What Does Lean Startup Mean for Your Business?

Pappajohn Accelerator helps bring Startup Factory’s Lean Startup program to North Iowa – how does the Lean Startup model work, how are we using this methodology, and what resources are out there?

Startup Factory

Pappajohn SBDC is a sponsor and contributor bringing Startup Factory to entrepreneurs in rural Iowa. Pappajohn Accelerator Director Daniel Winegarden is a leader in the Startup Factory program. We help participants from across Northwest Iowa, from four different rural Iowa SBDC offices, apply the Lean Startup methodology.

Lean Startup focuses on getting the business model right before writing the business plan or launching. It focuses on nondestructive testing of basic assumptions or guesses about an entrepreneurial opportunity. By asking customers about their pain points and current solutions before launch, entrepreneurs avoid startup killing mistakes.

Startup Factory competitively selects participants. Half of the participating startups in our rural cohort are from our North Iowa region. We have the largest number of applications of any participating SBDC office by a factor of five.

The Startup Factory partnership uses collaboration to bring a best practices Lean Startup program to North Iowa. Taking a leadership role extends our influence beyond our territory. Innovation is the essential core of a unique value proposition to prove out pain points worth solving.

Startup Factory’s Growing Footprint

Startup Factory Network in North Iowa - Pappajohn Center North Iowa Area SBDCStartup Factory started with on-campus Iowa State University technology transfer opportunities three years ago and is accumulating an impressive track record. More than 60% of participants to date are launched. Participating startups raised more than $6M in equity, so far. Startup Factory is building out a network delivery model to service clients beyond just the Iowa State University research pipeline or the Ames/Central Iowa community.

Startup Factory President Bill Adamowski points out that Startup Factory is now the largest accelerator in the Midwest. Startup Factory includes network centers beyond Iowa. The current cohort includes participants from rural Northern Iowa and Austin, Minnesota. More are planned in Iowa and beyond. ISU’s involvement delivers essential networking connections and implementation resources such as the Capstone Engineering Program and other minimum viable product (MVP) prototyping tools.

Pappajohn Accelerator’s Track Record

The Pappajohn Accelerator is a significant contributor. We bring experience both doing and advising startup creation and enterprise value creation. We help make sure participants ask the right questions. It’s as important to know what not to do as what to do.

Pappajohn Accelerator coached a succession of clients to wins in statewide competitions. The Accelerator’s Director directly raised or helped raise more than $250M in grants, debt, or equity for entrepreneurial ventures.

Lean Startup Toolkit

For more on Lean Startup:

Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers, by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur. This graphics-heavy paperback is filled with practical tools and examples. It’s a quick read but requires practice to apply. The matching Bible is, The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company, by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf.

Steve Blank offers a great introductory article in Harvard Business Review if you need more persuasion. Why the Lean Start-Up Changes Everything. Talking to the customer first, not last, just works.

Another resource-rich source is www.SteveBlank.com, especially the Startup Tools tab.

The Lean Startup approach tests our best guesses or hypotheses about why customers do what they do before we burn money, time, and relationships. We do it by getting out of our heads, out of the building, and talking to real customers. Only from customers will you understand their reality. You’ll learn to explain the benefits of your idea in the voice of your customer.

The Lean Startup is now the standard approach for leading accelerators and incubators that help startups take ideas to market. This includes Iowa Venture School and Startup Factory. It’s now expected by major public and private investors. Iowa’s public entrepreneurial assistance programs, through VentureNet, Iowa Innovation Corporation, and the Iowa Economic Development Authority, all require the use of the Lean Startup methodology and presentation format. As do the Pappajohn Venture Competitions.

National Lean LaunchPad Instructor

Pappajohn Accelerator Director Winegarden, is an I-Corps VentureWell certified Lean LaunchPad instructor.

The Pappajohn Accelerator focuses on entrepreneurs pursing national and international markets, especially tech and data-driven ventures. Get the right customer and partners and the money will follow.

Winegarden explains his own unique value proposition as an entrepreneurial coach, “I help entrepreneurs tell their best story in language meaningful to the listener. That requires both persuasive and internally consistent words and numbers. It requires translating the language and worldview of the entrepreneur into that of the listener, especially the customer.”

Test your best guesses with customers before launch with the lean startup tools. This fail fast approach helps find and cure startup killing mistakes. Before it’s too late.

With Startup Factory, we now deliver this proven Lean Startup methodology locally, in rural Iowa.


Daniel Pitts Winegarden ©2018
Pappajohn Center
Business Accelerator Director
SBDC Counselor
VentureWell LeanLaunchPad Instructor