Steve Blank CoinOut gets a coin

It's always fun to see what happens to my students after they leave the classroom. Jeff Witten launched CoinOut four years ago in my five-day Lean LaunchPad course at Columbia University. CoinOut eliminates the hassle of getting a pocket full of loose coins from traders by allowing you to place it in a digital wallet.

Jeff has just appeared on Shark Tank and the Sharks have funded it. We have just caught up and had to do some customer discovery on Jeff's entrepreneurial journey so far.

How was the Shark Tank experience?
It was surreal. We were not prepared nor informed of what to expect, and we were simply thrown into the "tank" like a baby deep in the water. Given the scene and the possibility of embarrassment, it was very intimidating. With that, a ton of adrenaline appeared – I had the impression that a gallon of powder had been injected into my veins – and that allowed me to concentrate and to defend the company / myself as if there was no tomorrow. Looking back, I hardly remember what happened in there, but I went with the mentality of a fighter not to let them speak, impose or misrepresent me what we do.

SHARK TANK – Cover. (ABC / Michael Desmond)

Something about the Lean LaunchPad class or just being a general contractor preparing you to launch Shark Tank?
The class was almost a mini shark tank – I still remember the very first step we took in front of the class. Whenever you speak in public, or even privately, about your company, I think you are learning something and helping to improve / refine your pitch. In addition, as an entrepreneur, you must fight every day. Nothing is easy and you have to convince people that your new way of doing brings value that someone should pay. This mentality is certainly the one I needed to survive the Tank.

When entering the Lean LaunchPad class, what did you know about starting a business?
I knew very little! I had a lot of thoughts that turned out to be completely wrong and wrong. I had a poor idea of ​​how to interact with potential customers, but I had no real experience doing it. I also knew how to write a proposal and a theoretical presentation, but that was just about it!

What was the experience of the 5-day LaunchPad course?
The 5 days remained one of the most intense moments I went through (even more intense than some of the finals of the law school)! I was working with 4 other people for the first time and we had to group together as much as possible to reach a legitimate conclusion by the end of the course. We actually forced the retail conference that was taking place in the Javits Center and denigrated a million very large different companies, half of which told us to get lost. At the end of the day, we were able to refocus and make some pretty decent findings using the business model and mentoring of our teachers. It was a real whirlwind, but when I look back, a lot of discoveries continue to enliven the product and the company today.

Jeff CoinOut's original presentation after five days has arrived

WWhat did you learn in the LaunchPad class?
I've learned how to create a viable minimum product (MVP), test it with real customers and ask the right questions to get an unbiased return. I took these lessons and put them into practice immediately in a pilot project while I was still in school. I have the impression that I have done 30 different client and MVP tests in the last few years since the course and that I continue to use the lean methods in all that we seek to do for our clients and our clients. tradespeople.

Wit's the biggest learning of your first 3, 6, 12, 24 months as a contractor?
The most important learning was that it was essential to get out of the building. After receiving data and comments, it's easy to say that we have enough and know what we need to build. Even today, even after a few years, I have to remember that we always have more to learn from potential and existing customers.

I would say that the first 3 months was to continue asking questions and iterating based on what we were getting. After 6 months he was learning to tackle everything with determination and determination, as there was no other option. And in the 12 to 24 months, it has always been necessary to keep an open mind and never assume that a product is good until you are really fit for the market. We continue to focus so far. We think we will always look for a better product version adapted to the market!

WWhat are the three most important things you wanted to know when you started your business?

  1. I would have liked to know just how good distribution channels are essential, especially in the beginnings of a business. You can have the best product in the world, but if it fails to put in the hands of customers effectively, it makes no sense.
  2. I would have liked to know how difficult it is to change the perception of people in big companies. Sometimes, when you're hot on the doorstep of entrepreneurial fever, you think you can do it all. I think this is always a valuable feeling, but when selling to large organizations, I learned that you had to temper your expectations and do everything possible to mitigate the risks of partnership in advance. Show them why they should do it rather than why it would be a good thing.
  3. I would have liked to know how much this would be fun because I could have gone in earlier! Many people say how difficult entrepreneurship is and I agree 100%. It's incredibly difficult. But it's as gratifying as anything in the world and when all goes well, it's really fun.

See the articles on CoinOut at Forbes and Columbia Entrepreneurship and Shark Tank, episode 23.

We can not guarantee participation in Shark Tank, but the five-day Lean LaunchPad course in Columbia is offered every January and is open to all Columbia students.

Classified in: Customer Development, Teaching |