Lean Startup Dinner with Eric Ries

August 20, 2009

Last night I attended the Lean Startup Dinner with Eric Ries hosted by TechStars. If you’re not familiar, Eric writes the Lessons Learned blog and actively promotes ideas for running lean startups based on his experiences.

I’m particularly fond of the minimum viable product (MVP) concept and have been using that from the beginning with my company’s new product, StatsMix. The essential idea behind MVP is to determine as early as possible the core set of features that solves a problem a customer is willing to pay for, build that out, and then continue to iterate in this fashion constantly creating something customers actually want.

Last night Eric spoke while we ate dinner at the Hotel Boulderado and then fielded questions afterward. The entire evening was an excellent opportunity to learn more about his ideas surrounding lean startups.

Here are few of my notes from his talk and the Q&A session:

  • Eric advocates small companies split into two cross functional teams – one focusing on the problem and one on the solution. Startups are not just small versions of how larger companies are organized.
  • What is the problem and is it worth solving?
  • When doing split-testing or A/B testing, remember the AAA’s of metrics: Actionable, Accessible, Auditable
  • A/B test anything you think will have a macroscopic effect.
  • Have high level company metrics for evaluating split tests.
  • Early adopters hate mainstream customers, but you have to go through them first if you ever want to reach the mainstream customers. A startup will eventually have to make a decision about which of these customers to continue to target.
  • Many of these ideas come from lean manufacturing and the auto industry.
  • StumpleUpon’s advertising program may be the new Google AdWords.
  • Understand vanity metrics vs. actionable metrics.
  • Actionable metrics – you know what to do to get more or less of these (A/B testing is helpful here)

If you’re interested in lean startups, definitely check out the Lessons Learned blog. There’s also an active Google group called the Lean Startup Circle that has been having some interesting discussions and case studies.

And for Boulder area entrepreneurs, Marty Haught is organizing a local meetup to regularly discuss lean startups based on these ideas.

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