(Photo by The Lean Startup Conference/Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin)
Day 2 of The Lean Startup Conference in San Francisco included main stage speakers such as lean startup pioneer Steve Blank, Detroit's lean manufacturing expert John Shook and Christie George of New Media Ventures. The day was finished off in great fashion with a wonderful dialogue led by Eric Ries with Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon of Andreessen Horowitz.
- Christie George (@christiegeorge) is Director of New Media Ventures, an angel network focused on media startups that drive social and political progressive change. Applying lean thinking in social ventures is her vision based on a personal philosophy that "if you can do better, you should". Her story of personal belief in the idea and without direct experience is inspirational and ultimately led to success that they are seeing today. Don't just dream or assume others will do it, follow your own passions and "be the change you want to see" as Gandhi said.
- Palantir is a computer security company that was founded in 2004 by a group of Stanford scientists and Paypal alums, has doubled in size every year since. Ari Gesher (@alephbass) has been engaged in much of Palantir's growth. His 3 keys for success in hypergrowth? Hiring, hiring, and hiring. If you can't do this well, you'll never sustain successful growth. Palantir focuses a lot of effort on building leaders and supporting/nurturing its culture. "Culture is an emergent property of the people you hire".
- Steve Blank of Stanford and co-author of "The Startup Owner's Manual" and author of "Four Steps to the Epiphany" provided some salient points on evidence-based entrepreneurship for the audience. According to Steve, "everthing we've been told about business building has been wrong". Entrepreneurship is a discipline and one that can be measured and repeated. My favorite quote form Steve on the lean startup movement was "Lean startup is like a trip to IKEA. Everything looks good in the store, but what do you do when you get it home?" He provided a case for a more predictble model of entrepreneurship through his 'lean launchpad' approach. According to Steve, the implementation of these methods through training at the National Science Foundation led to a change in venture success rate from 18% to over 60%. He finished up with (a bit of a commercial) for another startup he's helped co-found "Launchpad Central", which he claims is the first comprehensive platform for lean startup portfolio management and mentoring.
- Wyatt Jenkins (@wyatt_earp_) of Shutterstock provided a deep dive into Shutterstock's experimentation and testing culture. According to Wyatt, "growth is a series of experiments". Steves talk included a variety of support tools and tactics they use for more effective A/B tests and other experiments used to continually improve Shutterstock's user experience and conversion rates.
- Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon of Andressen Horowitz wrapped up the main conference in a wide ranging discussion on the evolution of entrepreneurship with Eric Ries. Some of the key points:
- Marc: "Tech is harder than other industries. I'm jealous of Campbell's Soup. Invented some soup a hundred years ago and they're still selling it"
- Marc discussing Tech reaching beyond Silicon Valley: "Every industry well be Tech enabled in coming years. The auto industry is there right now. We're colonizing every industry."
- Chris on what advice he'd give to entrepreneurs: "Expect a 5-10+ year journey, not a quick payout. So work on an idea that's worthy of that."
- Marc on advice for entrepreneurs: "Entrepreneurs over-train on how to pitch to VC's. They under-train on how to have ideas that VC's can't resist funding."
- Chris on what investors look for: "Best companies combine founder skills and dedication with a headstart on understanding the maze of the particular challenge area."
- Marc on what investors look for: "The top down market assessment is the kiss of death. Know why your idea will scale and be able to explain the dynamics of how it can happen."
- Marc on demonstrating viability: "Get 100 customers who are thrilled with you."
Overall, an inspirational conference, with some great opportunities for networking with both executives and many passionate entrepreneurs. I predict we'll see more entreprise executives in each coming year as they wake up to the need to connect to these startups and to using lean startup principles in their own new venture efforts.
Many thanks to the @leanstartup organizers for pulling off a great event and allowing me to share in the activities. Let's see if I can go build a few more lean startups in the next 12 months with this new energy.