Monday, August 27, 2012

Marc Andreessen will be at The Lean Startup Conference - will you?

This post was co-written by Eric Ries and Sarah Milstein, co-hosts of The Lean Startup Conference.

Marc Andreessen hardly needs introduction, but we're pleased to introduce him anyway--as a keynote speaker for The Lean Startup Conference on December 3, 2012 in San Francisco. Among the most respected thinkers in Silicon Valley, Marc may be most familiar to you as co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz. Or perhaps you remember him as the guy who built the first widely used web browser. Or maybe you think of him as a founder of Netscape. Or of Opsware. Or of Ning. You get the picture. We'll be honored to have him on stage.

Among the reasons we're excited is that Marc helped popularize the idea of product/market fit, homing in on the absolute importance of creating a product that resonates with a specific market--a key concept that is foundational to many Lean Startup techniques.

Marc wrote about it way back in 2007 when he addressed the question, "What causes success?" In a must-read post, he explored startup teams, products and markets in ways that only a close participant could see:
"If you ask entrepreneurs or VCs which of team, product, or market is most important, many will say team. This is the obvious answer, in part because in the beginning of a startup, you know a lot more about the team than you do the product, which hasn't been built yet, or the market, which hasn't been explored yet...
"On the other hand, if you ask engineers, many will say product. This is a product business, startups invent products, customers buy and use the products. Apple and Google are the best companies in the industry today because they build the best products. Without the product there is no company. Just try having a great team and no product, or a great market and no product...
"Personally, I'll take the third position -- I'll assert that market is the most important factor in a startup's success or failure.  
"In a great market -- a market with lots of real potential customers -- the market pulls product out of the startup. The market needs to be fulfilled and the market will be fulfilled, by the first viable product that comes along. The product doesn't need to be great; it just has to basically work. And, the market doesn't care how good the team is, as long as the team can produce that viable product."
Marc then explored aspects of teams and products and markets, and the he concluded this about product/market fit:
"When you get right down to it, you can ignore almost everything else. I'm not suggesting that you do ignore everything else -- just that judging from what I've seen in successful startups, you can.  
"Whenever you see a successful startup, you see one that has reached product/market fit -- and usually along the way screwed up all kinds of other things, from channel model to pipeline development strategy to marketing plan to press relations to compensation policies to the CEO sleeping with the venture capitalist. And the startup is still successful.  
"Conversely, you see a surprising number of really well-run startups that have all aspects of operations completely buttoned down, HR policies in place, great sales model, thoroughly thought-through marketing plan, great interview processes, outstanding catered food, 30" monitors for all the programmers, top tier VCs on the board -- heading straight off a cliff due to not ever finding product/market fit.  
"Once a startup is successful, and you ask the founders what made it successful, they will usually cite all kinds of things that had nothing to do with it. People are terrible at understanding causation. But in almost every case, the cause was actually product/market fit."
Marc isn't just a unusually insightful writer; he also a thoughtful speaker. We'll hear more about what he's learned about product/market fit since 2007, what it's like to become one of Silicon Valley's most sought-after investors, and ways he thinks people misuse Lean Startup concepts to their detriment. We're excited to continue this conversation with him at The Lean Startup Conference. Register here to join us.

In related news, we just opened up another block of early-bird tickets for the conference so that you can see speakers like Marc at great rates. The last three blocks sold out quickly - and once this block sells out, prices go up. You can register here.

Monday, August 20, 2012

September in New York

I have been getting a lot of questions on Twitter about my upcoming trip to the east coast, so I thought I would post a brief update here. For the next month or so I'll be on the road, starting in Washington DC and then proceeding to New Haven, New York, and Boston. But most of the time - for almost the whole month of September - I'll be in Manhattan. I'm really looking forward to quality time with the startup scene there.

For some reason, most of my speaking events scheduled on this trip are private or corporate. In fact, I don't think anything is open to the public until I keynote the AdExchanger Conference on September 20.

For day by day updates, please follow me on the twitters. If you'd like to arrange a public event, please get in touch via email.

PS. In case you haven't noticed my hundreds of messages about it, there's a Lean Startup Conference coming up on December 3-4 in San Francisco. Tickets just went on sale, so book yours before prices go up. For all of my east coast friends who want to make a trip out of it, we've arranged five full days of events starting November 30.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Lean Startup Conference Registration is Open

This post was co-written by Eric Ries and Sarah Milstein, co-hosts of The Lean Startup Conference.

We’re pleased to announce that registration is officially open for The Lean Startup Conference 2012. Taking place December 3 - 4 at the InterContinental San Francisco, it will include terrific speakers, new case studies, lot of ways to learn and plenty of time to connect deeply with other attendees.  

Tickets go on sale today. We recognize that different people have different abilities to pay, so we’re trying a new pricing experiment this year, modeled on the way good airlines sell tickets: in blocks, where the first block is cheapest and the last block is most expensive. Each block has a limited number of tickets, and when the block sells out, the price goes up.

To test the registration system (have you heard of this cool thing called an MVP?), we started last week with a block of tickets at $299 each--and we alerted those of you who signed up to be notified (we did tell you to sign up if you wanted the lowest price). That block sold out immediately, and we offered the next block at $399, which also sold out right away. We’re now opening general registration at $485, still an incredible deal. When this batch sells out, the price will go up again, so if price is important to you, we urge you to register now. (We’ll continue to give the conference list early notification, so don’t hesitate to sign up for those emails.)

So what do you get for your money? On December 3, we’ll have a slate of top speakers sharing real-world lean startup stories and implementation advice that advance the state-of-the-art in our community. We’ll also have special lunches where you can connect with other people working on lean startup in your sector and evening events where you can join up with smaller groups. 

If one day of lean starup isn’t enough, how about five? On Tuesday December 4, we'll have a full day of workshops from some of the top Lean Startup leaders, including Janice Fraser, Patrick Vlaskovits, Brant Cooper, and more. We're excited to partner this year with the Warm Gun UX/design conference and Lean Startup Machine to offer five amazing days of learning and networking in San Francisco. 

Our Platinum Pass gets you, in addition to full access to all events, first dibs on the limited seats for hands-on workshops with experts, SF startup tours and special lunches. Here’s the basic schedule:

  • The Warm Gun conference is on Friday, November 30.
  • Lean Startup Machine starts the evening of the 30th and runs over the weekend until Sunday, December 2.
  • The Lean Startup Conference is on Monday, December 3 for a full day of sessions with entrepreneurs and lessons learned. 
  • On December 4, we're holding a day of hands-on workshops with experts and site visits with some of  San Francisco top startups.

The pricing for the Platinum Pass will always be better than the price of the individual pieces, but it will go up as The Lean Startup Conference ticket prices rise. Register today for the absolute best deal! 

If you can’t steal away for five days, you have the option of buying just the one conference day or a Gold Pass, which gets you the December 3 conference ticket plus the December 4 day of workshops and startup tours.

With our range of passes and prices, we’ve tried hard to make this show appealing for as many of you as possible--and we’re working on student passes and scholarships, too. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Seeking Speakers

This post was co-written by Eric Ries and Sarah Milstein, co-hosts of The Lean Startup Conference this fall.

Last weekwe announced the date and venue for The Lean Startup Conference: Dec 3 - 4, 2012 at the InterContintenal in SF. Now we’re starting to reach out to speakers. We’re aiming for a mix of people: those well known for their work on lean startups and those who aren’t yet prominent but are applying Lean Startup techniques and have valuable lessons to share. And, although this should probably go without saying, we’ll say it anyway: we’re seeking people who can deliver great talks, whether they’ve ever spoken at a conference before.

We know how to reach people who are famous in our community. Previous speakers have included folks like Steve Blank, Scott Cook, Hiten Shah, Dave Binetti, Janice Fraser, and Drew Houston. You may have also noticed a trend: most of our past speakers have been men, and most of them have been white. As a conference organizer, there's always this dilemma: you want to put people on stage that you know will do good job and tell the truth. But that means you tend to put people on stage who have involved you in their work directly. And, as has been documented many times, people tend to work with people like them. 

In our not-very-humble estimation, our past speakers have been fantastic. But that invite-who-you-know approach means we've almost certainly missed other terrific speakers with valuable stories to tell. As Eric's written before
‘When a team lacks diversity, that’s a bad sign. What are the odds that the decisions that were made to create that team were really meritocratic? That’s why I care a lot about diversity: not for its own sake, but because it is a source of strength for teams that have it, and a symptom of dysfunction for those that don’t.”
Put another way: the past process helped us field excellent speakers, but it drew from a limited pool of candidates and thus didn’t achieve great equity. This year, we’d like to consider a broader pool of candidates, beyond those we know personally. 

Many conferences and programs complain that they don't get a diverse group of applicants. We believe that part of the reason this happens is that people naturally don't bother applying to programs they don't think they'll be accepted to. We believe that doing our utmost to build a transparent, merit-based selection process will help us field a wider array of candidates.

If you’ve previously held back on applying to speak at a conference like this one because you assumed it wasn’t a meritocratic system and that you needed to know the organizers in order to land a speaking slot, read on.

So how we can find people we don’t yet know who have very useful experiences we can all learn from? By asking all of you to help us find them, encourage them to apply, and convince them their stories are worth hearing.

In our earlier selection process, we got a lot of potential speakers who were already on the circuit. So we’ve closed out that selection form, and we’re pivoting to a new process. (Note: if you were nominated through that form, we WILL follow up with you in August.)

Here’s the deal: If you have a Lean Startup experience or lesson to share--regardless of whether you’ve ever spoken publicly before--we ask that you create a two- or three-minute video in which you explain the idea that you’d like to present at The Lean Startup Conference, and that you share the link via our new speaker nomination form. For new speakers, we’ll provide hands-on help developing presentations, plus speaker training. 

If you don't think you're qualified to speak at a conference like this, you're probably wrong! Most of our amazing speakers also feel that way. In fact, this is a well-documented and universal psychological feeling. So we hope you'll consider applying anyway.

A few notes: 
* Although it's impossible to review a video blind (your speaking skill is part of what's being evaluated), we promise to review the written part of your application blind. When we're evaluating your application, we won't know your name, ethnicity, gender or age. (This is the blind resume screening technique Eric's recommended elsewhere.)

* We care about the story or tips you have to share. You do NOT have to be an All-time Lean Startup Expert for us to take you seriously (indeed, that’s the whole point--we already know those people). What you do need is a relevant experience or some advice that other people can learn from. Most of the time, a straight-up story about how you followed lean principles at your organization and did pretty well with them is not that useful for other entrepreneurs. Instead, consider things like: What hypotheses did you have that you were wrong about? What unexpected challenges did you face? Where have applied a lean approach to a new problem we haven’t considered? You might also look at tactics that you’ve refined in an innovative way--say, a new take on A/B testing or continuous deployment.

* We also care about your presentation style. You don’t have to show us swank slides or a perfectly smooth delivery, but we do want to see that you can connect with people. 

* We don’t care about the quality of the video; go ahead and make it on your phone, then upload it to YouTube. (Before you share the link, though, we recommend that you make sure the sound is not ridiculously quiet.)

* This time around, you are welcome to nominate yourself. 

* There are a few other tidbits we ask for on the nomination form, but it’s short. Do follow the directions and read them first before emailing questions. After we posted the last form, we got a few dozen questions, almost every single one of which we’d already addressed in the directions. 

* The deadline is Thurs, August 23 at midnight PT.

If you work with somebody--particularly a woman, person of color, or anybody else typically under-represented at tech conferences--who has relevant experience to share, please show them this post. Note, too, that we’re looking for speakers from different sectors, including education, non-profits, government and established companies. Again, here’s the new form.