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Lean Startup Methodology Case Study: Try the New Event Recommendation Service

February 8, 2013

 
The Lean Startup method is really hot at the moment and it maybe the best way to get to know the method is to try it out. The idea is to roll out a “minimal viable product” to a bunch of initial customers, see if they are willing to use and and learn about what they do and don’t like about it.

We’re interested in building an event recommendation systems. We could have tried to use some fancy algorithms and artificial intelligence tools to make automated suggestions from a massive database constructed from event feeds and curated recommendations, but that would be a lot of work and it might be wasted if no one really wanted to use such a service. So, using the lean approach, we have ¬†created a kind of discussion board where people can post requests for event suggestions, and where others can make event recommendations in response to those suggestions. It’s a barebones tool that took us a couple of days to put together, but already it has features like commenting, voting, and karma points for participation.

Our event recommender MVP is at:
http://www.torontohci.com/recommender
Please try it out!
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In the first day of operation for our event recommendation MVP we managed to get five active users (including yours truly). We received six event requests (with a total of four recommendations on two of the events) and a total of 34 views on different event pages. We were also fortunate to get five feature requests/comments from one of the users which we are now working on for the next iteration of the MVP. Nothing to write home about, but it’s a start.

Our event recommender is very bare bones and we are still testing the idea that people would want to use such a thing. We are hoping that you will give it a try. It is one of those things where the more people use it, the more useful it will become. We currently have a policy where every event request gets answered with a recommendation within 48 hours. One of the hypotheses we are testing is whether or not people will be interested in making event recommendations as well as sending out requests for event recommendations.

This is an interesting Lean Startup case study and we hope that you will try the system out and follow it over the next few weeks as we seek to develop it further using the lean startup approach. Ideally it will not only be a valuable learning experience for you (and for us) but it will also help you plan events in your life as well as help you meet other people who are interested in some of the things that you are interested in.

You may be wondering why we are interested in event recommendation, when it seems to be a crowded space. Our answer is, yes a lot of people are trying to do event recommendation but so far no-one is doing it that well, or owns the space. Most recommenders focus on a particular class of events (e.g., concerts) or a particular location (e.g., San Francisco). We want to make our event recommender completely general and we want it to be pulled by people’s needs rather than pushed by the need to sell ticketed events or whatever. We believe in the power of social recommendation (a kind of Craigslist for events) and we want to be the place where people go when they want a high quality recommendation for an event need/request that nobody might have ever heard of before.

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