I’ll admit, when I heard about the Validation Board I thought that it would be some kind of self-help tool for startup employees. When developers finish the week’s fourth “hack day” and realize that they hadn’t seen the sun in a month, the Validation Board will be right there reassuring them that everything is alright. “It’s okay, man,” it might say. “Think of the equity! You’re going to be so rich when this photo-sharing app goes big, promise.”
Though I still think there would be a market for such a board, it turns out that the Validation Board is actually a tool to help startups learn and apply some Lean Startup principles. The ‘Board is available as a Google Doc spreadsheet, a printable poster, and a PowerPoint template meant primarily to showcase your use of the board during a presentation, whether it’s a pitch deck or a talk. The Google Doc spreadsheet and PowerPoint template are free, but the site says that a poster costs $4 to print in black and white or $50 to print in color.
The Validation Board was developed by Lean Startup Machine, which might offer a clue as to why the Validation Board is based on Lean Startup principles. Founded by Trevor Owens in 2010, Lean Startup Machine currently runs workshops (which Owens stresses are not hackathons, and are more about the business than its product) in 35 cities worldwide. The Validation Board was developed to help streamline some of the processes that pop-up during one of these Lean Startup Machine events.
“Lean Startup created a language around these patterns in entrepreneurship, and we’re trying to create a layer of documentation,” Owens says. “We see this as enabling other people in the ecosystem to become teachers in Lean Startup methodology.”
Owens and company have included a few “case studies” on the Validation Board’s website meant to show how the tool has already helped companies test and apply Lean Startup principles. One is a video of Owens called “How Trevor Saved $10,000 in 6 Months,” and the others are interactive versions of the board that show how two hypothetical companies would use the tool to identify, test, and pivot their way to potential success.
Now, that doesn’t mean that the Validation Board – or, by extension, the Lean Startup methodology – is a guaranteed path to success. Anyone that tries to sell you a product based on that premise probably has a bunch of snake oil they’d like for you to buy as well. If you’re going to embrace the Lean anyway, however, the Validation Board is a good way to help visualize (and, as Owens says, document) each step of the process.