How to Use Scrum to Launch Your Startup in 30 Days
By Lillian Zeng
September 25, 2017
The summer before my senior year of high school I attended the LaunchX summer entrepreneurship program. I’d describe it as essentially an incubator, with resources and people to help you start a real company. My team and I developed Spare, a peer-to-peer platform for physical storage space. We connect users looking for cheaper storage options with nearby providers who have some extra space in their homes. With our smart-match algorithm, users are instantly matched with the optimal provider based on their storage needs—it’s like the Uber of self-storage. In just a month, we built a fully functioning web app, acquired hundreds of sign-ups, and even found our way onto professional media outlets.
They say startup success is more about the execution than the idea, and I couldn’t agree more. Learning how to work well together and get things done is crucial to every company’s success, and for us the value of effective management was truly monumental.
To meet as strangers, form a team, and build a comprehensible product is a journey that takes several years for most companies out there. Yet, here we were with four weeks to launch a startup from scratch. It may sound pretty daunting, and it was. Every company founder experiences the initial adrenaline and excitement, and with limited time together, our life at LaunchX was very much a sprint, or as our team hackers put it: a month long hackathon.
Getting Started with Scrum
We all have to start somewhere, so let’s back it up. My team’s first step was creating a Scrum Board.
Scrum is a project management method that divides a board into a few columns:
- Icebox—for tasks to keep in mind to be worked on in the future
- To-Do—for tasks that are high priority
- In Progress—for tasks that are currently in the works
- Testing—for tasks that are completed but not finalized
- Complete—for tasks that are 100% done
Tasks are written on color-coded post-it notes and moved through the columns to track advancements.
After gathering some cheap supplies and bickering over our post-it colors, we moved our first task to the completion column: “set up initial balance sheet.” What was on that balance sheet? $38.18 paid to Scrum Board Creation.
We made our Scrum Board half jokingly as a shout-out to our favorite show, HBO’s Silicon Valley, but it turns out those 38 dollars would be the best money we would spend on our development.
Accountability & Accomplishment: The Thrill of Moving a Post-It
As the weeks went by, moving our post-its across the board became a kind of addicting ritual for us. We’d have “Scrum check-ins” for the sole purpose of updating our board together as a team. When we wanted to remind each other of our deadlines, we’d yell “SCRUM!” across the room and we understood—we’d do whatever it’d take to move that post-it tonight.
All of us had incredible drive to begin with, but the physical manifestation of our work pushed us to work even harder. Many, many nights our hackers pounded Redbull after Redbull until they passed out at 4am, only to wake up at 8 and continue coding. Meanwhile, I capitalized on every possible chance to seek customers and feedback. From talking to my Uber drivers to stopping people on the streets, I must’ve delivered our elevator pitch over 500 times, and it didn’t stop there. As a cofounder at an early-stage startup, you never know who might be a useful connection, so it’s crucial to follow up with anyone who expresses interest. This meant an endless lineup of coffee meetups, Skype calls, and conferences. By the end of the day, my hands were usually jittering from caffeine and my voice hoarse from the nonstop chatting. It was tough, but I’d never been happier while working—every milestone I hit was another post-it I could move later that night, and I relished it.
Of course, LaunchX eventually came to an end, giving us some time to reflect on all that we’d accomplished. The one post-it in our completion column at the beginning had multiplied into 238 (yes, I counted), and I was excruciatingly proud of every single one of them. I know our momentum will propel us as we grow beyond LaunchX. I definitely cried saying goodbye to all my friends, but I actually teared up, too, when I had to throw away our beloved Scrum Board.
So, if you’re getting into the startup scene: invest in a project management method that works for you and your team and gear up for the most challenging and rewarding grind of your life.
Learn more about Spare: www.spare.ly
Read our press release: http://bit.ly/2uZnVmC
Watch our video promo: https://youtu.be/OfVxhFKtj40