Lean Startup Conference – Day 2

Posted on December 13, 2013

Kathryn Minshew – The Muse
-how do you acquire users out of thin air?
-what are users thinking in the first two seconds of visiting your site? This makes a huge difference in acquiring users.
-minor design changes can have a massive impact on user acquisition
-ask for word of mouth and make it insanely easy
-make it very specific and simple. Provide sample tweets or Facebook posts so that all people have to do is copy and paste
-seek out like-minded groups
-find small collections of people who have self-organized around something that your company is related to
-know how to approach bloggers and reporters
-concentrate on the right people by starting small and targeting appropriately
-trade bloggers are usually better at this stage
-when reaching out tell a good story that is clear and easy to repeat. Who is the hero of your project? What’s the problem? Opportunity? Be concise and relate your story to trends.
-become your own PR machine
-this means that you should offer to write posts for bloggers and other sites. Start small!
-persistence and being polite will move mountains

Alexis Ringwald – Learnup
-do your research – Listening tour to help solve that problem. You need to *feel* their problems
-talk to experts – reach out to every single thought leader you can find to learn from a high level what the biggest issues are
-test in the field once you have an idea of what to solve. This isn’t coding necessarily but just see how people would interact with the solution
-contact us from your webpage isn’t enough. You need to reach out to your customers
-talk periodic team field trips to continue to immerse yourself in the problem

Daina Burnes Linton – Fashion Metric
-how to start testing with customers before you build anything
-don’t rely on your intuition as it is usually wrong
-if your customer is willing to go through a less convenient experience to solve their problem then they is a good chance they will use your even better version
-understand what the “real” problem is
-make sure that you ask open ended questions
-use the concierge approach to solve the problem found and see how customers respond
-once done that started building a small MVP to see how accurately it solved the problem
-stats and metrics driven
-while validating your hypotheses you will most likely find new problems which is great
-avoid the “if only we knew then what we know now” by learning from your customers on day 1

Christie George – New Media Ventures
-startup network of angel investors and philanthropists
-concept of lean impact by applying lean for social change
-the good news is that it is already happening (Kiva, change.org, unworthy, etc, etc)
-but there are a bunch of challenges we don’t talk about. We need to start telling the truth
-when we fail in the social sector, we fail real people
-social changes takes a very long time! For example it took 50 years for mainstream acceptance of inter-racial marriage
-identifying the customer is really hard and funders have a hard time taking risks
-so we need to change the way we fund people to solve big problems allowing people to take big risks
-rapidly deploy seed funding through things like the Innovation Fund and modeled after the Knight Foundation Prototype Fund. Check out The Awesome Foundation for the 1K grants each month. Pollination takes it further with 1K each day
-create a culture where the truth is incentivized
-we need to share information obsessively especially within philanthropic interests
-really excited about how crowdfunding can be used to unlock matching funding

Ari Gesher – Palantir
-hypergrowth is painful
-but you can make it suck less
-this is a great problem to have
-startups are all about the team. So how do you get the right team?
-the key to hyper-growth is hiring. If you can’t get your hiring machine in order you will fall apart
-it is surprising how much time and effort it takes to find great talent. Everyone in the company needs to be involved in the process
-after you get hiring nailed, figure out how to scale the rest of things. Focus your efforts on the systems that manage your processes. Design your systems for growth (email, food, comms, etc)
-but you need to keep it lean. Plan but don’t build it yet
-don’t worry about the small stuff that you can throw money at it to solve
-the hard stuff to focus on is real estate and leadership since they have long lead times
-leadership is actually a build vs. Buy approach – do you bring it outside experience or internal people?
-get help. This is a well understood problem and you should compare notes with other startups. For example, executive coaches if you go the build route is a good option.
-Suggested a book called Managing Humans
-so they just hired the author of the book 🙂
-train your leads to be the communication nodes in a network of adept people. This should help reduce the communication overhead. Think of them as connectors not as being in charge
-culture is important and get it right early. Talk about it with new hires from the beginning. This is an emergent property of the people you hire. Make sure new hires are the right cultural fit too.
-enable cross pollination (like playing video games together or lunches or sports teams) to build non-obvious links or high bandwidth back channels
Indoctrinate culture – spend time teaching people what to think when they come into the company. Give them a framework on what to expect.
-these are our values, how we work together, etc which allows everyone to take ownership of the culture

Steve Blank
-talk about his moneyball article on using evidence based entrepreneurship and investment readiness levels
-business plans belong in the art department because they are the best examples of creative writing 🙂
-lean startup is like Ikea in that it looks good in the store but now you are at home trying to put the pieces together
-built software called Launchpad Central (2200 teams using it today) to help solve this problem
-NSF Innovation Corps and is now mandatory for all scientists who want to get funding
-launched the Lean Launchpad Educators Seminar which teaches educators every quarter to help them make classes
-Lean Launchpad Incubator/Accelerator seminar
-software includes weekly progress, experiment scorecard and the data coming out of that work
-think of this as instrumenting startups for the first time and you could create a leaderboard
-automatically generate and update lean business model canvas
-track all hypotheses that are being tested
-9 way Kanban board with data
-available at launchpadcentral.com
-with all of the data we can now come up with a common language to describe the readiness level for investment
-the emphasis here is on data and evidence to formally quantify risks
-this is generic so feel free to customize or tune depending on our needs and industry

Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez – Back to the Roots
-built a self cleaning fish tank
-launched on kickstarter
-check out the mushroom kit to grow your own mushrooms in 10 days
-lessons learned
-viable – what is the definition?
-you need to test out all of your components. Everything has to work successfully. Don’t get caught up in the rush to deliver a product causing further problems.
-just because kickstarter knows what your product does, it doesn’t mean that it will sell well in retail using that packaging
-really need to understand how people make decisions in retail and the packaging that drives that decision
-new brooms always sweep clean – don’t get caught up in your own hype. Stick to the basics.

Keya Dannenbaum – Electnext
-follow your passion or don’t follow your passion to avoid the hype
-we romanticize the addiction to our startup and our brains will work to fix that. Being high is a bad way to run a business
-when it crashes (when myth confronts reality) many think it wasn’t meant to be
-passion is a mess and we make irreversible decisions often at the peak
-dedicated practice is the right approach where you go slowly but never give up. It is sustained daily, processed and won’t let you down. It doesn’t follow passion and is totally independent.
-lean startup tactics do a great job at pushing practice over passion. It isn’t sexy and not PR worthy but very important
-the daily rigour that commits us to success
-you also can and will get better at it over time
-with practice you can see fear give way to courage
-spend less time building the MVP which leads to faster cycle times and decreases the emotional investment if it doesn’t work
-passion always stays there but plays a much smaller role than we give it credit for
-passion can serve as a foundation and keeps you pointing forward

John Goulah – Etsy
-continuous change at scale
-why does it work and how can it help?
-it minimizes risk between when the code is ready and when it goes live
-makes the integration process smoother
-created engineer happiness because of the immediate feedback cycle especially with community engagement
-also provides more learning opportunities
-what are the pre-reqs?
-you need some kind of continuous integration environment and builds that are reliable and fast
-you can’t have slow tests
-keep a stable trunk so you can push it at any time
-also have a “try” server so you can test before pushing live. This is available on github for free
-next you need to monitor the code being deployed, its impact and who put it up
-instrument the website so you can find out exactly where problems occur
-feature flags – quickly turn a piece of functionality on or off. If flag is on your code does one thing and off another.
-this allows for ramp ups so that you can slowly release features to customers. Also on github
It has to be an autonomous process that people can do on their own. Allow them to act as their own ops team.
-culture is important and the hardest part. Everyone has to buy in.
-there is a trade off (smaller risk changes or fewer big risk changes)
-it comes down to trust and making sure that your mechanisms are trustworthy too
-it also eliminates the ceremony for a big launch
-get used to the fact that deploys are not releases
-getting started using dashboards so that you can find where to look for problems
-then create non-blocking tests so that it doesn’t get in the way of pushing code
-keep it simple!

John Shook – Lean Enterprise institute
-told the story about bringing lean production techniques from Toyota in Japan to Fremont in NUMMI
-hiding problems is the most anti-lean thing you can do
-no problem is a problem! Find the problems.
-NUMMI is now the home of Tesla
-it all comes down to the fact it is a management system. We all want to be lean but it takes work!
-engage everyone in problem finding and continuous experimentation. Give everyone permission to fail.

Patrick Vlaskovits – Superpowered
-talking about the graveyard of good ideas
-most startups fail
-even penicillin failed initially
-what is the secret that successful innovators know that we don’t?
-the medium is the message. How your customers learn about your product is part of your product. How they experience it is part of your product development.
-context matters! It influences how we think about products.
-it isn’t enough to have an innovative product. The more innovative the product, the more innovative the medium needs to be.
-you need a symbiotic relationship between the product and the medium
-find a medium, create one or hack one
-all great innovators understand this intuitively
-you cannot farm this out to a marketing team. You cannot. Determine the appropriate medium to give you that hockey stick growth.

Brad Smith – Intuit
-the journey of lean startup inside Intuit over the past four years
-still learning!
-how do you introduce lean into your culture and influence it to embrace lean
-make innovation everyone’s job. Create an environment where innovation comes through every single day
-getting to yes is the critical goal with speed as the currency. HR, legal, etc are there to help get to yes as fast as possible
-get out of the way – the bottleneck is always at the top of the bottle!
-create an environment where you recognize your role is to empower the team.
-leaders issue challenges and then encourage teams to get to the end result. As a leader, don’t push your opinion. Ask what the leap of faith assumptions and test them so everyone can learn.
-try to reduce touch points
-interesting that Intuit has created their own system for “investment readiness level” but they don’t call it that. They are called horizons (horizon planning) and projects graduate from 3 to 2 to 1.
-also very insightful that the talent for the teams at each horizon is different. Each has a different role to play and an interest for that type of role.
-a grand challenge has to be bigger than a single product can solve. Push people into their learning zone and be a better person.
-paint the big vision and get the hell out of the way

Drew McManus – Pivotal Labs
-roles and responsibility discussions are a symptom of conflict. This all sucks and manufactures silos.
-you will have overlap and in many cases it can be good. Use the goals of the team not the individual roles as the guide. The overlap areas provide the biggest area of collaboration
-this requires a certain level of maturity on the team. You need to have trust and communication
-if people are stepping on toes, start the communication rather than pulling out the rule book. Be the model leader.

Zach Niles – Rally Software
-before building you need to “frame” the experiment. We need another step. Frame the problem and then frame the experiment to maximize our ability to learn.
-start by interviewing people face to face noting what they say, what they are thinking, their feelings, etc
-empathy allows you to better understand the customer
-hindsight bias is very dangerous!
-compare against expectations that were set in advance. Maximize learning by balancing safety and empathy

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