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.

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