Inside the Lean Startup

Very late notice, but I have been busy running a startup. I’m joining my friends Leila Boujnane (@leilaboujnane) and Satish Kanwar (@skanwar) tonight at the Inside the Lean Startup event at MaRS. We’ll be chatting about our startups. The customer development process. And some of the tools we use. If you’re not in Austin for SxSW, and you need to get out of the garage/basement/office and chat with others that are struggling/succeeding/striving/doing it to. Come out tonight.

You might also consider checking out the AppSumo Lean #SxSW Bundle which includes access to a set of tools I use including:

Plus there are some new tools that I’m excited to try:

The 2 books that are not included in the Lean SxSW Bundle that are must reads:


Speed and Growth

Icarus by exper

I had coffee yesterday with Mark Organ. Mark is a serial entrepreneur and the founder of Eloqua. We were talking about the 2 advantages that startups bring which are:

  • Speed
  • Growth

Speed and growth are what the startup is all about. You have the opportunity to be faster, more nimble and achieve greater growth rates than larger companies. The discussion around speed focused on the ability of startups to adapt to their environment more quickly than their larger more established competitors. Mark talked about the OODA loop and the ability for startups to make the loop tighter and make better decisions and more effective actions. 

“The key is to obscure your intentions and make them unpredictable to your opponent while you simultaneously clarify his intentions. That is, operate at a faster tempo to generate rapidly changing conditions that inhibit your opponent from adapting or reacting to those changes and that suppress or destroy his awareness. Thus, a hodgepodge of confusion and disorder occur to cause him to over- or under-react to conditions or activities that appear to be uncertain, ambiguous, or incomprehensible.”  Harry Hillaker

OODA by John Boyd
From Curtis Gale Weeks

Being able to compress the OODA loop is one of the advantages of a startup is to “operate at a faster tempo or rythym than our adversaries”. This is all very similar to the concepts introduced in the lean startup (see Eric Ries’ The Startups Rules of Speed).

” Applying lean thinking to entrepreneurship requires a new definition of progress, one that is focused on measuring learning rather than measuring objects. The day-to-day process that startups build should also attempt to maximize speed of learning.” Eric Ries

Building in tools and methods into the process that let founders and team members observe, orient, decide and act faster is key. The more I think about the need to build metrics into applications and marketing solutions. I want to be able to understand the performance of my design decisions relative to previous experience/performance, new information, competitive analysis and traditions. This is the Orient part of the OODA loop but it requires the codification of new performance data and the existing business metrics and the cluster immune system. Check out Bradford Cross’  experiences using lean, he cuts through a lot of the hype, mysticism and talks about it in practice.

This is very different than the using the OODA loop to keep ahead of your enemy’s decision making cycle. Your enemy early on is time and a lack of customer data. But I’m becoming a big believer in customer development. It’s becoming clearer for me that if you are able to automate your observations and data collection that you’ll have better data about the performance of your application to make informed decisions. The same is true of the inbound marketing campaigns and tools. Time to look at what can be captured and how to automate the “orient, decide and act” phase for application development.