Saturday, December 22, 2018

Lean Startup in New Places: The Lean Startup Conference 2018

So much happened when the Lean Startup Community came together in Las Vegas last month for this year’s conference that I’m still processing it all. The high levels of learning, great conversations, and most of all camaraderie between entrepreneurs of all kinds was amazing to be a part of. It was great to see so many of you there, and in particular to talk with so many different kinds of Lean Startup practitioners. 700 people joined us in Downtown Las Vegas for our sold out events, and another 2500 participated by livestream from more than 50 countries all over the world (a special shout-out to people in places where the time difference was off-putting but didn’t deter you!).

Las Vegas was a new home for the conference this year, thanks to a partnership with Zappos and Tony Hsieh, with whom I talked as part of the program. (Here’s a shot of us backstage before our fireside chat, in which we answered questions from the audience, and another from during the talk.) The change in location not only gave us all opportunities to see and do new things, but emphasized the reality that entrepreneurship is not about Silicon Valley, or even tech. It’s not about London, or New York, or any of the places we think of as traditional tech hubs. Entrepreneurs are doing incredible things all over the country and all over the world, and in a huge variety of fields and situations. The Lean Startup is ten years old this year--something I never could have imagined back when I was first testing out the idea and getting grief at parties about how bad it was! Its spread is entirely because of the incredible, inspiring work entrepreneurs are doing. The conference panel on Lean Startup Where You Least Expect It was just one of the many events that focused on that. It was made up of people working in medical technology, air purification, and education, as well as the founder of a VC fund investing in nuclear fusion to combat climate change

Hearing about this huge range of projects, with all the gory details included, is what the conference was all about. There were no corporate-approved messages, no perfectly crafted narratives about how easily everything worked out--just real details about problems being solved in all kinds of places. Ann Mei Chang spoke to us about Revolutionizing Social Good with the Lean Startup and her new book Lean Impact, and the challenges and successes to date of using the method in the non-profit space to tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues. We also heard from people at the Department of Defense, and a diverse assortment of hugely successful startups like Kabam, Eventbrite, and The Muse. This great storytelling was accompanied by a whole roster of practical panels and workshops, which covered things like A/B testing, customer discovery, and scaling. You can check out Dave Binetti’s presentation A New Approach to Measuring Product/Market Fit here.

None of it, of course, would have been possible without the people who attended. I’m always gratified (and curious) to read their thoughts and reactions after each year’s conference, and to know more about what captured their attention. Here are two great posts on Day One’s Mastering Experiment Design workshop and Day Two’s Innovation Accounting workshop. And here are a few more general overviews: Top 11 Lean Startup Co. Conference Takeaways and Key Takeaways from the Lean Startup Vegas Conference 2018.

As we head into the new year, I want to thank everyone who helps make Lean Startup a force for change and good in the world. We’re living in a time when legacy institutions of all kinds--political, educational, medical, journalistic--are being attacked. It’s our job to come together to build new ones that more accurately reflect and support the way our world works. I believe Lean Startup is one way to identify and create these new institutions.