Ben Mappen is the founder and CEO of LeanLaunchLab.com, a tool that helps entrepreneurs define and test key business model assumptions using “lean startup” and customer development principles. Before LeanLaunchLab, Ben created Techcofounder.com, a site that matches entrepreneurs with technical co-founders. Ben also opened a Korean bar in Santa Clara, CA called Hue Restaurant and Lounge.
What are you working on right now?
Today, I’m 100% focused on building LeanLaunchLab.
What does your typical day look like?
I’m not a morning person. I like to set my alarm for 8:00 AM, but I’m known to hit the snooze button until at least 9:00 AM. When I’m up, the first thing I do is look at data for about an hour. We measure everything and are constantly running experiments. Looking at the data is actually the fun part because you get to see if your hypotheses are true or false. If I’m not in meetings, I’ll spend most of my day working on new features or reaching out to existing users for feedback. I leave the office around 6:00 PM and cook dinner with my girlfriend. Then we hit the gym and I’m back at the computer until about 3:00 AM or later.
3 trends that excite you?
I could only think of two.
The first one is the “lean startup” movement. It’s the reason we exist as a company. The amazing work by Steve Blank, Eric Ries and Alexander Osterwalder is truly a godsend for the entrepreneur community. This stuff is not a fad; it’s here to stay and we’re hoping to contribute in some small way to building and fostering as much global entrepreneurship activity as possible.
The second trend that excites me is the recent underdog stories taking place in professional sports with Jeremy Lin and Tim Tebow. As a die-hard sports fan, it’s not only entertaining, but it’s also a classic tale of hard work and perseverance. People like underdog stories because they humanize incredible feats. In many ways success in entrepreneurship is no different.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Before I had ever heard of Steve Blank or The Lean Startup I would get new ideas and lock myself in a closet for 6 months building them, blinded by the excitement of just launching. Believe me when I tell you that this didn’t work out so well. I know a little better now. These days, before we build anything, we try to validate it as much as possible by testing core assumptions in the market with experiments or by simply talking to customers. Only after an idea is validated do we invest in the most expensive activity, which is development.
What inspires you?
This question is better answered over a beer. Lots of things inspire me. The short answer is, the people around me: family, friends, co-workers and fellow entrepreneurs.
What is one mistake you’ve made and what did you learn from it?
You hear this so much that it’s almost cliche, but starting from day 1 with a co-founder is critical and it’s something I failed to do with this company. One thing that can’t be taught is learning to deal with the emotional stresses of running a startup each day. The highs are amazing, but the lows feel like the worst day of your life. Aside from having another committed body to your vision, having a co-founder keeps you sane and motivated. Of course, finding a co-founder is really hard, which I presume is why many people attempt to go it alone. That’s one of the reasons I built Techcofounder.com and I was lucky enough to find my co-founder for LeanLaunchLab using my own service!
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Before I started this company, I used to workout everyday for an hour. Now it’s hard to even get to the gym once per week. I was thinking it would be great if a service existed that would email me a simple 15 minute workout each day that I could do at home. I’m so busy that I kinda need to be told what exercises to do, and if I can do them at home, even better. BTW, if you don’t build it, I just might. But if you do, let me know because I’ll be your first user.
What do you read every day and why?
Two sites I check religiously are hackerne.ws and reddit. HackerNews is probably the best source for quality tech articles that I know of. Reddit, of course, is another great crowdsourced site. I like checking the Ask Me Anything sub-reddit, maybe because after a long day of sitting alone in the office it’s nice to “hear” people’s true voices.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
My favorite book of all time is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I first read it as an impressionable young college graduate and have been following my dreams ever since.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
The app I rely on most each day (besides email) is probably Pivotal Tracker. PT is by far the best tool out there for managing agile software development. I’ve used it on solo projects in which I’m doing all of the coding and with teams of 20.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
- Shervin Pishevar: A visionary technology entrepreneur, venture capitalist and angel investor.
- Dan Martell: The co-founder of Flowtown, founder of Spheric Technologies and angel investor.
- Jonathan Abrams: The co-founder and managing partner of Founders Den, co-owner of the San Francisco nightclub Slide and the founder and former CEO of Friendster.
These are 3 amazing entrepreneurs that I’m proud to know. Their tweets are genuine, unfiltered and insightful.
Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?