Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The lean startup at UC Berkeley Haas School of Business

U.C. Berkeley HaasImage by Jessica_Mah via Flickr

Last week I had the opportunity to lecture again in Steve Blank's entrepreneurship class at Haas, which is always a great learning experience - for me at least! This time, I was lucky enough to have my friend Nivi from Venture Hacks in the audience, and he was recording. That means today, in addition to the slides themselves, you can listen to the whole talk in its hour-long glory, Q&A included. I liked the flattering Venture Hacks commentary so much I'll just quote it:

Many founders believe that early stage startups are endeavors of execution. The customer is known, the product is known, and all we have to do is act.

Eric takes a different approach. He believes that many early stage startups are labors of learning. The customer is unknown, the product is unknown, and startups must be built to learn.


It represents the triumph of learning, over the naive startup creation myths we read about in the media.

IMVU learned to learn. This process can be replicated at your company. Please do try this at home.

As usual, I learned a ton from the students and their insightful questions. Some highlights, at least for me:
  • We experienced a great science experiment for the scenario: what would happen if a big company tries to compete with you given complete knowledge about your idea and designs? We actually lived this situation, and got to validate this answer: a process of rapid iteration can beat massive strategic investments from a big competitor.

  • What happened when we got early press (circa 2004) in violation of our own no-PR rule. Learn why you don't want to do premature press, despite all the pressure you'll feel to "launch" early.

  • I especially enjoyed the discussion of the power of fact-based decision making. When we'd go into a product planning meeting, often an engineer or product person would have already run a small scale A/B experiment, and so already have some data to go on. That led to much shorter (and better!) meetings than the old opinion based marathon planning sessions.
I've embedded the audio and slides below, but I recommend you click through to the Venture Hacks article if you're interested.

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  1. Nice talk, thanks for sharing.

  2. Eric,
    Please email me. I would really like to chat with you about your work.

    Have a peak at my site. www.Making-A-DREAM.com

  3. Eric
    Check my articles for Start-Up Nation



  4. At first I was skeptical of spending an hour listening to the presentation but have to say it was time well spent. Eric’s delivery is super engaging.
    To the author – Could you share more specifics on your professional experience? I haven’t heard much about IMVU (other than your posts) and am interested in studying your other companies.

  5. Somehow in trying to make my way through the interface here, I posted a comment intended here to your Feb 22 post. I hope you can 'transpose' the intent along the way :)

  6. I agree with Rotkapchen. It's very difficult to find and navigate through the comment system you have installed here Eric!

    Perhaps put the comments button by itself?