The Startup Challenge: “Where to Start?”

by Sean Boyce
Lean Canvas Explanation

Naturally, you have an idea. Unfortunately, an idea alone isn’t typically worth much.  Merely having an idea does not make you a business owner, nor does it automatically turn into a viable product business.

The challenge of turning a great idea into a profitable product business has tormented entrepreneurs for as long as there have been businesses. Typically, people think they need a full-blown business plan to start a product business. But that could take many weeks or even months to create. At NxtStep, we recommend a better solution:

The Lean Canvas. 

The Lean Canvas is a business modeling process for your product with several exciting benefits. It’s quick – it takes about 20 minutes to fill out so you don’t have to spend forever creating a business plan. It’s portable – so you can print it out and stick it in your pocket, and take it out to scribble on if that’s your preference. Or you can work on it digitally on your tablet or even your phone, and update it in real time when you think of something new. And most importantly, it’s concise. The Lean Canvas forces you to look at the Big Picture of the business you want to create.

The Lean Canvas consists of just nine boxes. Here is a short description of each box in the order in which they should be addressed:

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  1. PROBLEM – Every business needs to start by identifying the “pain points” of a market segment. What problems do potential customers have that your product will solve?
  2. CUSTOMER SEGMENTS – Identifying WHO has the problems you will be solving.
  3. UNIQUE VALUE PROPOSITION – Why is your product different and why should customers buy it?
  4. SOLUTION – Describe the most important features of your product in terms of solving customer problems.
  5. UNFAIR ADVANTAGE – The one aspect of your product that no other company can replicate. It could be as simple as an unbeatable price, or as insurmountable as a product that has been patented.
  6. REVENUE STREAMS – This includes all revenue realized from your product over its entire lifetime, including the original selling price as well as any recurring fees, upgrades or upsells.
  7. COST STRUCTURE – All the costs involved in delivering the product including marketing, distribution, materials, staff and fixed costs.
  8. KEY METRICS – Success is not always merely measured by revenue. Important numbers might include the number of distribution channels you have for your product, or the size of your email or membership lists.
  9. CHANNELS – Where are your customers and how do you reach them? Even with the myriad of opportunities available to promote your product online, print and broadcast media, as well as direct mail still works for certain market segments.

Finally, the left side of the form refers to details about your product, while the right side defines your market.

The Lean Canvas was developed by Ash Maurya, and is fully explained in his best-selling book Running Lean. We highly recommend that you read this book. You can download and print Lean Canvas Templates or work online at

At NxtStep, we are committed to taking your software product to the next level. We prescribe the best tools and processes – such as The Lean Canvas – that businesses achieve product success. To learn more about taking your product to the next level, book a free product strategy call today or send us an email at

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