The Lean Startup Conference – LIVE BLOG from 4 am

- December 4, 2012 9 MIN READ


Sure it’s 4am and most people are still fast asleep, but there are a big group of crazy entrepreneur types who decided to get up early / are still awake because they have been up coding, or are just really interested in the lean startup methodology that are hanging out at Fishburners in Ultimo to see this mother go down. Since we are here, let’s Live Blog this shit!

LIVE FROM 4am ….


Who the bloody hell get’s up this early? Crazy people who are ready to absorb the innate [hopefully] knowledge and wisdom live from the Lean Startup Conference that is who. Things kick off around 4am here in Sydney which is 9am pst. Things are all set up here at Fishburners in Ultimo Sydney, looking like there are either going to be a lot of stragglers or people who come at a more “sane” hour. Where is the dedication people?

Fishburners in Ultimo set up for the Live Broadcast. 


Eric Reis and Sarah Milstine opening the event now, they are asking everyone to use just one device on their wifi that is bought to you by Amazon. The hashtag is #leanstartup and everyone was just told to take a photo of themselves and tweet it to the interwebs.


Question posed by Eric “If you hate big companies so much, why are you trying to create a new one?” Good Question. He is now talking about some buzz words and his book. Today he stresses we will be talking about lean startups in difficult environments and that the aim is to leave today knowing that you have insight into building a strong long lasting company. Are you building a company built for continuous innovation?


The senior advisor of the CTO of the United States Aneesh Chopra is now on stage. He is talking about a new program for immigrant entrepreneurs. He is welcoming the CTO of the United States Todd Park – he is tired as he just got off a flight this morning, and was working all night [oh hey Todd it’s 3am here!] – Todd talking about his past entrepreneurial experiences and now talking about his job in the Government – he is basically an entrepreneur in residence within the Govt he says – they execute their projects in Lean Startup mode.


Todd is now pitching products / projects that the Government are planning at the moment. Interesting stuff, the guy is clearly passionate about what he does, and he uses the word “awesome” quite a bit, which I approve of. Looking around  the room here, some of the things he is saying must be “tech funny” but I am not getting the jokes. One thing is for sure, I think we should have an entrepreneur in residence in the Aussie Govt, they need to be peppy like Todd though.


Because the projects he is talking about are American centric, although pretty cool, I just went and found where you Can follow Todd Park on Twitter He is wrapping things up right now. He also just gave his email out to the couple of hundred thousand people tuned into this online.


Diane Tavenner from Summit Public Schools, is on stage talking now. This should be interesting as the education system in America is actually pretty screwed up [see film waiting for superman] and these charter schools operate on the platform that they have a lean startup approach and high performing teachers for each period of the day.

It is pretty cool taking the Lean Startup approach to a school. They set the schools up like a tech startup rather than a traditional school, they allowed students to take control of their learning. They installed a tutoring bar in the school, and learning and user satisfaction went up. Love this concept. Great Stuff!


Tendai Charasaki is now taking stage – well sort of, sounds like they are having tech issues. Bit of an awkward moment happening as they sort it all out. He is talking about the fear of rejection, and that people don’t like their entrepreneurial babies being called ugly. He also says that you should never get feedback on your product from family members such as your uncl or family – it needs to come from POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS. This way that you get real feedback.

“the goal of a startup is to find the right thing to build” is how he finished his spot.


We are about to have a bit of interview action right now between Eric Reis and Tereza Nemessanyi. The topic for this session is innovation accounting. Question: Who in their startup has ever had a forecast come true? Not many people put their hands up, there were a lot of laughs. This session is quite meaty, fail talks always are the best, it is good to see that Tereza is big on being accountable for her startups.

They are talking about the minimal viable product right now and the challenges that she had. Tereza just asked Eric to “rate her mistakes” as she talks about them. First mistake was accepting a vanity metric on her term sheet around traffic. Eric, not so suprised, he once accepted a term in his business on how many press releases he would put out about his funding. One of the core things coming out of this session is not to get stuck on the vanity metrics.

Next topic being discussed under this banner is on whether to pivot or persevere. Tereza recommends to fail and fail fabulously.


Beth Comstock from GE is now talking with Eric on stage. GE is ranked 6th company in the US by revenue and are the largest company known to be using the Lean Startup methods. They talking about the “startups” within the company of GE, one example was a startup in the area of clean energy that in less than a couple of years was making 100 million dollars a year for the company.

One of the cool things I like about what GE is doing with the Lean Startup method is they are celebrating the small wins within their new startup ventures, not many 130 year old companies are into that these days – it is obviously working for them, they keep growing!


Jessica Scorpio from Get Around [a car sharing service] is talking about Prototyping to validate an idea when starting up. She is awesome simply because she is not using the lectern – girl is freestanding this prezzo. Love it. This company is a great example for the collaborative consumption movement, these guys actually had certain laws passed around the stuff they were doing. Everything they do can be controlled through the iphone. The Aussie collaborative consumption movement should get her out for a talk.


Danny Kim from Litmotors is now on stage. Quite a funny start to the presentation, this guy is quite cool and what he is doing is pretty much revolutionary in the auto industry. I really want a one person motorbike, tron looking car now.


Lane Halley is from Carbon Five and is talking about the design process with Lean Startups. Says she is learning to embrace ugly. She is now a fan of sketching and cross functional pairing.  She wants everyone to sketch something today.


Matt Brezina is now on stage talking about lean rapid app involvement. He has the lagest gifting platform globally with over 1.2 million members. He started lean with the simple act of sending postcards with an app called postagram -now they send full on gifts in the mail.


It is break time for the next 17 minutes. Contemplating a McDonalds breakfast … should I do it?


Ok so I just had a big dirty sausage and egg McMuffin from Macca’s and went to the bathroom. Got back a little late. Ron J Williams is now on he stage, he is from a company called Knodes. He is talking about discovering what you REALLY want from your startup. His goal for his company is to have fun creating a product with his team.


Andres Glusman is now on stage he is from Meetup. He just got booed for sharing a vanity metric with the audience. He is now looking at myths when it comes to lean startups. One thing that he has said that I feel is very important is that people don’t give a damn about process when it comes to starting up from a user perspective. Another good point is that people don’t want to TEST things, they prefer to BUILD things. Really the core of what he is talking about is to test, test, test, feedback, feedback, build, build – making things simple and fun for people to use.


We now have a panel discussion, I love a good panel. This one consists of Evan Henshaw Plath from NEO, Sam McAfee from Change.org and  Melissa Sedano from Bloomboard. One of the things that I personally just had an “Ohhh Aha” moment with was when Melissa just said that whether you are the CEO, Tech Person or Designer when it comes to starting a business is that your opinion does not matter, only the customers opinions matter. Very True.


Jocelyn Wyatt from IDEO.org is now on stage talking about their sanitation projects in Africa with the Lean Startup method.  Interesting insights on talking about building the prototype and being wrong with their assumptions about the original design. Some amazing learnings on prototyping a fully function Services module in the communities that they service with the Clean Team sanitation product.


Adam Goldstein from Hipmunk is now talking on stage. His first point that he makes is to have a live chat function on his website, as it gave real time user feedback and allowed them to see the user experience as it happened. It is important that people that are manning the live chat function on a website, have direct access to the people in the company that can change things if it is needed.


Justin Wilcox from Customer Development Labs is now up. He is Hilarious. He has started five very successful hobbies, he makes a good point about Business vs Hobbies. He then links this to crowd funding and crowd testing – his new startup Self Starter is very cool, you should check it out, it is a way to gauge whether your product is a business or just a hobby before you build a product.


Nikhil Arora and Alejando Velez from Back to the Roots. These guys are mushroom farmers, that have scaled things like a motherfucker – no seriously their mushroom kits are sold basically EVERYWHERE  including places like Bed, Bath and Beyond. Have to say I am pretty amazed by these guys right now. They are also very engaging. The beauty of what they are doing is they have created an at home educational experience in growing produce. Loved it!!


Stephanie Hay or as I am calling her Stephanie “hilarious” Hay from Fastcustomer is on stage, she had me laughing in two seconds. She is talking about having an understandable and clear message, having clarity in your messaging and getting found by customers. She recommends testing your messaging on Adwords, and avoid using fancy language, being found isn’t about being clever it is about being found! Lean Content is about dropping the crap!


Steve Blank is now up on stage, he is a mentor to Eric Ries. He says that Entrepreneurship can be taught to all those who volunteer, and that entrepreneurship education is a little theory and a lot of practice.


We are about to go on a lunch break. Live blog will continue when everyone is back.


We are now back and ready to power though, Eric is introducing George Bilbery from Return Path. He is talking about Lean startup sales methods when selling to enterprise clients. Coming at it from a perpective of looking at the mistakes they made and   what they should have done differently.


Ivory Madison from Red Room is now up on stage talking about Vanity Metrics. I have to say I am VERY GUILTY of staring at Vanity Metrics from time to time, this is a lesson that I am going to be taking away from today. These metrics may be nice to look at, but they are actually not applicable to your product market fit. Look at your actual metrics – what are they telling you?

What numbers should you NOT be using? Pageviews, Traffic,  New Members, Active Members, Unique Visitors, visits, Percentage of Growth, Conversion Rate, Twitter Followers, Facebook Friends these are all vanity metrics, some may be applicable depending on your model but retention is the biggest thing in tech startups you should be measuring.

  • Measure Revenue
  • Measure Sales Volume
  • Measure Customer Retention
  • Measure Relevant Growth


Ash Maurya is now on stage, he is the author of Running Lean, the talk is on Innovation Accounting in his own startup. He is talking about his lean canvass approach to measuring the activation rate for users of his startup. This Innovation Accounting stuff takes a lot of discipline, I am exhausted just hearing the story – the results speak for themselves though.


Leah Busque from Task Rabbit is up now, looking forward to this. Love her company. If you had only one dollar to spend on your new company where would you spend it? Leah applied Lean Startup methods to her marketing campaigns for Taskrabbit.  She stresses being holistic with your testing and to test everything, not just channels. You should even do this with PR, for example local vs national press etc.


Dan Milstine from Wingu is now on stage, he is one of the hosts brothers. He is talking about human beings and their interactions with complex systems. I like his concept of moving teams away from a shame mindset and into an economic mindset. He is giving an example, it has an axe murderer reference in it. This guy is obviously very intelligent, I think I need another beverage – I just realised I have been live blogging for 6 hours straight. Holy Shizzle.


Robert Fan from Sharethrough is the next speaker up, he is talking about disruptive innovation. The main point being made is that it is easier to innovate in a successful startup – therefore to get to that stage you need to be making good money and be profitable to spend it on crazy ideas that you as the founder may be wanting to try.


Sorry folks, I had to duck to the bathroom and fill up my water bottle. Just catching up on what is happening now. Dr Baharath Kadaba from Intuit is on stage, he is talking about a project they did in India with Indian farmers.


This live blogging thing is getting hard right now, juggling the calls an emails coming through. Right now Carol Howe from Intuit is talking now, she had a bit of a frog in her throat when she started talking, now she is giving everyone the down low on Turbo-Max product they invented.


Another Break -the Last One. – I need a stretch, something to eat and a massage. #writershunch


Drew Housten from DropBox is now on stage, everybody knows his company. If not you should. He is doing a question and answer session in front of the audience, from questions that the audience have emailed in. He is always engaging, and kind of just oozes success.

Rightio folks, this Live Blog has been fun, but in Australia it is 11.30am and I need to get to the office and make some sales, or otherwise I will be writing a book called The Lean Entrepreneur because I won’t have any money to buy food.

Will post all the links and Twitter Handles Later today.