actually, we didn't talk about this, but many ideas take about two years on average, to hit this inflection point where you've given yourself enough runway to build the product tested, get it out there, in two years, you hit the inflection point in the hockey stick product market fit. So let's just think a little bit ahead three years, a lot of people can imagine, visualize three years. And let's ask yourself, what would need to happen for you personally, and if you have a team, great, bring the team in, for this to be worth continuing on? So that's the minimum success criteria, what's the smallest outcome that would deem this project a success? Right? So it's a bit like I'm sure your investment audience would get this. It's like trying to get you to protect your downside? And let the upside potentially take. So

Andrew Stotz 31:04
I've just articulated that I'd say it's 600 students per year, this year, maybe 1200. Next year, in 1800, the year after that, if we don't hit those numbers, I mean, is it really a product? It's a really demand? Is it really need?

Ash Maurya 31:18
Yeah, so that's exactly it. And then and then once you said that, the next most important thing is I use 90 days, but revisiting those numbers, because again, we forget, and pretty soon, we're going to flow state and next thing, you know, it's three years, and you then make an excuse, saying, Oh, I'll give myself another year. So if you revisit those, those numbers, every three months, six months, nine months, it's just there. And you and your team have to discuss and say, how do we get back on track, if we are not on track, that's the constant reminder, we need to keep pushing or pivoting in ways that actually get us there.

Andrew Stotz 31:53
Ladies and gentlemen, that is golden advice from ash. And I'm going to take it and literally go to my marketing plan and write in those specific numbers. And for those of you that do have ideas out there, sit down right now and focus on what Ashley said, Forget about that, we're going to have a million customers focus on that minimum, in a minimum number of customers. And by a certain time, write it down, get specific, maybe look at three years. And then keep looking at that and keep bringing that back. And I think that that is ultimately golden advice. So what is a resource that you'd recommend for our listeners, I think I know what it is. But go ahead.

Ash Maurya 32:34
I can do a south south surf blog. So I do have a book coming out. So I will probably mention that. So there's a book running lean where a lot of these concepts were talking about principles, it's a step by step guidebook for if you are launching a new project doesn't have to be a startup, but it could be just any project you're doing, how to how to break it down and try to find the riskiest things and tackle those first. It's kind of different for each product. But there's some stories there in some examples that may help with that. So I'll plug that that as a resource.

Andrew Stotz 33:07
Fantastic. And what's the best way to get on that list or to get access to that.

Ash Maurya 33:13
So it is actually available now that my publisher is doing kind of two, two streams of launches that like the e book is available now kind of available and wherever books are sold on Kindle, you probably find them on Amazon, and then the print book, it will be available in the next two weeks. I will mention that if you actually head on to lean stack and go to our book page, we are throwing in a bunch of yeah, we're throwing in a bunch of bonuses. There's a workshop on business model design, if those of you that might be inclined in checking any of that out, you know, feel free to wander over there. So we're doing that up until April 7. Okay, that little promotion.

Andrew Stotz 33:52
Yeah. So ladies and gentlemen, if you go to Lincoln stack.com, you'll see the new update to the international bestseller is here running lean, preorder now and get over $749 in bonuses. And that's fantastic. So we'll go there. I'll be there and getting that in. So let me ask you the last question, what's your number one goal for the next 12 months speaking the goals?

Ash Maurya 34:18
Yeah, so I had heard you mentioned the 1 million people people helped. I would say the way that we define our mission at lean stack is along the same lines. We did cross our 1 million not that long ago. And the way I like to think of goals is when we crossed that goal. Let's ask the industry startup thinking let's tax that goal. So there were 100 million startups not that long ago. So let's try to get to 10 million so we're not going to get to 10 million this year. But like we just talked, we've got kind of attraction roadmap and we are working our way with our numbers, but we are trying to get from 1 million people on our platform to the next major milestone within three years with up to 10 million so we can break that down. And that's how I think of the one year ago.

Andrew Stotz 35:06
Fantastic. In fact, you know what I was just thinking about, for the listeners out there, there's a great saying the truth, South South set you free. And what Ash is helping us to do is kind of write down what our goals are. And make sure that we are keeping up to date with those because sometimes we need to see the truth. And if that truth is not as great as we thought, we need to re evaluate. So we don't lose the five to six years or that time. So that is fantastic advice and listeners. There you have it another story of loss to keep you winning. If you haven't taken the risk reduction assessment, I challenge you to go to my worst investment ever.com right now and start building wealth, the easy way by reducing risk. As we conclude ash, I want to thank you again for joining our mission. And on behalf of a Stotz Academy, I hereby award you alumni status for turning your worst investment ever into your best teaching moment. Do you have any parting words for the audience?

Ash Maurya 36:06
I'm very, very grateful to be here. Thanks for having me, Andrew. I think the last thing I would say and this is one of the mindsets that we try to instill is I'm going to it's going to sound weird, but I think it's it's it's an important way to look at the world. So it's very talked about traction or customers but look for problems worth solving. So look for problems, not solutions to love the problem, not your solution. That's one of the bumper sticker mantras that we try to get people to start seeing the world with.

Andrew Stotz 36:37
Fantastic and that's a wrap on another great story to help us create, grow and protect our well fellow risk takers. This is your worst podcast host Andrew Stotz saying thank you for joining our mission. And I'll see you on the upside.


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About the show & host, Andrew Stotz

Welcome to My Worst Investment Ever podcast hosted by Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, where you will hear stories of loss to keep you winning. In our community, we know that to win in investing you must take the risk, but to win big, you’ve got to reduce it.

Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, Ph.D., CFA, is also the CEO of A. Stotz Investment Research and A. Stotz Academy, which helps people create, grow, measure, and protect their wealth.

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