Saturday, October 4, 2008

About the author

(Update February, 2011: This post originally dates from October, 2008 back when I first started writing this blog. I've updated the "official" conference bio below but otherwise the text remains unchanged from that original essay.)

The most common feedback I've heard from readers has been that I should provide details on my background. I didn't include much on the blog at first, because I want you to judge what I write based on what I say, rather than who I am. So if you're new, consider not paying any attention to the rest of this post, and just diving into the archives, if you haven't already. (Maybe you'd like to start with The lean startup, How to listen to customers, or What does a startup CTO actually do?)

For everyone else, here's the standard bio paragraph I use for conferences and other formal occasions:
Eric Ries is the creator of the Lean Startup methodology and the author of the popular entrepreneurship blog Startup Lessons Learned. He previously co-founded and served as Chief Technology Officer of IMVU. In 2007, BusinessWeek named Ries one of the Best Young Entrepreneurs of Tech and in 2009 he was honored with a TechFellow award in the category of Engineering Leadership. He serves on the advisory board of a number of technology startups, and has worked as a consultant to a number of startups, companies, and venture capital firms. In 2010, he became an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Harvard Business School.

He is the co-author of several books including The Black Art of Java Game Programming (Waite Group Press, 1996). While an undergraduate at Yale Unviersity, he co-founded Catalyst Recruiting. Although Catalyst folded with the dot-com crash, Ries continued his entrepreneurial career as a Senior Software Engineer at, leading efforts in agile software development and user-generated content. 
I'm one of those people who's been programming since they can remember. I got my start programming on an old IBM XT; it was thanks to MUDs that I first discovered the internet. Those early text-based games were programmed by their own users, and it was by far the best tutorial I could ever have received in the power of software. In a MUD, you could literally conjure new objects that never existed before, just by programming them. I know many people who think that software works like magic, but to me it actually was magic.

Later, I discovered you could get paid to program computers, and really never looked back. While I was still in high school, I became a Java "expert" during a time when there was no such thing. Thanks to Sun's amazing PR blitz, there was tremendous demand for experts on Java, and I did my best to convince people that I was one of that mythical breed. Thanks to the anonymity of the internet, I landed a few jobs, and did quite a bit of writing.

By the time the entrepreneurial bug hit me, the dot-com boom was in its waning days. So much for timing. But I managed a few "good learning experiences" before throwing myself full-bore into IMVU. For almost five years I had the opportunity to build and serve with one of the most talented team I have ever seen. It was by far the most intense and most rewarding experience of my professional life. Because of IMVU's reputation, I've also had the opportunity to serve as an advisor or board member for more than a dozen startups. Rolling up my sleeves and serving with them has enriched my understanding and provided many of the lessons I write about here.

In retrospect, there are some clear themes that stand out from across my career. I have always tried to be a consistent advocate for rapid iterations, fact-based decision making, free software, and values-centric organizations. Every startup has a chance to change the world, by bringing not just a new product, but an entirely new institution into existence. That institution will touch many people in its life: customers, investors, employees, and everyone they touch as well. I believe we have an obligation to ensure the resulting impact is worthy of the energies we invest in bringing it to life.

Eventually, I came to summarize these themes with the phrase "the lean startup." Lean is one of the major trends shaping our world, and its impact goes beyond just optimizing our supply chains. Lean startups can be the most capital efficient companies in the world, because they strive to prevent energy from being expended uselessly. Human talent, passion, and wisdom is too precious a commodity to allow it to be wasted.

So that's me, your author. I hope you take something of value from this blog. If you do, please share your story here in a comment.

Thanks for stopping by.


  1. "because I want you to judge what I write based on what I say, rather than who I am"

    Thanks for choosing to go that route. The world needs more of this.

    The games industry in particular suffers too much of the "listen only to people for the projects they worked on rather than whether they have anything useful to say, or are any good at explaining it".

    (I even got removed as a conference speaker recently - after being cold-called and asked to speak by the organizers themselves in the first place! - simply because I left the large, famous MMO company I was working for to prepare a quiet startup)

    Personally, I got lucky and started in an area (online games) where I found channels such as MUD-DEV (and early GDCs) for meeting, listening to, and speaking to other people where people were taken how they were found. Without those open and yet expert-filled channels, it might have taken me many years more to correct my naivety and fill out my understanding of core topics.

    Of course it's much harder to judge and select based on skill and inherent value rather than track record, but I think it's worth trying.

    Incidentally, a couple of us are playing with the idea of getting a hotel meeting room and running a tiny, voluntary "Rejects Conference" in parallel with GDC this year for good talks from unknown people (and rejected-but-good talks from good people).

  2. Eric, love the blog. From my perspective it's one of the best sources of startup advice in existence.

    I'm one of the cofounders of Job Alchemist, from the last Y Combinator batch, and I have a quick question to run by you.

    Connect (off)line? I'm at luke at jobalchemist dot com. Thanks much.

  3. Thanks for your professional blog. Looking forward for your future posts.

  4. Thanks for writing insightful blogs. You have my respect with your realistic and no BS style.

    I've founded and self-funded a (lean) startup on my own. Your "startup-lessons-learned" are very valuable. Would love to get in touch.

  5. Eric,

    I landed upon your blog when I was searching for 'the path to CTO' a couple of months back and I have been a frequent to the site since then. Your blogs are full of rational thoughts and has nuggets of information. Looking forward to more of these.


  6. Is ShareThis really necessary? It absolutely kills my browser's performance for several seconds, until I get a pop up:

    "A script on this page may be busy, or it may have stopped responding. You can stop the script now, open the script in the debugger, or let the script continue.


    at which point, I can stop the script and scroll the page until I hit another link to your blog. :(

  7. Eric, thanks for sharing your lessons learned. Your thoughts resonate and I enjoy much your writing style. I will come back for more. Cheers!

  8. Wondering how do I get in touch with you - I am founder of a company here in San jose, CA and would like to invite you to be part of our advisor team. Please share your thoughts to krishna at ntroduction dot com


  9. Excellent insight Eric. It is encouraging to know someone with your reputation and connections is evangelizing truly valuable information for start-ups. Thanks and thanks again.

  10. I attended your MIT/Stanford VLAB presentation last night and had a question: To what degree have lean startup principles actually been applied to ventures outside of software and web services?

  11. hey eric,

    love the blog. am interested in doing a guest post about having a lean e-commerce startup.

    my startup is Blank Label (, which is a provider of custom dress shirts that empowers consumers to become the designer of their own product. we're fairly new, just launched our platform OCT 31st, but we are advent entrepreneurs and truly believe in a connected, lean startup. I'd love to do a guest post on your blog about how a lean startup can truly allow the core team to get more interactive with consumers to get the proper feedback for better improvement of our product/service.

    hope to hear from you.

    danny wong

  12. Eric,

    I've been following your blog with interest for several months. I help lead the Engineering Leadership SIG at SDForum and wonder if you would be interested in speaking to our group about lean starups. We meet the 3rd Thursday each month at SAP in Palo Alto. Please email me if you are interested.

    Ken Yagen (@kenyagen)

  13. My first time at your blog. You are a great blogger. My first post of yours I read was one on gender. Blew my mind. An engineer who can talk intelligently about gender! Wow. You are on my blogroll now.