‘I just need a start-up to lean on’ How lean canvas helped us define ideas

Getting the idea for a start-up is not easy. We literally tried everything with no success. So far our ideas were either really stupid or didn’t have any business potential. During one of our meetings we tried hard for 5 hours to decide on something. Unfortunately, nothing worked. We left for the meeting a little bit annoyed and very stressed because we knew we need to come up with something very soon. The stress doesn’t help in this kind of situations. Personally, I work quite well under pressure. During the past two months various tasks were thrown at me during different classes and somehow I have always managed to succeed. However, in this case stress made me unproductive. Together with my start-up group we were losing motivation. During the one of the design thinking classes Janja asked me and Vivien, why dancer and a singer try to redesign the tube experience and create a portable ashtray for smokers? Very good point. We started looking for the problems in our areas and finally we got something.

We started putting down the problems we and our colleagues are facing. After few hours of debating and calling our friends to confirm the ideas we came up with the two:

  1. Guitar players always loose their picks or forget to take them to the rehearsals.
  2. Dancers bruise their bodies. That’s not a new thing, but I realised something. There are many products to protect the lower part of the bodies like different types of shoes and knee pads. However, there is nothing for the shoulders and the spine.

From having zero ideas we suddenly had two! In order to figure out, which one is more valuable, we put them on the lean canvas.


Lean canvas created by Ash Mauraya(2012) is an adaptation of a Alex Osterwalder’s business model canvas, which I covered in one of my previous blog. The lean canvas differs from the business canvas because it focuses on the problem,  solution, key metrics and unfair advantages, while business model canvas focusses on key partners, key activities, key resources and customer relationships.

lean canvas


Problem section was designed to fully understand the problem that a start-up is trying to solve. According to CBinsights(2018) the most common reason start-up fail is no market need. So it is essential to make sure that we’re solving the right problem from the start.


After understanding the problem we can attempt finding the solution. However, we need to stay open minded and don’t stop searching after we find the first solution. The first ideas are very exciting, but in most cases aren’t the best.

Key metrics

In other words key actions that the start-up needs to focus on. Mauraya(2012) states that initially we should focus on value metrics and later on the key engines of growth.

 “A startup can only focus on one metric. So you have to decide what that is and ignore everything else.”
– Noah Kagan

Unfair Advantage

” true unfair advantage is something that cannot be easily copied or bought.”
– Jason Cohen

This box can seem discouraging as most start-ups have large unfair advantage at the beginning. However, its created to motivate new business to look for points of differences and create their unfair advantages.


Here is our lean canvas created for the two products mentioned before



After examining both ideas we decided as group to go for the second problem. Finally we had our idea! A big relief, but this is the start of our journey, let’s the fun begin. 🙂


CBinsights(2018) ‘The top 20 reasons start-ups fail’[online] Available at: https://www.cbinsights.com/research/startup-failure-reasons-top/%5Baccessed:05/01/2019%5D

Mauraya,A.(2012)’Why lean canvas vs business canvass model’[online] Love the ProblemAvailable at: https://blog.leanstack.com/why-lean-canvas-vs-business-model-canvas-af62c0f250f0 [accessed:05/01/2019]

Osterwalder.A,Pigneur.Y,(2010) Business Model Generation a handbook for visionaries, game changers, and challengers

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