The Lean Startup movement stems from Eric Ries' best-selling book describing the "build -measure-learn" mantra. Building on the momentum was the Lean Startup Conference, which just finished December 11 in San Francisco. It was a gift for entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs pursuing their startup dreams.
Here are my lucky seven takeaways for brave new company founders:
1. Have an Experimentation Culture.
Janice Fraser of Luxr describes the lean startup as an approach for building companies that are creating new products and services in situations of extreme uncertainty. The key is experimenting and testing assumptions to then use that feedback to evolve your product. When I interviewed Scott Jones, inventor of voice mail, for How They Did It, he said to "fail fast," something he learned before the movement was codified (he didn't mean company failure, but rather to test to get to success).
2. The HIPPO Killer Is Experimentation.
HIPPO (Highest Paid Person's Opinion) means that the ranking officer will overly influence decisions -- in a meeting, in a company, whatever. Experimentation -- learning based on results -- kills uninformed opinions.
3. Know Exactly What Your Customer Values.
The customer rarely buys what the company thinks it sells. While lean is great, many entrepreneurs focus all their energy on building without engaging the world. You need to understand your market and with every new idea. Validate and talk to customers.
4. Get 100 Customers Who Are Thrilled With You.
...Or your company/product/service. Marc Andreessen said if you can get to 100 thrilled customers, you can get to 1,000, 10,000 and beyond. Find something a few people love, not necessarily what everyone will like.
5. Think Metrics, Not Pixels.
There is so much emphasis on beautiful design (which is great); however, sometimes the things that work aren't the obvious choices from a design perspective, so don't over-analyze. Test everything. Figure out what needs to be measured, then come up with mini experiments to improve those most critical items.
6. There Is No New Behavior.
We intrepid entrepreneurs hope our technology can successfully modify or enhance an existing behavior. One audience member asked what problem Snapchat was solving. Valid point, I'm thinking -- my kids use the app to make goofy faces for six seconds. The response was that Snapchat enhances an existing behavior: It's a modern version of passing notes in class. It's the way, for example, my daughter can share a picture of a dress or a silly picture with her friend. So, back to you: what behavior are you making easier/better?
7. Be Articulate and Clear.
What a buzzkill for your engineering team to not be able to explain to their friends what your technology or company does. Be clear on the problem you are solving, and then watch your team's motivation soar.