On April 23rd I was able to go to the Startup Lessons Learned Conference and had my world rocked. I thought I was lean, I could be leaner. I thought I had a minimum viable product, I could have built less. Although Steve Blank, Eric Ries, Dave McClure, David Weekly etc. etc. all have written and spoken prolifically about their methods and thoughts, there is a powerful feeling to being the the same room as a thousand other people drinking the same kool-aid.
First off, I should mention that I wouldn’t of been able to go at all without the sponsorship of the Microsoft Bizspark program. Usually I’m not one to thank MS except sarcastically for bricking my hard drive, but there’s no way a bootstrapped company like ours could have gone. So special thanks to Adrian Perez, Joel Franusic, and Bizspark!
There are a number of great summaries, videos, and more like Steve Blank’s Keynote. I don’t think I can add much to that and plenty of people like Sean Murphy are already on the job so I’ll skip that and talk about teams.
We’re a team of three people. We agree on somethings and disagree on others. Fortunately most of our disagreements are the productive kind where we come up with a third, forth, and fifth solution through discussion and brainstorming. Still it takes us time to get in sync.
We’ve been talking about being a lean startup and customer development for months, reading and talking about Four Steps to the Epiphany. So I thought we were on the same page. Still, I was struck when Marcel turned to me in the middle of the conference and said, “So that’s what you’ve been talking about for months.”
Reasoning via Social Proof
Now, let’s be fair, there is a significant portion of the time where I’d describe myself as unintelligible. That’s my failing. However, I think there is always an element of social proof to reason. No matter how many times you might hear a cogent argument, it’s only when another guy chimes in with “I heard 2+2=4 as well” that we’re prepared to believe it. It’s true with facts and it’s more true with a paradigm shift.
Customer Development is a serious paradigm shift, especially for people who have been slugging away at product development in a big company like Manuel, Marcel, and myself. I may have gotten off the easiest since my last company was largely run like a startup (in the chaotic sense) and it has still taken me months to get into the spirit of lean. It takes a serious amount of un-indoctrination for us to even consider something as radical as questioning our own assumptions.
There is a value to sitting in a room with 1000 of your colleagues and realizing that you’re not the only one nodding in agreement. It’s a powerful reinforcement that is programmed into us by thousands and thousands of years of evolution. That’s a genetic trick that we need to take advantage of.
Of course we have to be careful that we’re not just monkey-see monkey-doing the latest business jargon and saying “out of pocket” like it not an incredibly idiotic phrase. We have to approach these things carefully and with thought. Still, we can take advantage of the great resources like the Startup Lessons Learned Conference and use our wired biology to our advantage.
We’re charged up. We thought of several ways we can chop functionality out of our product. We can test hypotheses that we thought we untouchable. We can explore revenue options months before we even considered it.
So my top takeaway from Startup Lessons Learned? Be a team.
A team working and thinking together under the same methodology can be efficient, learn faster, and achieve more.
We can make more value by building less. You can too.
P.S.: Go buy Four Steps to The Epiphany if you haven’t read it yet.