Thursday, October 11, 2018

A closer look at Lean Startup Conference 2018

As we put the final touches on Lean Startup Conference 2018, I wanted to take a moment to share more about some of the panels, workshops, and events. For the whole program, please take a look here. We’re looking forward to channeling the energy and excitement attendees bring with them, and to providing opportunities to learn about not just things that have been successful, but missteps and major obstacles that have been overcome--all part of the Lean Startup process.

Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn and Greylock Partners will be talking about “blitzscaling” with his co-author Chris Yeh, and Stanford Professor Bob Sutton. That’s the growth management strategy that prioritizes speed over efficiency in an environment of uncertainty as an organization scales. It’s the engine that has powered companies including Amazon, Alibaba, and Google. As Hoffman has put it, if starting a company is like jumping off a cliff and assembling a plane on the way down, scaling is like “assembling that plane faster then strapping on and igniting a set of jet engines, while still building the wings.” You need the right tools.

Joel Spolsky, CEO of Trello, will be sharing his experiences building Stack Overflow (after 10 years, the 65th most popular website in the world with 12 billion views), Glitch, and Trello. His understanding of the value of building community has informed all of his work, and he views it as an integral part of creating a company. He’ll also talk about what coding can, and should, look like in years to come, a responsibility he takes seriously as he believes that “being a developer gives you an unparalleled opportunity to write the script for the future.”

Kabam, the mobile gaming company, hit a major stumbling block in its early days when its financing was lost due to the 2008 financial collapse. It not only survived but was sold nine years later for $1Billion. Co-founder Holly Liu will walk us through the the decisions that led to that outcome. Among other things, it’s a story about the inestimable value of the pivot, which in this case made the difference--several times--between folding and huge success. Along the way, the company faced challenges while scaling and going global, and she’ll touch on those, too.

In a fireside chat, Kathryn Minshew of The Muse and Brit Morin of Brit + Co will discuss their strategies for acquiring customers and how they continuously innovate to stay ahead of the shifting demands of the millennial generation. Both women started their companies as platforms for sharing information that helps people tap into their natural strengths--professional for Minshew and creative for Morin--and both companies are directly linked to their founder’s own experiences.

Hands-on learning will also a big part of this year’s conference, providing real experience with critical techniques. In the Mastering Experiment Design workshop, participants will come prepared with a risky assumption of their own to build an experiment on, which they can then use to begin testing right away. The essential elements of effective experiments, which are the best tool for making better decisions and assessing risk, will be outlined. The presenters will discuss how to avoid common mistakes as well as provide tools for unlocking the creativity of teams.

The Mastering Customer Discovery workshop will be a forum for practicing and refining customer interview techniques, finding good candidates, and turning what you learn into action. Talking with customers can be a surprisingly tricky thing to get right, so a great customer discovery process is important.

As is the right business model, which is the focus of the Don’t Bet on Your First Business Model workshop. It tackles how to validate a business model in the early stages, using the Lean Canvas tool to look at assumptions about problems, solutions, and sales channels followed by creating hypotheses and experiments to either validate or disprove those assumptions. Every experiment, regardless of its outcome, should be built on a solid foundation, and this workshop shows how to do that.

We’ve also put together a number of case study presentations on fundamentals that will speed and shape your building process in the early days. There’s one on A/B Testing that draws on growth management lessons from KISSmetrics and I Will Teach You To Be Rich to help answer questions like: “What happens when your testing program is set up incorrectly?” It also lays out the 8 tried and true rules of testing that can help you avoid worrying about what you’re testing instead of how you’ll execute the test. This kind of testing, done right, is definitive for creating growth. Another case study takes up Amazon’s practice of “Working Backwards” that’s been so critical to the company’s innovative culture and growth. It will cover how the company is organized to follow this practice, and how its mechanisms actually work on a practical level.

Finally, we know building a business is more than just work. That’s why we’ve put together a panel that looks at the human side of being a founder. Taking Care of Business AND You brings together experts from numerous fields to talk about founder self-care on every front.

Having hundreds of Lean Startup practitioners in the same place is also an ideal time to draw on that other critical resource--the knowledge and experiences of peers. We have no doubt that the conversations and connections will be boundless, in settings that include all of the above and also range from small, conversational Meetups to more structured Lunch and Learns.

We’re looking forward to seeing you in Las Vegas. If you haven’t registered yet, you can do it here.

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