Lean Startup Conference

This week, I had the pleasure of attending the Lean Startup Conference in San Francisco. I’ll be honest: I knew little to nothing about Lean Startup practices and their terminology before I hopped on the plane from New York this past weekend. Now, I’m a convert. I’ll go back to my office, and hopefully be able to get some of the practices going within my department.

A bit of background, for those of you also unfamiliar with Lean Startup. Lean Startup is a business and product development methodology developed by Eric Ries (co-host of the conference). His theory is that through experimentation (think the scientific method for business), iteration, and early customer interaction, businesses can reduce risks and initial funding costs. This is based on lean manufacturing, production practices streamlined by Japanese automakers. There are a lot of big buzz words thrown around to help the concepts sink in to measurable action:

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)‘s are versions of the end-product which allow maximum data collection with the least amount of money/time. For example, starting with a landing page of a website to gage interest and find out if your hypothesis is correct before building out the entire database.

Continuous Deployment of code, so that small changes are adopted quickly. Why spend hundreds of hours on a huge single launch? There’s a greater opportunity for failure and to not know what piece of the puzzle didn’t work.

Actionable metrics versus vanity metrics. I’m perfectly guilty of subscribing and using the vanity metrics (the numbers that paint rosy pictures but may not reflect accurate engagement) for certain documentation. But, the actionable metrics are the ones that can paint a better picture and lead to smart decision making.

The biggest term that was thrown around was Pivot. Pivot is the change in strategy. If the initial hypothesis or idea doesn’t work, you can’t be afraid to change and go in a new direction.

Every speaker was a Lean practitioner, be it in a small startup to a major company (see Intuit). I got to see some of the greatest leaders of the modern web talk about what it means for them to be lean and how it has changed their business (see Matt Mullenweg, founder of Automatic and creator of WordPress, and Catherine Bracy, founder of Code for America).

I’m not an entrepreneur. I don’t imagine myself as someone who will create the next social network or product of social good. However, pretty much everything I heard was applicable to web development. I could go for a full recap of every session and the amazing moments, but perhaps the would be more valuable:


It was an amazing three days of learning. Thank you to Sarah Milstein, without whom I would never have known of this opportunity.

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