Enthusiastic Entrepreneurs Get Hands-On Learning Experience at Lean Startup Machine New Jersey

Photo: Participants at Lean Startup Machine New Jersey line up to pitch Friday night. Photo Credit: John Critelli
Participants at Lean Startup Machine New Jersey line up to pitch Friday night. | John Critelli

The winners of Lean Startup Machine New Jersey, which took place at JuiceTank coworking space and startup incubator in Somerset the weekend of September 19-21, won the event by creating Stasher, a tool that aims to give kids a personal bank account.

Lean Startup Machine is a three-day workshop that teaches beginner entrepreneurs how to create a business that will appeal to prospective customers. This is done through hands-on learning, interviews with potential customers, and advice from volunteer mentors.

Participants are encouraged to “fail fast” and “succeed faster,” adjusting business plans based on lessons learned from experience. This method is particularly suited to tech startups.

The JuiceTank event was organized by Desi Saran, of Lean Startup Machine, Charlie Patel, Co-Founder and CTO of JuiceTank, and Mason Carter, General Manager of JuiceTank.

The first night of the event featured encouragement from several special guests, including Dr. Jeffrey Robinson from Rutgers Business School. “I’m waiting on one of you—at least one of you—in this room to make it big. And when you do, I want you to remember that this started in New Jersey,” Robinson said.

Another featured guest was Joshua Davidson, founder of Chop Dawg, an Egg Harbor Township business that provides development, design, search engine optimization, and more to entrepreneurs. Davidson, who is only 21, told the story of how he founded Chop Dawg in 2009. It started when he realized that many businesses in his area didn’t have an online presence. Over a period of 30 days, Davidson approached various companies with an offer to design a website for each of them. He faced rejection many times until the final day, when someone agreed to hire him.

Davidson designed the website in two days and received $200 in cash. Since then, he’s worked with many clients, assembled a team of employees, and accumulated over half a million followers on Twitter. Davidson compared his experience with the Lean Startup Machine process, as he was able to create a successful business without having to spend a lot of money before approaching potential customers.

Many of the Lean Startup Machine participants enthusiastically pitched their business ideas within the 30-second time limit allowed to each person. The audience then elected the project that would be developed over the weekend. They cast their votes by writing their names on sticky notes and placing the notes on sheets of paper bearing the project titles.

After the vote, Mark Annett, winner of March 2013’s Lean Startup Machine Newark, spoke to the participants. “Leadership brings people to you,” he said, encouraging them to be passionate about their projects.

The entrepreneurs’ passion was evident as they set out on a variety of learning exercises. The teams all left JuiceTank at times on Saturday and Sunday to conduct interviews with prospective customers.

The interviews helped them figure out if their original business ideas were viable and, if they weren’t, what new directions to take. The participants also took part in six workshop sessions throughout the weekend aimed at building their entrepreneurial skills.

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