Monday, May 31, 2010

Thank you

The past month has been an incredible roller coaster: #sllconf was a trending topic (briefly topping Justin Bieber before the wifi in the hotel gave out), the Web 2.0 Expo Intensive rocked, the mainstream media has started writing about the Lean Startup, and - most of all - the movement continues to grow and evolve. Having had a few weeks to recover from the adrenaline crash, I find myself full of gratitude.

First of all, the Startup Lessons Learned conference exceeded my wildest expectations. I could barely keep up with the reaction in the weeks leading up to it; the transition from cynicism to hype almost caused whiplash. Sean Murphy has an excellent and comprehensive roundup of resources about the conference: all of the slides, videos, summaries, notes and write-ups are listed on his blog here. I'd like to call special attention to Kurt Carr's perspective (let's hope he finishes his five-part series):
Now that I’m back in Ohio (I was one of the token foreigners in a room full of Silicon Valley residents), I have found myself reliving and rethinking much of what I saw there. It has taken me a while to integrate what I learned into my experiences but I think that I have gotten at least the MVP version of that integration completed. These posts are the result.

I went to the conference thinking that I was well grounded in the basics of the Lean Startup approach and that attendance would hone the edges of that understanding. As it turned out, my thinking was short sighted at best.

It’s not that I was ignorant of the fundamentals of Lean Startup thinking, but that hearing these fundamentals discussed by some very intelligent, experienced folks helped me transform and internalize that knowledge. I had really debated about whether there was any value in spending the time and money to fly to San Francisco when there was a perfectly serviceable simulcast going on in Cleveland. All I can tell the folks who attended the simulcasts is that I’m not missing either the time or the money.
(You can read the rest of his posts on his blog: Introduction, Part 1, Part 2.) All video from the conference is available for free at here. It's in reverse-chronological order, so start with page 3 or just use Sean's handy reference..

I am grateful to everyone who helped make this event a success, especially my co-organizers Charles Hudson and David Sachs. Erin Turner helped organize the dozens of simulcast venues. All of those venues had their own local organizers who deserve our thanks as well (especially those in distant time zones who had the stamina to watch live). And a special thanks is due to all of our presenters, panelists, and mentors. You are the ones that consistently blew the audience away.

One of the themes of the conference was that we all stand on the shoulders of giants. I'd like to supplement that with some personal thank-yous.

Steve Blank has been a mentor to me for several years. He had the courage to speak out about the need for a rigorous theory of entrepreneurship long before that was a popular idea. When I first encountered customer development, it was considered pure lunacy by mainstream entrepreneurs and VC's. He inspired me to take a deeper look at what we all thought we understood about startups. We all owe him our thanks for persevering. His latest project, to reform the teaching of entrepreneurship worldwide, will have no less an impact. Do you know the difference between Durant and Sloan? If not, you'd better watch video of his talk ASAP. And then you can buy a t-shirt.

Kent Beck is deservedly famous for his many contributions in the software industry. His characteristic humility and clear thinking were on display as he casually demolished one sacred cow after another. Although many of the non-technical folks in the room didn't understand what was happening in the moment, plenty of hackers were on high alert. By the time he was done, he had launched a new Agile Manifesto:
Team vision and discipline over individuals and interactions (or processes and tools)
Validated learning over working software (or comprehensive documentation)
Customer discovery over customer collaboration (or contract negotiation)
Initiating change over responding to change (or following a plan)
And he made it seem like no big deal. Of course ideas have to evolve and change. How often do you see that level of intellectual honesty on display? Thank you, Kent.

Randy Komisar is someone I am pleased to consider a friend and mentor. We were colleagues briefly at KPCB, where Randy has been working not just with individual companies, but also working to change the mindset of entrepreneurs everywhere. Unfortunately, the video of our sllconf conversation is not online (due to technical problems), but we have a physical tape backup which we are endeavoring to get online soon. In the meantime his two books, The Monk and the Riddle and Getting to Plan B are both a must-read.

There are so many more people to thank: Sarah Milstein and the Web 2.0 Expo team for their tireless efforts to give us a fantastic stage in San Francisco (my keynote and Steve Blank's are both online), Steve Lohr at the New York Times for two great pieces on the Lean Startup concept (The Rise of the Fleet-Footed Start-Up and What Start-Ups Can Teach Big Companies), Pui-Wing Tam of the Wall Street Journal for exposing the larger movement to a mainstream audience (with minus points for calling me a guru), Harvard Business School professor Tom Eisenmann who has helped behind the scenes, conference sponsors (especially Steve Anderson), Mark Graban and the Lean Enterprise Institute, my comrades-in-arms and fellow-bloggers (you know who you are, including David Binetti for correcting my spelling), and my family and friends who have supported/put up with me during this intense roller coaster.

Most of all, I wanted to say a huge thank you to all of you: readers, entrepreneurs, agents of change. I get more credit than I deserve for being in the right place and the right time, putting your aspirations and frustrations into words. Together, I believe we are changing the face of entrepreneurship. If that's true, it's primarily due to your hard work, building companies and testing new ideas. Entrepreneurship is the life-blood of our global civilization. We all owe you. Thank you.

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