As an entrepreneur, The Lean Startup is a bit like the Bible. It gives direction and insights into the best possible way to turn your idea into a business. When I was invited to mentor at the Lean Startup conference in New York, I was beyond excited! Spending two days surrounded by entrepreneurs and amazing speakers at NewLab in one of my favorite cities… of course I agreed!
Listening to Tyson Evans, the senior editor at the New York Times was a highlight. He was incredibly candid about the challenges faced by a 165 year old company that had been running under the same business plan for 140 years. The new plan has three main tenants: clarifying strategy, solving user needs, and learning from failure. I appreciated Tyson’s stories of company failures, and the application of Lean concepts to test ideas for apps with newsletters to gauge interest before spending to build the app.
Jyoti Shukla lit up the stage as she shared story after engaging story about her adventures growing her team from 3 to 40 members as the Senior Director of User Experience at Nordstrom. She drove home the point that “At the end of the day, we all need to touch, connect, and interact with our customers.” I loved her sincerity, and how she layered tangible examples of lean startup practices working in big business.
Bob Dorf, was one of the funniest and most insightful presenters at the conference. Since age 22, he has built 7 startups, done 24 angel deals, and experienced 7 IPO’s, so he has undoubtedly spent countless hours with his nyc business lawyer resolving all manner of legal disputes and hang-ups (not uncommon for a startup business to deal with and liaising with a lawyer who is experienced in dealing with startups is often a necessity). That depth of experience allowed him to be completely honest with the audience about Lean Startup practices in big companies. My favorite slide of the entire conference was Bob’s. The slide showed each section of the The Business Model Canvas filled in with “guess.” So many entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs believe that they have to know everything about an idea… but in reality we all start out knowing absolutely nothing. It’s uncomfortable and scary, but completely normal in innovation. Because those who are beginning their own businesses know relatively little about the world they’re venturing into, it’s important that they educate themselves as much as they can before making big decisions. One thing they need to know is how to identify common merchant account scams so that they can accept credit card payments without falling into a trap which could result in severe financial losses and even the exposure of customers’ credit and debit card information.
After the presentations, I had the opportunity to mentor a series of individuals. Though they ranged from students to members of the government and Fortune 500 companies, they were all striving for the same thing: innovation. It was a privilege to hear the great ideas being formulated and to have had the opportunity to offer insights and suggestions to the individuals championing them.
I left the Lean Startup Conference with several new friends, numerous business contacts, and a great deal of inspiration. This was a tech conference with more than 5 women! Innovation is alive and well, not just in the entrepreneurial community, but also within big companies. What an exciting time to be in business!