Chicago Lean Challenge 2014 Evolved Educator

September 7, 2014

The Lean Challenge experience has been a roller coaster full of ups, downs, and more ups.


Before participating in the Chicago Lean Challenge we read The Lean Start-Up by Eric Ries and took a free online class through a MOOC. Both resources explained identical information presented in the Chicago Lean Challenge. Because of our previous research, we already had created and revised a canvas but that’s where we stopped and began trying to figure out how to build a website. Once we started the Chicago Lean Challenge process we quickly understood the benefit of the validating hypotheses and customer interviews, so we got to work from the beginning.

We asked friends and tweeted requests for teachers to give us a few minutes to collect data. Teachers were so generous with their time and ideas.  Thanks to Twitter we were able to connect with teachers from all over the United States, Canada, England, and Australia. To our surprise we learned that teachers all over the world experience the same pain points and go about creating units the same.  This is exciting news for Evolved Educator because it means the website can serve teachers all over the world. Our hypothesis about the need was validated at nearly 100%.

After we validated the need, we returned to designing the website. Initially we thought our MVP was a bare bones version of our complete idea, which was about 10 pages. After the weekly Chicago Lean Challenge class we learned that we need to minimize further, so we condensed our ideas to create a 3 page website. In the meantime, we posted on Pinterest and received a decent amount of activity, at about 10 pins per day with limited marketing. The Pinterest activity also validated our hypothesis that teachers spend a lot of time searching for quality resources.

Then we got stuck. We decided 18-24 units for a variety of grades and subjects would be minimum number of units necessary to launch the website. Some big challenges came crashing down.

1. Based on teacher feedback, we created a unit template only to learn that it didn’t meet the needs of many types of units. So we had to revamp to create a basic template that was more versitile.

2. We needed coding for the website so teachers can search units. This provided major setbacks, which prompted us to accelerate our search for a hacker-partner. We are currently in discussion withe one person about the terms of a partnership.

During customer interviews we discovered that, although almost all teachers want units, some teachers expressed reluctancey to upload their units to the marketplace. As a result, we decided to pivot our core service to become a concierge to better serve teachers. It's likely we would not have thought of that solution if we were not participating in the Chicago Lean Challenge.

Although we started off with some basic knowledge about the Lean Start-up process, the most beneficial aspect of the Chicago Lean Challenge experience was the human element. The opportunity to have Todd explain each component step-by-step, week-by-week and to hear how other people were making their experience work was inspiring and kept us moving forward even when it felt like we were walking in circles in the dark. The tools and the process the Chicago Lean Challenge provided made us feel empowered and motivated.


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