Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Lean Startup Tokyo edition

I had a blast speaking at Startonomics Tokyo, which was organized to foster ties between the startup cultures in Japan and Silicon Valley. It was an eye-opening day, and a great crowd to present to. As usual, I'll post the slides and then check in with the live commentary and feedback, and offer some additional comments. Without further ado, the slides:

And now, the feedback:
Slansing97: #leanstartup @ericries Stumbled into your live talk, and it's very relevant to me! I'm watching as EA clings onto the waterfall model. Thx!

adamjacksonSF: #GoaP #leanstartup - notes and slides from Eric's preso - doesn't do it justice - go see him live if you can - http://bit.ly/Uherx

yongfook: @ericries is a rock star. Very concise presentation and a great speaker. I am now decompressing with a guinness. Mmm. #goap

ericnakagawa: Show of hands how many in startup here? 40%, How many think they could iterate faster? Same #. #leanstartup #goap
It was great to be in an audience of entrepreneurs who recognized the value of iteration and speed. Even though they may not know how to improve, they were eager to learn. It meant the questions and discussion were very practical.
benjaminjoffe: early adopters of buggy product are visionary customers, sometimes smarter than founders! #goap #ericries

InvisibleGaijin: #goap #leanstartup Eric Ries talks about importance of "visionary customers" in startup success. Brilliant insight.
Many founders don't like to hear that visionary customers are as smart, maybe even more so, than they are. Startups need to spend time with these customers. In fact, early stage companies shouldn't be able to get time from anyone else - who else would be crazy enough to try an truly innovative new product? Incidentally, I can't take credit for this idea - it appears in The Four Steps to the Epiphany, Crossing the Chasm, and many others.

christinelu: if you're building a disruptive innovation ...the only people who you want to talk to are early adopters. not investors says @ericries #goap
heysanford: Nay, recipe for chasm crossing fail. RT @christinelu: building a disruptive innovation? ... only talk to early adopters. @ericries #goap
Continuing on the theme of early adopters, I thought this exchange was really interesting. First of all, let me emphasize how much more important it is to talk to customers than to talk to investors, journalists, and the people who hang around at industry trade shows. I've previously recounted the story of the IMVU "IM add-on" feature, a feature that sounds so good on paper I wound up building it twice. Yet it's one of those features that's only ever requested by investors and engineers - never by customers.

Books like Crossing the Chasm are excellent, but they can be misleading. Getting to the chasm is actually quite difficult; most truly early-stage startups never even get that far. The most important thing is to realize that all strategies and tactics are context-sensitive. It's never "always correct" to do a certain thing, and therefore there really aren't any universal "best practices." Instead, we need to focus on tuning our practices to our real situation. Thus, even something as general as "listening to customers" can actually be lethally bad advice.
davetroy: "Think about how *hard* it would be to get a big company to steal your idea. That paranoia is totally ridiculous." - @ericries at #goap
People who work in big companies often laugh out loud when they hear startup founders acting paranoid about having their great ideas stolen. That's not to say that there are no situations where patent or trade secret protection is important. Rather, it shouldn't be considered obvious. Most startup ideas are actually completely worthless without learning and iteration to back them up.
davetroy: "Fanatical empathy for your customer's pain point is the key to designing great products." - @ericries at #goap Tokyo
I get a particular type of question quite often - I call it the "Steve Jobs defense." The idea is that great product visionaries don't need to listen to customers or test their ideas against reality. They just call forth amazing products from the ether. That's how the iPhone was made, right? I really don't buy this account of product visionaries. For one, it doesn't match my experience having worked with some true visionaries at all. It also doesn't seem to line up with the documentary record. Read Founders at Work or take a look at this video of Jobs himself, and see if you see anything at odds with that story.

My belief is that what makes product visionaries awesome is their ability to have radical empathy for their customers, and then to rigorously hold teams accountable for building solutions that match that standard.

Most surprising of all, to me at least, were the questions I got about how to reconcile the lean startup with "the Japanese way of doing business." Since I learned much of what I know about lean from studying Toyota, you can imagine how great a shock this was. After some discussion, it seemed like what I was hearing was that Japanese companies like Toyota have been so successful that many people have forgotten the entrepreneurial roots of those same companies. For anyone interested in this topic, I highly recommend reading Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production.

I want to thank everybody who helped oragnize the Startonomics Japan event and the whole Geeks on a Plane trip, especially Dave McClure and Founders Fund, who arranged for me to speak in Tokyo. I had a great time, and learned a great deal.
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1 comment:

  1. Amazing Video, great. Really interesting and knowledgable blog, awesome. All Japanese products specially Japan Electronics Products are very famous in all over the world. Thanks for sharing this.