Lessons By The Fire: Learnings from the Lean Startup Circle Meetup
Last week I was lucky enough to join roughly 90 other people at a Lean Startup Circle Meetup event at Votizen in San Francisco. The event featured a “fireside chat” with Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup and Hiten Shah, CEO at KISSmetrics.
I have read The Lean Startup, listened to multiple talks by Eric Ries, and even listened to a webinar he did through O’Reilly. While all of those provided great insights and excellent advice, nothing compares to going to an in-person event. I loved the “fireside chat” format, which basically consisted of Hiten asking Eric questions, because it provided a comfortable setting for Eric to answer the questions more off-the-cuff and conversationally. If you’re wondering why I keep putting fireside chat in quotes, check out the “fire” in the picture on the right.
While most of the things I learned at the meetup are probably not the most riveting, they were all hugely beneficial for me as it got me thinking about how they apply to my startup company, Bluebird Interactive and our debut product Shoestring.
Eric started out by saying that most startups don’t really implement any of the Lean Startup principles. Even companies that claim they are. This made sense to me because it really is a change in thinking when compared to the typical write a business plan with some sort of assumptions regarding growth and customer acquisition included, build a fully-formed product, bring it to market with a big bang, and then hope customers come in droves strategy that has been used by companies for years.
That discussion dovetailed into a quick discussion about the MVP (minimum viable product). Eric was quick to complain about how it has become a bit of a buzz word in the startup world, because that can tend to lesson the value of the idea behind it. Of course, he was speaking to a group of people that were probably all on board with the benefits of an MVP strategy. He did point out that developing an MVP is not an excuse for creating a crappy product, which he has definitely witnessed since writing the book.
A large portion of the chat was spent talking about Eric’s concept he dubs innovation accounting. Here’s a video of Eric from the Washington Post where he explains it:
He then went on to explain the 3 engines of growth — viral, paid, and sticky. I think most people understand viral at this point, essentially a product that is shareable through social media and word of mouth. Paid refers to products that require typical commercial advertising in order to drive customers to buy. Sticky growth applies to products that are addictive or beneficial for multiple uses. With Shoestring we believe that we have a sticky product, especially for developers since they can use it for many clients. We are working on a new MVP idea for Shoestring that might be viral amongst developers, but more on that later on the Bluebird blog.
Eric seems like he’s still adjusting to being the face of the Lean Startup movement. He spoke of being reluctant to do a Wired feature interview. Eric told the interviewer if he really wanted to see the Lean Startup in action he knew a startup that would be glad to let him visit and see it in action. But that doesn’t sell magazines apparently, so our reluctant Lean Startup guru posed for the ridiculously backlit photoshoot and moved on to the next speaking engagement where he continued to spread the word.
By the way, he hates the term guru and demonstrated so via a quote from Peter Drucker, “People use the word guru because they can’t spell charlatan.” Loved that one so much, I tweeted it.
After the chat I was able to network and meet fellow entrepreneurs, investors, and professionals from all of the world including Australia, Finland, and 2 blocks away in SF!
Many thanks to Tristan Kromer for taking over the reigns of the Meetup group and organizing such a great event.