Reflections on The Lean Startup Conference

Dec 09, 2012

The Lean Startup Conference 2012While I’ve been following Eric Ries and the Lean Startup movement for a few years now, this past week was my first opportunity to attend the official Lean Startup Conference.

I have to admit: when I first saw the program and format, I had doubts about how much useful information could be shared in so many short presentations in one day. I was pleasantly surprised! The range of speakers, the breadth of their companies and experiences and even different interpretations of “lean” was all very inspiring.

For those of us fortunate to work on a lot of projects and with companies from the scrappy startup to a global enterprise – the anecdotes were great reminders to just:

  • Get products launched
  • Get feedback
  • Iterate

all the while eliminating roadblocks. This is one core principle referred to as “B-M-L” (Build, Measure, Learn).

It’s not an excuse to throw all process out the window, but to develop the simplest process that works for your project or product — to become more more fluid and agile. Remember to challenge yourself, your group or your company to whittle down a product to its core, define the MVP (minimal viable product) and execute.

Yes, these are a bunch of popular buzzwords, but what I learned from the whole bunch of experiences that I heard, and Eric Ries himself, is that the Lean movement is meant more as a guideline, not as strict doctrine.

No one sets out to have a failed or delayed product, but with a shift in perspective and a great deal of evangelism and agile experimentation, your development roadmap becomes much more fluid. For either a startup or a big company, it takes leadership being confident, having that willingness to accept risk and experiment. This can get uncomfortable and will take practice.

One common thread was to learn from experiments, improve upon what works and eliminate what doesn’t – to not write off failures. That being said, Marc Andreessen had something to add to the “Fail Fast” mentality. He stated that while everyone should learn from failures, he’s not quite as on-board with entrepreneurs giving up too fast and wearing them like badges of honor! When Ries asked him about his early thoughts on product / market fit [and the “pivot”], Andressen remarked,

“Yes, the ‘pivot’… that term took the stigma out of the ‘fuck-up’! Yes, we pivoted twice — back when they were called fuck-ups!”