Oh [#LeanStartup], Where Art Thou?
So once upon a time a guy named Eric started a movement. Truth be told, like most of us he was probably trying to start something that would decrease his probability of financial hardship in the future, and in the process possibly make a bit of a name for himself. It would appear it worked and his insights have been well received, by BOTH startups starting out AND mega-corporations interested in a given decade’s operational ‘botox’. But whatever the path that leads you to Lean, it can be an incredible learning experience. So yea, build-[test+]measure-learn is EXACTLY it, and the take-home is that you’ll gain a great deal from all three. Most companies do not approach this trifecta in anything that resembles a sustainable loop, let alone a timely one. Product designers/developers/engineers come up with something that works [sometimes well], and from there the true ‘test’ is whether it attains ‘market success’ (or at least falls marginally above breakeven to fuel further product development/launches/’experiments’). The point being, the lean startup method-/ideology [philosophy really] can remove a great deal of risk from that equation/process.
Last week was Lean’s big show, the Lean Startup Conference, and this year felt … all grown up. Pier 27 as a venue lent itself in a way, but that wasn’t it. The conference has been held on top of Nob Hill in years past, plenty of legitimacy and #streetcred have been in the mix for a while now. This year was something else. I think it may have been that practitioners lead the show. It felt crowdsourced for lack of a better term. The people on stage weren’t necessarily the stars of their respective organizations, but rather, the best suited to speak to the trials and tribulations of a lean approach. It felt to me the first year that Lean could live on beyond Mr. Ries. My guess is that’s probably his intent.
Whether it was the City Manager of Hayward or a resident designer at GoogleVentures (GV), an Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property or a well known Silicon Valley VC w/ a new fund, it was obvious that those invited to speak were believers. An almost religious fervor abounds in the hallways of a Lean event, let alone a full conference, and a lot of that loyalty stems from one notable fact: Lean allows you to identify HOW to improve w/ the data to back it up. This is powerful. Not gut reactions, nor previous experience, nor forecasting models built on assumptions and trends; but rather, an ‘operating system’ that allows one to absorb here-and-now (the present) and quickly factor it into decision-making for the then-and-there (the future). Yes, it’s powerful.
The companies on hand were interesting too, of which I had the opportunity to speak with a few. There was grow.com (a BI dashboard company that can help you make sense of all your #dataflows), which outside of their enviable url, was also interesting wrt making simple sense of all those potentially ‘magic’ API’s your SaaS providers make available. Also RainforestQA, self described as ‘Agile QA for Fast-Moving teams’, their crowdsourced testing platform for web and mobile apps seemed pretty primed for testing itself. And speaking of web and mobile, Amplitude was on hand (a fast-growing analytics platform I was already familiar with) and introduced me to a new product offering: behavioral cohorting. I was also able to finally place some context around Pollen8.io, which I definitely find intriguing (if you &/or your team have used it successfully, please let me know @jshack).
So the message here: go start something. Who knows, we most certainly live in a crazy world, maybe you too can start a movement. At the least, you will grow as a person from committing to build-test-learn. At the most? It’s never too late to run for [Lean] President. It would most certainly appear our Odyssey needs some intervention, be it for Helen, Paris, or Troy itself.