Building a Business - Solving Problems with Lean Canvas

After we launched Arc we started gaining users like crazy. Our minds were blown, but we kept our heads and resisted the urge to go into feature development mode. Instead we focused on the problems Arc was trying to solve. So, while we were consistently gaining traction through the Slack App Directory, we dug into our Lean Canvas.

You may be wondering: “Ryan, what’s a Lean Canvas?”

Lean Canvas is a simple business model that helps you discover product and market fit. It’s an adaptation of Steve Blank’s Business Model Canvas that was created by Ash Maurya. We found it a lot more natural to work with than the Steve Blank original.

Lean Canvases are only a single page so you need to be succinct with your answers.

Lean Canvas, and customer development in general, always starts with the problem you’re solving. Once you understand your users’ problems, a solution comes naturally. Our first problem statements were pure educated guesses, and we made some big ones:

  • You setup Google Analytics but most of your team rarely look at it
  • The few team members who do look at it, don’t do it very often
  • When they do get around to looking at it, they don’t share that information with the whole team

In short, we thought that everyone understood the importance of analytics but it wasn’t high on their priority lists.

We were so wrong.

It’s surprising that we could have been so wrong and still grown so fast. Our users are incredibly knowledgeable about analytics. They know exactly what they want, when they want it, and how they want it delivered. On the plus side, people definitely wanted a simple summary of their analytics. Arc helped them feel more in touch with their data and made it easier to understand than the Google Analytics overview page. After talking to lots of our users, we ended up with an improved set of problems:

  • You have to log into Google to view your data
  • Analytics can be difficult to understand
  • Raw data is hard to share with your team
  • Bonus: You can’t tell when site events (traffic spikes) are happening in real time

With the help of Customer Development and Lean Canvas (and ten iterations so far!) we went from straight-up guesses to real, customer identified problems that Arc can solve. Now that we had a good understanding of those initial problems, it was time to move onto the next step of the Lean Canvas, customer segments. But that will have to wait until next time.


Image by Dino Reichmuth