My 3 Day Startup Experience

My friend and founder of 3 Day Startup (3DS), Cam Houser, called me a few weeks ago. He offered me an opportunity to fly out to Boston for a weekend to support 40 Brandeis University students in launching a startup over the course of 3 days. I invested that time because so many folks at Pristine helped me along the way that I couldn’t compensate. So I chose to pay it forward since I couldn’t pay it back.

If you’re an entrepreneur or VC, please help facilitate a 3DS program. It’s an incredibly satisfying experience. You know lots of people have helped you out. So please pay it forward.

3DS is not new. It’s been around for 5–6 years and they’ve done hundreds of programs at schools and companies. They provided all of the training, coaching, and content for me to jump right into the process.

The premise of 3DS is simple: help students validate all of the assumptions of their business idea as quickly and cost effectively as possible, and consolidate all of the learnings and pitch the startup in 5 minutes. It’s a way to learn the Lean Startup process by practicing the lean startup process in one weekend. Rather than just walking through students through the canvas, 3DS forces students to go out and talk to customers, test assumptions, and refine. Students have to commit the entire weekend to the process, and as a result of intense focus, they can actually recognize that assumptions are much more difficult to recognize than they originally thought.

Day 1 is about idea formation and team selection. Students come with some ideas, and then we mandate that they brainstorm individually and as groups to come up with as many ideas as possible. The class I facilitated came up with about 25 ideas. Students then vote on which ideas they prefer through a few rounds of voting until there’s 5–8 ideas left. Then students select into groups based on what they want to focus on for the weekend.

Day 2 is all about customer validation. Students are supposed to go out and talk to literally talk to customers on campus. If the target customers aren’t on campus, then they have to find customers online and message them. My class of students cold-called at least 100 people over the course of the weekend. Students have to validate that the pain they want to solve is real and attempt to quantify the cost of the pain. Then they do some research to size the market, and identify channels to systematically find and activate customers.

Day 3 is about pitch practice. The whole day is spent refining the pitch. This is the most challenging part for most of the students since most of them have never had to give a real startup pitch before. It forces them to determine what’s actually important and what’s not. It teaches them the value of clarity.

I had a blast teaching the program, Most importantly, I could tell students were actually learning. I wish I had gone through a similar program when I first started Pristine. It would have helped me in so many ways in the early days. The best part of the experience was the end, after pitches. Over a dozen students came up and gave me a hug and thanked me for pushing them through the process. I’ve never felt that feeling before.

But the best part of the program for me was this email I received one hour after pitches. To put this in context, this girl is an international student. English is her second language. I am easily 2x her size, and for those who know me, I’m a bulldozer personality. She couldn’t be more dainty. And I probably dropped 40 f-bombs in front of her during the 3–4 hours we worked together. I never expected her to extract this much value from me or the 3DS program. There’s really no feeling like it in the world.

“Hey Kyle! Don’t know if you still remember me, but it’s _____ from the ________ group at 3 day startup. After our discussion, we figured that we are not gonna let this idea sink back to the ocean again. Therefore, we will keep working on it, and we might ask for your advice in the future. So, be prepared (Haha)!

I know us, and probably a lot of people had already said thank you to you, but I still want to thank you again, not only for the knowledge that you have shared with us, but also for your support, your confidence, and your trust in us.

I was writing my journal, but then I realized that without your help, our group might still be clueless and frustrated. So thank you for showing us direction and bringing energy and motivation to our group, and thank you for being one of the best mentors ever. Before 3DS, I was confused, and didn’t even know what value I can bring to this group. So I went to career consultation, even though it didn’t really help me. But after this event, even though I mess up on the presentation, I still feel confident about our project, and I know that this confidence will start to become part of my life now.

So thank you again, for everything you have done for our group, for other groups, and for 3DS. Thank you for spending your birthday with this event. And HAPPY BIRTHDAY again! Hope you are having a great one!”

If you’re an entrepreneur or VC, please help facilitate a 3DS program. It’s an incredibly satisfying experience. You know lots of people have helped you out. So please pay it forward.