See More than 120 Speakers and Mentors at The Lean Startup Conference

Guest post by Lisa Regan, writer for The Lean Startup Conference

The Lean Startup Conference is next week–and now that we can step back and see all the speakers and mentors, we have to say: Wow. When you look through the list, you’ll see big names that we’re very pleased we landed, epic companies we really want to hear from, and people we’re particularly excited to present because they have incredible stories to share–and you won’t hear them anyplace else.

Here are a few speakers to look out for–though with more than 80 speakers and 40+ mentors, there are far too many standouts for us to mention individually here. Another way to learn more about who’s speaking is to sort the conference program by category and find people addressing specific topics.

Experienced entrepreneurs

We’ve got speakers who are justifiably respected by a lot of entrepreneurs. For example:

  • Mitch Kapor invented the spreadsheet and was a founder of Lotus. Now he’s a leader in social impact investing and equality in education. He’ll talk about making a profit and making a difference in a conversation with New Media Ventures’ Christie George.

  • Todd Park convened the team that saved Obamacare. As the emeritus Chief Technology Officer of the United States, he still connects government and Silicon Valley. He and some of his key team members will share advice for working in large (very large) organizations.

  • Ben Horowitz’s book The Hard Thing About Hard Things is driving the conversation around startup management this year. He’s a founder of Andreessen Horowitz, which has backed Facebook, Skype, Jawbone, and dozens of other companies whose products you use. Eric Ries will interview him.

  • Bob Sutton is a Stanford professor and the author of several best-selling books on standout management, including Scaling Up Excellence, an investigation of high-growth companies. He’ll talk with Eric Ries about how companies successfully scale.

  • Bill Gross founded Idealab in 1996, making it the longest-running technology incubator alive today. He’ll use his experience starting 100 companies to talk about what makes a successful MVP.

Companies of note

Learn from companies that have been through the fire–and have lessons to share.

  • Aditya Agarwal has lived through startup hypergrowth–twice. He was a very early employee of Facebook, and engineering director there through the moment it blew up. Now he’s VP of engineering at Dropbox, where he’s seeing similar growth. He’ll bring us real-world advice.

  • Melissa Bell co-founded, which opened for business earlier this year and immediately became one of the most important site launches in a year of big launches. And the whole site was developed in just 9 weeks. Melissa will talk with Lean Startup Productions CEO and co-founder Sarah Milstein about how experimentation continues on the site even with millions of eyes on it every day.

  • Blair Beverly from Google’s AdSense group will describe a stealthy method for convincing colleagues to get on board with Lean Startup.

  • Jocelyn Goldfein was most recently Engineering Director at Facebook and will talk about how different types of software allow for different types of experimentation.

  • Bill Grundfest is not what you usually expect from a startup conference. A comedian who founded NYC’s Comedy Cellar–an enduring business–Bill has written for TV sitcoms and media companies. He’ll be running a hands-on session on how to make a compelling business video. We gave him a night session so he’d feel in his element.

  • Dan McKinley will show the math he used to test new ideas as an engineer during the early days at Etsy.

  • Hugh Molotsi, an accomplished innovator at Intuit, will talk about recognizing good ideas in big organizations.

  • Cory Nelson will talk with Eric about how GE has applied the MVP method to its development of very large diesel engines.

  • Max Ventilla took Aardvark from startup to Google acquisition, a case study Eric described in The Lean Startup. Now Max is reinventing education through AltSchool, which creates local microschools.

Unique lessons

We go to great lengths to find stories you won’t hear elsewhere, and then we train those speakers so that they can tell their stories with impact. Some of the best lessons you’ll learn this year will come from people you’ve likely never heard of before: Sheena Allen, Tiffany Bell, Kevin Ellsworth, Seppo Halava, Margo Wright and many, many more.

Many Lean Startup experts under one roof

The conference features core Lean Startup experts helping you learn the most important ideas. That includes:

  • Hiten Shah, co-founder of KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg, talking about A/B testing

Great advice

Office Hours is your opportunity to sit down one-on-one with an expert and hash out the problems you’re facing. You can get direct advice from many of our speakers and from people like:

  • Farrah Bostic, founder of The Difference Engine and an expert in customer research

  • David Charron, serial entrepreneur and professor of entrepreneurship at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business

  • Kevin Dewalt, a pioneer in bringing Lean Startup ideas to Asia

  • Ame Elliott, a senior team leader at IDEO, where she brings products from design to production

  • Sharethrough co-founder and CTO Rob Fan

  • Learie Hercules, technical lead for a number of successful Lean Startup implementations

  • Jini Kim, key member of the team that saved and a healthcare startup entrepreneur

  • UX designer for Toyota ITC Matt Kresse

  • Alicia Liu, engineer at mobile startup

  • Erin McKean, founder of content personalization platform Reverb Technologies

  • Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media

  • Nicole Sanchez, founder of Vaya Consulting and a leader in improving hiring and diversity

A program highly relevant to you

We’ve tagged all the conference sessions by category, so you don’t have to guess which will be of interest to you. Here are just a few things you might look for:

All conference passes are on sale right now, and you can compare them here. The conference is just a week away, so look over the entire program on our site, and then register today!

What’s the Role of Leaders in Continuous Innovation?

We’re very interested in the how established companies can go beyond buzzwords to sustain innovation. Brant Cooper, co-founder of Moves the Needle and author of The Lean Entrepreneur, grapples with this question, too, in his work with enterprises like Intuit, Capital One, and Hewlett-Packard. We asked Lisa Regan, writer for the conference, to interview Brant on the topic, and we’ve excerpted a great segment below.

At the conference, Brant will lead a December 9 workshop, “Introducing Lean Startup in Your Corporation.” We’re also holding a free webcast next week with Brant and Coca Cola’s Global Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Carie Davis, to explore the question in the title of this post.

Lisa Regan: At enterprise corporations, what’s the role of managers in guiding teams through entrepreneurial processes?

Brant Cooper: This is a big question. How do you mentor internal innovation teams? It’s not the same thing as managing. A lot of managers have a lot of experience, and they’re very successful within large enterprises. But their skill set really is around managing known processes, versus mentoring teams to try to discover new processes. We’re finding that to be a very tough nut to crack. We do some “train the trainers” work, so that they can then do the workshops themselves and teach. But even beyond training the trainers, it’s—how do you teach leaders to mentor the teams, not just manage them?

Here’s an example: In one of the sessions that we did at Intuit, one of the senior managers was said what was interesting to them is that they actually had to teach the teams how to persevere, that teams were willing to pivot too early. It was interesting, because in the startup world, I encounter something different. In startups, people push through no matter what the evidence might state, or they’re scared to even seek the real evidence. In large enterprises, it’s exactly the opposite. They get a little bit of evidence, and then they’re ready to pivot to the next idea.

Intuit’s senior managers were like, “Actually, there are all sorts of ways that you guys can test ideas.” You need that perseverance. The real innovation is not going to come easy, so you have to teach the internal entrepreneurs that they really need to iterate as much as they can before they “give up” and go off to a different idea.

To get there, you have to come up with new ways to measure these teams, so that on a week-by-week basis they’re making significant progress. It’s, “You will go talk to 15 customers in the next week,” rather than just making these promises about, “Oh, yeah. By the end of the month, we hope to have a dozen downloads.” The mentoring is really about teaching entrepreneurial teams to push aggressively.

LR: Why do you think it is that in the established companies, everybody gives up and goes, “Okay, let’s just pivot”?

BC: It’s a good question. Here’s another example at a client that we’re working with, a large consumer website. The President and CEO were urging the teams to move faster. So you had these teams running experiments, then they’d go, “Oh, I don’t know if we can do this.” And it was this senior leader that was going, “No, no. You have to do this. Push faster. Move faster.”

So it could just be that growing up inside larger, well-established organizations, you’ve been mentally trained to sort of resist failure. Or if you fail too quickly, you’d better do something else where you might be able to succeed. Maybe there’s even a fear of persevering, because how far do I want to push on an idea that might not succeed? Is that going to come back and ding my career? So a lot people inside these large enterprises are still trying to figure out, “Is senior leadership really on board with this whole idea of failing fast?”

That said, I’ve always been impressed that, when bringing these ideas to large enterprises, they have entrepreneurial people there. They have people that like chaos, that like wearing many hats and are problem solvers. And actually inside these large enterprises are pockets of agile programmers and design thinkers. So they already have these skill-sets at the grassroots. Those are the people that we can help identify, and teach them a little bit more about Lean Startup and how they can start running experiments. And then how they can teach it, how they can become mentors.

Real cultural transformation is going to take a while, and it’s going to be difficult. It’s not a linear journey. It’s not from here to there. It’s not short. Because you’re going to have ups and down and you’re going to come across these obstacles, and you have to go out and find mentors and you have to go and find allies, in order to overcome the obstacles.

But I think the rewards at the end are pretty big, especially if you’re the one that’s driving it, right? You’re sort of an internal hero. Hopefully what it does is help your organization create real value for their customers and you discover new business opportunities that result in real revenue. I think there’s a lot of upside. And the bottom line, my hope is that employees feel empowered to create new value for customers. I think it’s necessary for these big companies to survive, but it’s probably also necessary for these big companies to keep their best employees, as they feel empowered to not just follow the process inside their known market but to go out and discover new value.

This interview was edited and condensed. Catch Brant at The Lean Startup Conference and on next week’s webcast.

Your Guide to the Complete Lean Startup Conference Program

Guest post by Lisa Regan, writer for The Lean Startup Conference

Eleven months in the making, the full schedule for The Lean Startup Conference is at last complete, and we can’t wait to show you around! OK, sure, we’re still nailing down a couple more speakers and sessions, which we’ll announce as we finalize them. But other than that, it’s all there. Talk descriptions, speakers, workshops, evening events, Ignite, Office Hours…but we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves. Let’s slow down and go over just what we have and for whom.

We took the feedback we gathered in previous years to expand on and improve the program. We’ve got more in-depth how-to talks than ever and even better opportunities for you to meet other relevant attendees. That means there’s never been a better year to attend than this one. For first-time attendees, this conference offers a complete introduction to Lean Startup. Returning participants will find new speakers, fresh ideas, more options to meet other entrepreneurs, and special sessions for advanced practitioners.

Here’s an overview of it all, and of course, you can find more detail on our site. (If you need additional ammo to convince your boss, we’ve written up detailed benefits for employees of established organizations.)

— The Conference Core: Two Days and Three Nights
of Intense Education and Connection —

We don’t fix what’s already awesome. So as per usual, we kick off the main conference on December 9 with Ignite–a high-energy, entertaining series of lightning talks.

On December 10 and 11, the two main conference days are packed with mainstage talks to inspire and breakout sessions to teach you the how-to of implementing Lean Startup methods. At your request, we’ve brought in speakers from all kinds of organizations–including young companies, Fortune 500s, mission-driven orgs, and government, and they create websites, apps, games, hardware, consumer goods, social services, media products and more. We’ve tagged the talks by topic, so you can zero in on what interests you most.

If you’ve scanned the list of speakers before, take a second look. We’ve recently added talks from: Former US CTO and current tech advisor to the White House, Todd Park; former Facebook engineering director Joceyln Goldfein; Dropbox engineering VP Aditya Agarwal; and KISSMetrics founder Hiten Shah.

Take a third look, too, because there are a lot of people there you haven’t heard of but who have in-the-trenches information to share. That’s no accident. We actively sought out great stories, not just big names, and we found people who had compelling experiences to present. These are people you won’t hear at any other conference. It’s what keeps the Lean Startup Conference on point: No stale talks.

We’re also going beyond traditional sessions. To help experienced Lean Startup practitioners share knowledge with each other, we’re dedicating several breakout sessions each day for advanced attendees to hold focused conversations with each other. And after dinner on December 10 and 11, we’ve added hands-on sessions for you to learn video-editing techniques from one of our favorite speakers last year or to catch a jazz set with a discussion of improv as an analog for business collaboration.

We know that meeting other people at conferences can be rewarding–but surprisingly hard to pull off. So On December 10 and 11, we’ve booked tables for Lean Startup group dinners at popular San Francisco restaurants. These were such a hit last year that we’ve expanded on them, and we’ll designate groups for each venue–startup founders and early employees, entrepreneurs within the enterprise, or mission-driven and non-profit innovators–so that you can connect with the attendees most relevant to you.

You probably don’t come to this conference for the food–but that wouldn’t be a crazy idea. For lunches, we’ve contracted with local food trucks to park outside the conference and offer a taste of San Francisco entrepreneurship (literally) just for conference participants.

— Go Deeper: Up to Five Days of Incredible Events —

We designed our Platinum and Gold Passes specifically for people looking to do a deep dive into Lean Startup. They include training and are an amazing deal; they also offer exclusive networking opportunities. You can buy these passes now or upgrade an existing Silver Pass. Platinum Passes include everything above, plus:

  • Site visits. Who doesn’t love a field trip? Platinum Passholders will spend December 8 visiting four successful San Francisco businesses. See for yourself what innovation environments look like and connect with the people making them work.
  • Workshops. December 9 is devoted to full-day, hands-on sessions led by our community’s most accomplished Lean Startup trainers. This year’s workshops cover Lean Startup 101; Introducing Lean Startup in Your Corporation; Lean Impact; Innovation Accounting; and Metrics: The Data That Will Make or Break Your Business.
  • Office Hours. On the evenings of December 10 and 11, you can sign up for 15-minute, one-on-one conversations with select conference presenters and expert mentors. This was an experiment we tried last year, and we were frankly overwhelmed by the positive response. So this year we’re expanding Office Hours not only with more speakers, but also with more mentors from a range of fields–giving you an unusual chance to talk with people like O’Reilly Media CEO Tim O’Reilly, Reverb Technologies founder Erin McKean, and entrepreneurship expert Nathalie Molina Niño.
  • Live Q&A with Eric Ries. On December 12, Eric will answer attendees’ questions live. He’s going to take all kinds of startup questions–on designing experiments, understanding metrics, deciding when to pivot–whatever comes. You not only get to ask, but you also get to hear details of the challenges other entrepreneurs are facing.
  • Perks include:
    • Reserved front-row seating in every conference room
    • Platinum line at Registration to save you time
    • Platinum line for our food trucks on Tuesday and Friday
    • First dibs to sign-up for our Office Hours
    • First dibs to sign-up for our group dinners

Our Gold Pass covers three days–including December 10 and 11, plus your choice of Workshop on December 9 or Live Q&A with Eric Ries on December 12. Gold Passholders also get access to Ignite, Office Hours, and designated ballroom seating for December 10 and 11 mainstage talks.

— A Pass for Every Income —

We’ve talked a lot here about the Gold and Platinum Passes, because they offer incredible value. But we also want The Lean Startup Conference to be accessible to everyone. So we’re pleased to offer passes at a complete range of levels:

  • Our Silver Passes are a great deal: Two full days of the conference, a seat at Ignite, sign-ups for dinners, food truck tickets for purchase.
  • Our Scholarship Pass offers the same benefits as the Silver Pass, but brings the cost of the conference down to $200 for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend (think: fledgling solopreneurs, employees at very young startups and small non-profits). Apply for a Scholarship Pass here.
  • Livestream the conference. For the first time, we’re making the conference available via livestream to individuals. You get all the mainstage talks and the most popular breakouts, along with access to live Q&A, moderated chat, and a conference social network. You pay per screen, so sit down with a couple of friends and split the cost.
  • If you’re a student, you can apply to volunteer. Pitch in for a shift, and we’ll give you a Silver Pass. Apply to volunteer here.

All passes are on sale now, and you can compare them here. And, again, you can now see the whole program on our site. Register today to join us for our best Lean Startup Conference yet!

PS. While you wait for December, check out our webcast on November 25 with Brant Cooper–one of our most popular workshop leaders–and Coca Cola’s Carie Davis. It explores a topic we haven’t seen discussed elsewhere yet.

PPS. When you register for the conference, you can also choose to add on-site childcare options. Here’s the deal.

Three Reasons Your Boss Should Send You to The Lean Startup Conference

We’ve heard your requests for information to help convince your bosses to send you to The Lean Startup Conference, December 8 – 12 in San Francisco. We know you have to justify not only the budget, but also the time away. This conference has an advantage to offer you: The time and money you spend attending will more than pay off when you’re immediately able to help your company build products more quickly and profitably.

Below are just a few benefits for employees of established companies in attending the Lean Startup Conference. Feel free to share with your boss–and once she or he says yes, register here.

1. Learn the key Lean Startup methods from experts

Lean Startup is a proven method for invigorating and sustaining innovation in established companies and in young startups alike. Recognizing that reality, this year’s conference includes a workshop, “Introducing Lean Startup in Your Corporation.” Led by Brant Cooper, author of The Lean Entrepreneur: How Visionaries Create Products, Innovate with New Ventures, and Disrupt Markets and an accomplished corporate coach, the session includes guest speakers from enterprise corporations, case studies from corporate entrepreneurs, and a real-world, hands-on exercise to help you truly learn and connect the ideas with your everyday work. This session is highly relevant for executive leadership teams, innovation groups and incubators, product managers and product teams, and functional teams such as HR and Finance.

If you’re brand new to Lean Startup, you’ll gain highly useful lessons from “Lean Startup 101,” a workshop lead by Janice Fraser, author of The Lean Product Book and expert entrepreneurship trainer. The session teaches you the key concepts–like MVPs, pivots, customer development, validated learning, product/market fit, innovation accounting and cross-functional teams–when to use these approaches in your company, and the mechanics of learning from customers and testing ideas.

2. Find out how to apply Lean Startup in your company through case studies and how-to sessions

Fostering innovation and a culture of entrepreneurship inside your corporation is key to success in today’s fast-moving markets. Corporations need managers and employees to work more quickly and effectively, and the conference has plenty of examples you can learn from. For instance, when employees at Telefonica—one of the largest mobile network providers in the world—wanted to experiment with a new handset idea, something very interesting happened. In their talk, “Lean Product Development in a Very Big Organization,” Susana Jurado and Mario Olano, Innovation Managers at Telefonica, tell a detailed and instructive story about their company’s experience.

In “How HP Shipped Faster–Much Faster,” Kathryn Kuhn discusses how her innovation team overcame slow release cycles and rigid team processes with calculated tradeoffs in order to speed up its product development cycle–bringing a complex product to market in a matter of months. In “Launch a New Product that Doesn’t Hurt Your Existing Brand,” Andrew Homeyer explains how his team at Rally Software launched a new product under a fresh brand and reached an entirely new customer segment. And, in “The Diesel Engine MVP,” Cory Nelson, Sr. Executive Product Manager at GE Distributed Power, talks with Eric Ries about how GE has used Lean Startup methods to reduce the risk of developing a new diesel engine—and did it more quickly than it had for similar products in the past.

Many corporate innovators find it challenging to convince leaders and/or coworkers to use entrepreneurial methods, especially in buttoned-up departments like accounting or legal. But Lean Startup principles can work in those areas, too, and the conference has sessions to show you how. For instance, in “Innovation Accounting,” David Binetti teaches product managers at established companies how to create an effective framework for getting corporate buy-in and measuring success against learning milestones, rather than inappropriate (and near-universally used) execution milestones. In “Turn Lawyers into Allies,” Sean Butler, Senior Corporate Counsel at Cisco, explains how you can actively reframe the roles of lawyers to transform the legal function into an asset rather than a innovation-blocking liability.

Oh, and we have talks on working within regulated industries. For example, Joanne Molesky of Thoughtworks explores balancing compliance and experimentation. And Balaji Srinivasan of Andreessen Horowitz talks about reinventing regulated industries.

3. Connect with peers and mentors at companies facing challenges similar to yours

It’s probably clear by now that The Lean Startup Conference isn’t for startup founders alone. Not only will speakers from corporations like Microsoft, Google and Disney share how Lean Startup principles work at their companies, but in addition, our Office Hours sessions–available to Platinum and Gold Passholders–give you a chance to sit down with speakers and select mentors for one-on-one conversations where you can discuss your most pressing challenges.

We also take extra care to make sure that you meet relevant attendees during breakout sessions, receptions, and dedicated dinners for corporate entrepreneurs at local restaurants. Attendees already registered hail from organizations like AARP, Adobe Systems, Andreessen Horowitz, AOL, BabyCenter, Capital One, Cisco, Constant Contact, Disney, Fidelity Investments, Gannett, GE, Genentech, GFK, GoDaddy, Google, Hewlett Packard, Intuit, LexisNexis, Macy’s, Microsoft, NASDAQ Private Market, O’Reilly Media, United Health Group, Pearson, Rackspace, Riot Games, SAP, Siemens, State Farm, Steelcase, Target, Twitter, and Viacom.

Conference attendees run the gamut of job titles, too. You’ll be surrounded by CEOs, CMOs, CIOs, CTOs, CFOs, engineers, HR, accountants, analysts, designers, strategists, marketers, business developers, product managers, IT, managers, operations, health care providers, UX designers, innovation & R&D leads, sales managers, coaches and professors. And not only are they coming from all over the country, but also from all over the world: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, England, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey.

Don’t miss the chance to learn about Lean Startup methods from the experts and bring its methods to your corporation. Register for the conference today.

PS. Here are just a few of our favorite talks on bringing Lean Startup principles to corporations from last year’s conference:

An Experiment with Livestream Tickets

This year, for the first time, we’re selling livestream tickets for The Lean Startup Conference, December 10 – 11. In the past, we’ve offered the livestream free to community groups. But over the years, based on attendee feedback, we’ve fine-tuned the livestream and are now confident we can provide you not only with a great live experience but with a very useful bundle of recordings, too. Selling livestream tickets means we can offer them to individuals, not just to groups, and we can guarantee better quality video, too.

But, of course, there’s more. We’ve spent years refining the way we shoot the video, the software we use, the tech-support we provide viewers, the onscreen chat we moderate during the event, and the Q&A participation we offer. All of that means that livestreamers enjoy a lot benefits. You will:

  • Catch all the main-stage talks and our most popular breakouts live on December 10 and 11. You get high-quality video of every talk in the Grand Ballroom. That includes all keynotes in the mornings, and our most popular breakouts in the afternoons.
  • Get a downloadable video recording of all conference sessions, including all breakouts that take place outside the Grand Ballroom. The recorded video is a special perk for livestreamers, and we’ll send it out shortly after the conference. (For in-person attendees, the recorded video is available only as part of our our top-tier tickets.)
  • Participate fully in Q&As. We field questions via an online form, even for attendees in the room, and you share equal opportunity to ask questions. Livestreamers are not second-class citizens for Q&A.
  • Connect with other livestream attendees in our special moderated chat. Our terrific livestream coordinator, Michele Kimble, moderates a dedicated chat session with all the livestreamers. You not only meet other remote attendees, but you also have Michele on hand to answer questions, make sure you have all the key info and troubleshoot any technical problems.
  • Meet other attendees via our conference social network. We have a dedicated social network for the event, which livestreamers and in-person attendees alike can use to connect with any conference participant.

The pricing is simple: A livestream ticket is $300, and you can register today. It covers both December 10 and 11, our main conference days. Plus, we’ve set it up so that you pay per screen, not per seat; if you have several people watching together, you pay for just one livestream ticket.

In addition, because we like helping build community, we’ll give you a $100 discount if you choose to be an official livestream host. Official hosts allow anyone local to attend your screening, and when you register for a livestream ticket, you must share your event URL with us so that we can list it on our site (here’s what that listing looked like last year; hosts mostly used EventBrite to let people reserve seats, though you can set up any web page you’d like). This year for the first time, we don’t require that official hosts guarantee a minimum number of attendees. Of course, you’re welcome to charge people for your local event.

(One caveat: We intend the livestream for people who can’t attend in person. If you’re based in the Bay Area, we ask you to join us at The San Francisco Fairmont, and we aren’t offering livestream tickets for local groups.)

Selling livestream tickets is an experiment for us, building on our previous test at Office Optional, where livestream tickets were far more popular than we expected. It also takes into account the fact that our international audience has grown considerably, and the logistics and cost of wrangling a free worldwide livestream have likewise increased; as a startup ourselves, those factors require us to adapt. Our hypothesis is that we can offer you really good value for a great livestream experience (plus video bundle), and we believe the per-screen pricing and group discount will make the livestream accessible to almost everyone. We’ll measure our success in ticket sales and attendee feedback. If you have questions or ideas for how we can make the livestream experience even better, don’t hesitate to email Michele Kimble, our livestream coordinator.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but while our livestream ticket sales are new, we have a great track record of delivering an amazing experience. Here are just a few of the many great comments our virtual attendees shared last year:

“Our simulcast was really well received. Even inside a big company, participants took away a lot of valuable ideas. Looking forward to next year! –Microsoft

“We had wonderful attendance. This event helped to build our community and provide substantive content and topics for future Startup Evanston events.” — Startup Evanston

“Our community of entrepreneurs loved participating.” –Spain Lean Startup

Whether you’re new to Lean Startup or a veteran, whether you work in a brand-new startup or in an established organization, our conference is designed to improve your success and speed building new products and services. We hope you’ll join us in person or via livestream in December. Register today!

Three Tips That Will Improve Your Startup’s Success

You’ve told us clearly that you want more in-depth how-to sessions at The Lean Startup Conference. So this year, we’ve packed in more talks and workshops with detailed advice than ever before; check our program page for details on our initial batch of talks. Take advantage of these sessions by registering today for the best price possible; our fall sale ends on Friday,  October 31, and it’s the last price break of the year.

To give you a taste of our how-to sessions, we asked three of our conference speakers for tips you can put into practice right now–whether you work at a startup or in an established organization.

1. How Best to Engage Customers Remotely

You understand the importance of engaging directly with your customers as you develop products for them, but what happens when your user base is very far away? “There are a ton of tools out there that allow you to communicate with someone remotely, and when choosing a tool there are a lot of things you need to keep in mind,” says user experience consultant Holly DeWolf, whose conference session will teach practical, cost-effective techniques for remote engagement. “Do you need to see your customer’s computer screen? Do you need to record the session to share it with your team? Is it user-friendly for you and your customer?”

When connecting with distant users, DeWolf recommends determining which tool is least invasive for your customer base. “The big thing for me is the usability of the tool itself for customers,” DeWolf says. “I try hard not to make a customer download a tool they don’t already have. Tools like Skype or Google Hangout are popular now, but not everyone has them downloaded already. [If they don’t have them], I prefer tools like or GoToMeeting that make it easier for a customer to just click on a link and get on quickly [without having to download anything].”

DeWolf also recommends that you practice using a tool in advance to work out any kinks. She explains: “Ask a  coworker, a friend or even your grandma to get on so you can practice once or twice before getting on with a customer. Where are you going to keep a list of the questions you’re going to ask? Where are you going to take notes? Are you recording the session? Do you need a note to remind you to do that? There is going to be a lot going on, so as you start adding in little things, it makes it really worthwhile to have practiced beforehand.” In conducting our own customer interviews, we’ve found practice to be critically important for success–but easy to forget. Schedule it on your calendar to make sure it happens.

2. How to Interpret Customer Feedback

When you hold interviews with potential customers for your new product, it’s tempting to hear anything they say that isn’t overtly negative as a sign of enthusiasm. But be very careful in reading their tone. “If you’re talking to people, and they’re very polite and mild-mannered the whole time, that’s a sign that you’re not really solving a big problem,” said Cindy Alvarez, author of Lean Customer Development: Build Products Your Customers Will Buy and head of product design and user research for Yammer (a Microsoft company). In her session at the conference in December, Alvarez will lead entrepreneurs through live problem-solving to help you with the challenges of customer development and qualitative feedback.

“I’ve never seen an interview case where people who were enthusiastic customers did not express some sort of frustration or excitement,” Alvarez said. “If you don’t hear the variation, if you’re not putting exclamation points in your notes anywhere, then you’ve got a bunch of polite people who probably won’t buy your product. I’d say if you talk to five people and none of them seem particularly enthused, then try talking to a different type of five people.”

For loads of excellent, detailed advice on customer interviews, check out our in-depth Q&A with Alvarez, in which she helps a startup figure out why it can’t find potential customers to talk to.

3. How to Test the Right Aspect of Your Business

It’s deceptively easy to test the wrong aspect of your business or run the wrong test for what you need to learn, wasting time and money while you head down the wrong path. “Entrepreneurs always think they have the best idea. They do need that confidence to execute it and make it happen. But you have to balance that confidence with an awareness and open-mindedness that you could be wrong and don’t know until you test that idea with potential customers,”  says Grace Ng, co-founder at QuickMVP.  At the conference, she’ll lead a session, “Tactics for Truly Effective Experiment Design,” which includes a decision-making framework that guides teams to choose the right kind of experiment to run based on what you need to test.

When you create an experiment, Ng notes that constructing an accurate hypothesis to test should include clearly stating the problem you’re solving and who you’re solving it for. “A hypothesis statement is the building block of an effective experiment,” Ng says. “An accurate hypothesis will state, ‘I believe this solution of X will solve this problem of Y, and in order for this to be true, I need to see these results of Z happen’” If your hypothesis doesn’t prove true, you learn a lot and can adjust accordingly; if you run a test with no hypothesis (“let’s just see what happens”), it’s much harder to figure out what step to take after.

For a whole lot more relevant how-to advice, we’ve collected some of our favorite talks below from previous Lean Startup Conferences. And for more in-depth discussions on building your new products and services, join us at this year’s Lean Startup Conference. Register today. Our our fall sale ends Friday, October 31, and it’s the last price break of the year!

— Some of our favorite how-to talks from Lean Startup Conferences past —

On testing & customer feedback

On Lean UX

On building Lean Startup teams

On Lean Startup product strategy

On Lean Impact


A Growing Set of Lean Impact Resources

A gratifying aspect of teaching people to use Lean Startup methods is seeing the ideas take root in more and more sectors. For a couple of years now, Lean Startup has been spreading in mission-driven organizations, where people commonly refer to the principles as “Lean Impact.” If you work in government, in an educational institution, at a place like or Kiva, or in a startup non-profit, we have a growing body of resources to meet your need for information about applying Lean Startup when profit isn’t the sole goal.

First off, we’re pleased to report that Leanne Pittsford—founder of Lean Impact, Start Somewhere, and Lesbians Who Tech—is leading a full-day workshop on Lean Impact essentials at this year’s Lean Startup Conference in December. She and several hand-picked guest speakers will explain how they’ve used Lean Startup principles to achieve greater social impact, and they’ll answer pressing questions about funding models for mission-driven organizations that need to experiment with new products and services. Our fall sale for conference tickets ends on October 31, and it’s the last price break of the year, so register today for discounted pricing to avoid paying full price. (We also offer scholarship passes for young and minimally funded non-profits; if that’s your org, apply right now.)

If you want a taste of what that workshop will cover, join us for a free webcast on October 28 at 10a PT: An Introduction to Lean Impact, in which I’ll talk with Leanne about how social-sector organizations can use the Lean Startup framework to meet their goals, and we’ll answer audience questions live.

To learn more about Leanne and Lean Impact, check out her talk at Netroots Nation from June: “How Lesbians in Tech Took Over the World and Built a 4,000-person Community in Less Than a Year.”

In addition Leanne’s workshop, this year’s Lean Startup Conference features a number of other speakers from social-sector organizations:

  • Christie George, a socially-focused investor who recently wrote a great piece on funding alternatives, and Mitch Kapor, well known for his impact investing, will discuss measuring success beyond the bottom line
  • Max Ventilla will explain how AltSchool is building an ambitious new network of customer-driven schools
  • Julie Lorch from will speak about building cross-functional teams
  • Tiffani Bell will will talk about learning quickly in order to address Detroit’s water crisis
  • Margo Wright will speak about the nuances of customer development when you’re working with a population you know well already.
  • Reverend Ken Howard will speak about creating and sustaining Christian communities using the Lean Startup approach.

Those examples draw from our initial group of speakers, and we’ll be announcing more later this month.

In the meantime, we’ve gathered below a slew of videos from previous Lean Startup Conferences that have great lessons from mission-driven organizations. Enjoy—and we look forward to seeing you at our webcast on October 28 and at the 2014 Lean Startup Conference in December.



Customer development for the social sector


Last Chance for Summer Sale Prices  

At this year’s Lean Startup Conference, we seek to answer the difficult questions you face as an entrepreneur. To give you a sense of how we’ll do that, we’re introducing you to three of our speakers—all of whom are appearing for the first time at The Lean Startup Conference, and all of whom have advice you can put to work today. Note that summer sale pricing for the conference ends on Monday night, so register now for the best deal possible.

Herewith, our introductions.

Ben Horowitz, Andreessen Horowitz. Frankly, Ben doesn’t need a ton of introduction. A well-known startup innovator, he’s co-founder of the leading VC firm Andreessen Horowitz and author of a new book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building A Business When There Are No Easy Answers, which brims with unusually direct, useful advice for new and seasoned entrepreneurs alike.

Among the questions we’re seeking to address at this year’s conference is: What does the culture of a high-performance, high-growth team look like? In his book and on his blog, Ben tackles that question. We particularly like this post, Hiring Executives: If You’ve Never Done the Job, How Do You Hire Somebody Good?, in which he guides new entrepreneurs of growing companies through one of the more vexing challenges you’ll face, what he calls making “the lonely decision.” He starts with sharply observed pitfalls and offers specific steps you can take to avoid them, staring with a process for defining what you need in a new hire and then moving on to this step:

“Write down the strengths you want and the weaknesses that you are willing to tolerate. The first step is to write down what you want. In order to ensure completeness, I find it useful to include criteria from the following sub-divisions when hiring executives:

  • Will the executive be world class at running the function?
  • Is the executive outstanding operationally?
  • Will the executive make a major contribution to the strategic direction of the company? This is the “are they smart enough?” criteria.
  • Will the executive be an effective member of the team? Effective is the key word. It’s possible for an executive to be well liked and totally ineffective with respect to the other members of the team. It’s also possible for an executive to be highly effective and profoundly influential while being totally despised.
  • These functions do not carry equal weight for all positions. Make sure that you balance them appropriately. Generally, operational excellence is far more important for a VP of Engineering or a VP of Sales than for a VP of Marketing or CFO.”

Ben then gives more detail on how to turn the criteria into a real hire. At the conference, Eric will dive deep in an interview with Ben, asking him hard questions about hiring during growth and other shoals of entrepreneurship.

Melissa Bell, We’re really pleased to have Melissa join us. has been one of the most closely watched media launches of the year, and as its Senior Product Manager and Executive Editor, Melissa was responsible for leading a lot of its success. One of our questions for this year’s conference is: How can we get products to market faster? So we were particularly intrigued when we learned that Melissa and her team took just nine weeks to develop the high-profile site; other Vox Media properties had taken eight months to roll out.

As explained in this post from Michael Lovitt, Vox’s VP of Engineering, Melissa and her team expedited their launch by sacrificing perfection and focusing their goals narrowly. Instead of spending months fine-tuning the website before presenting it to the world, they chose to “fail fast and iterate.” That phrase gets tossed around a lot these days, putting it in danger of losing its meaning. But Melissa backed it up with real processes, and rather than calling the unveiling of the site a “launch,” she instead wound up referring to it as a “deploy, the first of many.”

The team also worked with an ethos that would trust their MVP, which had two foundational pieces. Michael explains:

“In order to meet our expectations for what a new Vox Media site must be, we would focus on two big things: the important early and foundational branding and visual design work; and a new, still-to-be-figured-out product feature for helping readers understand the news. By limiting the new big things to only those two, we could free ourselves to throw all of our creative energy into them, and do them well, and rely on the work done by our past selves to carry the rest of the site.

“Once everyone agreed to this plan, in every conversation about scope and the prioritization of site features, we were able to stay grounded by our shared sense of what was important to get right for launch, and what could wait for now.”

At The Lean Startup Conference, we’ll learn more from Melissa about how her team hewed to its early goals, what worked in developing the site, what she’d do differently next time, and how they’re tackling the site’s current growth and new challenges.

Seppo Helava, Nonsense Industry. We’re proud that The Lean Startup Conference brings you not only high-profile speakers and leaders from high-growth companies you already know about, but also excellent presenters you aren’t yet aware of. Indeed, we consider it our job to find relatively unknown people with great advice and experience to share. Seppo is one such speaker.

An accomplished game developer and company founder, Seppo has worked hard to figure out how to keep employees invested and productive—particularly in an environment where you’re running lots of experiments that don’t lead to profitable products. His application to speak at this year’s conference addressed this question: How can we keep up team morale when experiments invalidate a lot of our ideas? and he hooked up with his deep understanding of the problem and tangible ways to maintain co-workers’ enthusiasm.

Seppo laid out clearly something we all see pretty often: when you constantly test your ideas, you find that a lot of them don’t fly, and so you have to throw out work all the time. He went to talk about the natural attachment that employees feel to their projects, particularly those they’ve polished carefully, and the resulting struggle to move on, even when those projects aren’t proving out. That dynamic generates a fear of experimentation—the opposite of what you want on your team.

At the conference, Seppo will talk about how his company now works to answer a question, rather than develop a product for presentation. He’ll discuss not only their approach in terms of training, teamwork and communication, but how’s it’s played out over a period of refinement.

To see these speakers and a slew of other entrepreneurs with incredible lesson to share, register today for The Lean Startup Conference. Prices go up on Monday night!

Top Three Reasons to Bring Your Children to The Lean Startup Conference

This year, for the first time, The Lean Startup Conference is offering onsite childcare for attendees’ kiddos. If you’re a parent, that means you can join us in San Francisco this December, and you can:

  1. Focus on learning. Instead of worrying that you’ll be late to pick up your kids from daycare, you can concentrate on the conference speakers and opportunities to meet other relevant (adult) attendees.
  2. Turn the conference into a family vacation. Develop your professional life and nurture your family life at the same time. You won’t miss sessions to coordinate childcare or if you have a co-parent who needs to work while in town.
  3. Know your kids are safe, entertained and nearby. We’re contracting with reputable childcare providers who know how show kids a great time.

For years, The Lean Startup Conference has provided not only unique talks and opportunities to meet relevant entrepreneurs, we’ve also made a point of creating a respectful, energetic and professional environment for you. This year, we’re leveling up our commitment to making the conference accessible to more people by offering onsite childcare. We’re not the first conference do so—the AERO Conference, BlogHer and Mozilla Festival have been out ahead on this option. But it’s not yet common at conferences, and we want to help change that.

How does our onsite childcare work?

You can choose half-day or full-day childcare on the main conference days of December 10 and 11, for children 3 months and up. We’re designating space at The Fairmont San Francisco for this. Of course, The Fairmont is the conference venue, too, so you can stop in to say hi during breaks or at lunch. We’ll also provide a quiet space for nursing moms.

Who will care for your kids?

We’ve contracted experienced childcare professionals who are recommended, screened to work with children, certified in CPR and First Aid, and uniformed.Your children will participate in kid-tested activities that are age-appropriate, stimulating, and of course, fun. Lunch and snacks are part of the deal.

How much does it cost?

5 hours or less: $100 per child

5-9 hours: $180 per child 

How do you register for childcare?

When you sign up for the conference, our registration page also gives you childcare options. To arrange for both days of childcare, select two tickets for the half- or full-day option. After you register, we’ll follow up with you for additional information regarding your child.

Questions, including more than one kiddo or how to register for childcare on the workshop days of December 9 or 12? Email Executive Producer Melissa Tinitigan.

We hope to see you—and your family—in December!

A Few Surprising Facts about the 2014 Lean Startup Call for Speakers

Post written by Sarah Milstein & Eric Ries, co-hosts for The Lean Startup Conference

We’re seeking speakers we don’t already know for this year’s Lean Startup Conference, December 10 -11 in San Francisco. Our call for proposals is open now, and if you know already that you want to apply, jump to it (but read the directions first!).

If you’ve never applied to speak at The Lean Startup Conference before—or never even considered it before—here are a few things to keep in mind, some of them surprising:

You don’t have to be on the speaking circuit already. In fact, we’re psyched if you’re not a seasoned speaker. What we care about is the business experience you have to share, not the speaking experience. In other words, if you’ve applied Lean Startup techniques at your company, and you have advice or a story about your work that will help other entrepreneurs, we want to hear from you. While we’ll have a few speakers who are long-time Lean Startup experts, we’re primarily interested in case studies from people we don’t already know.

We don’t favor speakers we know personally. We aim to use the most meritocratic processes we can to find and evaluate speakers. That is to say: We don’t pick our speakers because they’re our friends or because they’re big names; we pick them because they have absolutely useful advice to share. In addition, we assess 95% of them via our call for proposals, which helps guide and standardize the submissions so that we’re comparing apples to apples (and not, for example, evaluating one proposal based on the recommendation of a mutual friend and another based on a video of the speaker from another conference).

Since we started focusing on fairness, a welcome though not surprising result is that we’ve regularly fielded a roster of excellent speakers that comprises more than 50% women and/or people of color. (In the past, the roster was nearly all white men, as those were the entrepreneurs Eric knew personally; they were very good speakers, too. But we now go much deeper into startup communities, finding speakers you won’t necessarily have heard elsewhere.)

Actually, we pre-select a very few. What about that other 5%? Full transparency: We do invite back particularly strong speakers from year to year, and we very occasionally invite entrepreneurs we meet out in the wild who strike us an unusually good fit for The Lean Startup Conference. We readily acknowledge that one of our best speakers in 2012 and 2013 was Sarah’s brother. We keep inviting him back because other entrepreneurs tell us they learn so much from him, not because he’s related to one of us.

We offer free speaker training. We do a lot of hands-on work with speakers to help ensure that your presentation really resonates with our audience. That includes, but is not limited to, both group and individual speaker training. If you’re a new speaker, this is a great opportunity to get some very good guidance (it’s also a great opportunity if you’re an experienced speaker; last year, some of our most avid trainees were our most accomplished presenters).

We’ll cover your travel costs. This year for the first time, we’re offering travel assistance for any speaker whose companies can’t cover it. We are ourselves a startup, and this represents a significant chunk of our budget, but we want to bring in speakers regardless of their own companies’ finances. (We also give all speakers a full Platinum Pass to the conference, but that ought to go without saying. If you register now to get the best price, and we subsequently pick you as a speaker, we’ll refund your ticket.)

Our call for proposals has a lot of directions—but the form itself is short. Don’t be daunted by the first page of the call, which has a lot of information that we ask you to take in. Those directions will help you submit a successful proposal, and they include links to some of our favorite talks from last year, for inspiration.

This year, we’ve come up with the questions our attendees most want answered—so you don’t have to do that part. All you need to do is figure out where you can offer relevant advice or a case study, and fill out the application form accordingly.

The call for proposals is open until 11:59p PT on June 12, and we encourage you to apply today. If you’re not interested in speaking but you know you want to attend the conference, register now for the best prices.