Frameworks vs. Experience

The lean startup movement – the way we think of it today, at least – began in 2008 when Eric Ries identified a set of trends he believed encapsulated the startup landscape as it had evolved. In very broad and simple terms, the lean startup methodology can be summarized as:

  • Agile software development methodology
  • Free and open source solutions whenever possible
  • Customer-centric rapid iteration to create a minimum viable product

(you can read Eric Ries’ first blog post here)

Since then, lean has become a mantra for many entrepreneurs – and the lean startup movement has been picked up and iterated by many in the form of books, blog posts and conferences. As a young tech entrepreneur in Vancouver I was invited to attend the Lean Startup Conference last weekend and share my thoughts. The conclusion? Not all speakers are created equal, and there is an unfortunate bias for presenters within the lean startup community to focus on frameworks over real world examples. The speaker who stood out the most was Rob Walling, who spoke brilliantly about “what worked for him” as oppose to “here is the way it is.”

Why “here is what worked for me” works
Rob Walling of softwarebyrob.com is a serial web entrepreneur who runs a number of niche web and SaaS companies. Although his room presence was arguably less than that of other speakers he more than made up for it by delivering relevant and valuable information for those of us sitting in the audience. Rob’s lecture was powerful because instead of providing step-by-step instructions to success or a “this is how things are now” speech he simply described what worked for him.

Taking us through a series of slides which outlined how he had acquired various web properties over the years and repurposed them gave me a deeper understanding of a process most often described only at a higher level. Most importantly, I learned about Rob’s specific failures, and why they happened. Most speakers tell you that they failed at some point during their delivery (it seems to be a rite of passage to be allowed to speak at these things) – but few tell you tangibly how, or what they learned. Patrick Vlaskovits, for instance, introduced himself as an entrepreneurs who had burned through two startups, but never told us what they were or why they failed. Lessons are best learned through tangible examples, not high level frameworks.

Frameworks versus experiences
Frameworks can ultimately operate to an entrepreneurs detriment because they simplify  the learning process and detach us from having to think about the why. Although we all must learn from the mistakes others have made, when we simply apply frameworks other’s have given us we skip the part where we are allowed to draw our own conclusions from other people’s experiences. Some speakers at #leanstvan trended towards simply providing models for understanding (or worse – models for success). With the exception of strictly informational talks, I would greatly prefer to hear more tangible experiences and less conceptual, extrapolated frameworks. The speaker who says “trust me, here is the lesson I’ve learned” is far less valuable than the one who says “here is what happened to me, draw what conclusions you will.”

The lean startup movement provides many frameworks for entrepreneurs, however those speakers who teach us more about the tangible experiences which led to those frameworks have arguably much more to offer

Andrei Pop is a tech entrepreneur in Vancouver – he runs the web development and strategy company IDEAhack and is involved with a number of other startups in town.

Jimmy Ho and Mentor Connect

Next week is Mentor Connect– a speed networking charity event designed to create connections between tech (mobile, web, games, etc.) entrepreneurs and mentors (angels, VCs, entrepreneurs, etc.)

We figured we’d chat with the man behind the curtain, Jimmy Ho.

1. Jim, tell us about yourself and where you’re coming from and what you’re doing these days.

My name is Jimmy Ho. I am original from Toronto and I graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Computer Science degree. I have experience as an engineer at both Electronic Arts and Microsoft.

I started my first startup, NeverBored Studios, with my friend/classmate Thomas Ang. I ran the business in Waterloo for 1.5 years, but left on good terms because of differences in vision.

I moved to Vancouver and now currently work as an engineer for Microsoft Vancouver (BigPark). I volunteer my time with Entrepreneurs International Organization (EIO) and am a member of Vancouver Entrepreneurs Toastmaster Club.

2. What is Mentor Connect?

Mentor Connect is a speed networking charity event designed to create connections between tech (mobile, web, games, etc.) entrepreneurs and mentors (angels, VCs, entrepreneurs, etc.). Attendees can enjoy speed networking, opening mingling & networking, and raffle prizes.

Event Details:
Date: Monday, May 16, 2011.
Time: 6:30PM-9PM. [Private reserved section]
Location: Ceili’s Restaurant, 670 Smithe Street, Vancouver, BC V6B 2C9.
Price: $10/person or $15/group(2-3).

Purchase tickets at TheMentorConnect.eventbrite.com.
All proceeds will be donated to Big Brothers Vancouver.

Note: Mentee application submissions(here) for the mentor speed networking portion end May 9, 2011 @9PM. However, people can come watch the speed networking session and enjoy the rest of the evening.

3. Why are you putting Mentor Connect together?  Where did the inspiration come from?

Originally, I had a desire to start a project and the inspiration for Mentor Connect came about when I was assisting with EIO’s sponsored entrepreneurship course, “The First 99 Milestones”. The content speaker for that night was Thealzel Lee and a student had asked her a question about becoming an angel and how one could tell who to invest in.

One of Thealzel’s answers included her recommending mentoring (other start-ups) and the idea stuck with me.

Since then Mentor Connect has transformed from a single idea to an event that was created and made possible by the Vancouver entrepreneurial community. I personally see Mentor Connect as a way for individuals to really connect with mentors, organizations, and entrepreneurs in Vancouver.

4. What are your thoughts on the start up scene in Vancouver?  Where are we winning?  What do we need to work on?

I see Vancouver’s startup scene growing especially with Danny Robinson/BCIC supporting various organizations and programs in Vancouver. Vancouver’s greatest strength is that it is a great place to live and labour/talent costs are much lower compared to Silicon Valley. Vancouver’s weakness however is that labour/talent costs is irrelevant if a startup is not in a growth phase. Most startups in Canada lack the know-how and experience to quickly get to this stage in their start-up, whereas Silicon Valley has an influential community of experience that entrepreneurs can tap into (funding is also easier to obtain in the Valley from what I hear). Many organizations such as Bootup, AceTech, and EIO look to fill in this gap to create a community of development and support for entrepreneurs in Vancouver, thus Vancouver’s outlook is great.

5. What’s next? After mentor connect what other projects have you got on your radar, are there any other big events you’re excited to attending or organizing?

At the moment, I believe that anything is possible, but I do look forward to the next Vancouver Launch Party.

BCIC Town Hall with CEO Danny Robinson

How are we going to make BC the best place in the world to start and grow technology companies? Well, BC Innovation Council’s CEO, Danny Robinson, has a plan. And we all have to help.

Yesterday at the BCIC Town Hall, to a packed room at SFU Segal Graduate School of Business, Danny shared BCIC’s mission, strategies and guiding principles that will help to fortify BC’s technology ecosystem, and support the creation of thousands of new technology jobs in BC.

Prior to the Town Hall meeting, Danny wrote a blog post outlining these strategies and principles. At the meeting, which was also viewable via webcast, Danny explained BCIC’s plan in further detail, ensuring us that are to be no holes whatsoever in the technology entrepreneurial ecosystem. Danny further stated that this new mission can not be completed by one person, or one organization alone – that in order for BC to become be THE technology hub of North America, the startup community has to work together.

BCIC’s intention is to actively monitor the quality and availability of the support programs available to BC entrepreneurs, and ensure that there is always somewhere, in every region, for entrepreneurs to go for help in every stage or technology sector. Whether companies anchor, exit, or fail, BC will still benefit from the knowledge and experience gained. As Danny stated, “Never believe anyone that says they did it right the first time.” Those failures mean that they might get it right the next time. Or even the next time.

BCIC is also currently developing software to be able to track and help entrepreneurs as they progress through the stages with their startup companies.

An important item to mention, is that everything BCIC does, or plans to do, is going to be fully transparent. All of their plans will go up on their VOTE site, for the public to give feedback on, before they happen. And every year, program ideas available to entrepreneurs will go back up on VOTE, to re-evaluate them, and see if anyone has any suggestions to improve on them.

Entrepreneurs have already been pitching program ideas on the site, and voting and commenting on them. BCIC is reviewing all suggestions and will be responding to each of them. An entrepreneur added Bootup Garage to the list of Programs on Vote.BCIC.ca and it is the top Voted suggestion on the site.  Thanks so much to everyone who voted and commented.

Lastly, Danny reminded the crowd that we, the entrepreneurs in BC, need to start telling our stories “loudly and proudly.” Not enough people know that major startups like Flickr and HootSuite were started in Vancouver, BC.

At the end of the presentation, Danny opened up the floor to questions, and those watching via webcast could also contribute via twitter throught the hashtag: #BCICTownHall.

The webcast and Danny’s presentation slides are now available online, or below, for those that missed the first Town Hall, but if you already have ideas or suggestions on how to improve BC’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, make sure to drop by http://vote.bcic.ca/ to contribute them.

 

Social Marketing Kung Fu, Purple Belt with Dave Olson

Dave Olson

Photo by Kris Krug

On Wednesday, April 27th, I sat in on my first startup talk at the Bootup Garage. Dave Olson, Director of Marketing at Hootsuite, came in to do his third talk in a series aptly named Social Marketing Kung Fu (#smkf).

In January, Dave started off with Social Marketing Kung Fu, White Belt (Maura’s notes from that session are here), then in March, he came in for the Yellow Belt – “Listening Everywhere” session.

Dave is always a joy to listen to – I’ve seen him speak at a few different conferences – so I was eager to hear what he had to say in session number three: Social Marketing Kung Fu, Purple Belt – Release Day. His talks are always full of interesting tidbits and useful information, and this one was definitely no different.

I jotted down a few notes to share with you, but you can also find Dave’s notes on getting your Purple Belt here.

What to Release

  • Should be something substantial, or a few things bundled together and released around the same time.
  • Code names for product releases are always smart, as they’re memorable.

Know Your Coverers

  • Reach out to the media that you want to cover your story: RT them, comment on their stories, add them to twitter lists, etc.
  • Get to know them, and what they write about.
  • Personally invite them to join your media e-mail list.
  • When you send them info, make their life easy. Respect their time.
  • Spoon feed them the story, but never be condescending.

Craft Stories

  • Take 3 important talking points, and craft them into different forms.
  • Tell them why your story matters!
  • Get quotes from your customers, not your CEO (unless it’s a special circumstance, where a quote from the CEO is appropriate).
  • Putting a boiler plate “About” section at the bottom of a press release is unnecessary and a waste of space. Link to your website/blog instead.
  • Tune your vocab. Make it active, not passive. Lose the buzz words, and keep your vocab as consistent as possible.
  • Include image(s) to support your story, so they use your image and not their own.

Line up Dominoes &/or House of Cards

  • Constantly keep your media kit up to date. If you have one page on your website, this should be it.
  • Thursday before the release: Send an internal memo to your team to share the master plan. Include your 3 main talking points, who you’re telling, and why it matters.
  • Monday 1PM: Local press release, & media preview e-mail. Include assets, like an infographic, if possible. Make them feel like they are getting the story first.
  • You can also send a preview e-mail to your key clients, to keep them in the loop, and ultimately, make them feel special.
  • Tuesday 5AM: Scheduled blog post. Make everything point here, so it answers any questions people may have. This way you are controlling the conversation.
  • Next comes Twitter & Facebook updates, a general e-mail to clients, and a wire release (with links, tags, etc.) Keep the Facebook update light and airy. You don’t want it to become your main feedback channel.
  • Tuesday 9AM: Make sure your dominoes have fallen into place! You can also update any LinkedIn groups, Forums, Q & A sites like Quora, Formspring, etc.
  • Tuesday 11AM: Optionally, you can host a webinar, an hour at most, to go over any details that go along with the release.
  • Schedule any interviews requested by the media.

Then…

LISTEN
REPLY
THANK
SHARE
REPEAT

Prepare for the haters

  • If you comment on articles right away and thank the author for sharing your story, you may prevent a good portion of negative comments, because they know you’re there listening.
  • Prepare some stock comment copy for the trolls, so that you don’t take their criticism personally.

Finally

  • Thursday: Send a News Round-up. Share your favourite coverage from the release. If someone has created a video tutorial on your product, make sure to include that. Don’t forget to trackback to those articles.

Next month, Dave O will be back for the fourth installment of Social Marketing Kung Fu at the Garage, so be sure to come check it out.

After the talk, most of us headed over to the Alibi Room for Startup Drinks. Sign up for the Bootup Meetup Group if you haven’t yet, so you don’t miss out on the next one!

Additionally, if you have any other notes or tips that I have missed, please feel free share them here.

Free ticket to Make Web Not War!

On May 7th we welcome another great tech event to Vancouver, and we’ve got a ticket for you!

Make Web Not War is one of Canada’s first cross-platform conference showcasing the latest techniques and technologies available to the ever-evolving web community, jointly sponsored by Microsoft and Open Source communities across Canada.

It promises to be chock full of great presentations, panels, and discussions around tomorrows web and web community, and you’re going to have to scramble to get tickets because it’s sold out.

Unless, of course, you’re reading this blog post!  That’s right…we’re giving away a free ticket to the event for the person who can tell us in the comments why they deserve it. Comments need to be less than 140 characters to qualify.

More details on the event:

Here we will explore the power and flexibility of new web paradigms, technologies and applications – including the Microsoft web platform, Open Source applications, cloud computing and mobile – to help you develop the ultimate web experience for your clients.

The wars of “platform religions” are over. Embrace the reality of today: mixed environments, interoperable applications, Open Source in harmony with commercial software, PHP on Windows and Azure cloud.The new technology era of pragmatism is here, and MWNW is about bridging the gap between different platforms, communities and developers of all trades and backgrounds.

Tips, tricks, community, open source, cloud, software, developers, platforms, paradigms…this was the hottest ticket in town and we’re giving you a shot at going!

Comment below, 140 characters, on why you deserve to be there. Get an extra chance to win by tweeting a link back here with this message:

“Missed a ticket to @WebNotWar in #Vancouver? Let @bootup know you deserve their extra ticket! Click here: http://bit.ly/fbELcT”

Lean Startup Conference from Agile Vancouver (Discount!)

If you’re anywhere near a startup these days you’ve heard and are likely practicing agile development and lean startup methods to push your endeavor forward. It’s a movement that’s sweeping the entire technology ecosystem and Vancouver is lucky to have a few of the movement’s visionaries stopping into town to discuss the topic in detail.

Agile Vancouver is bringing the Lean Startup Conerence to Vancouver on May 5th and 6th, taking place in the Vancouver Airport Hilton.

Don’t miss your opportunity to hear a collection of industry leaders shed light on lean startup methods and best practices, while connecting with your colleagues in the regional technology sphere who are practicing and refining lean practices in their own businesses.

Register Now

Tickets are still at early-bird rates of $150 for the weekend, thanks to sponsors…but the organizers are generously offering our Bootup audience 20% off tickets by clicking here.  They’re also a co-founder deal gets you a second ticket for half price, and their group deals chop 20% off of every ticket as well. Head over to the conference website for these details.

Agenda

The agenda for the weekend is packed with thought leaders from the lean startup movement. The first day will feature speakers and panels, with the second day offering you the chance to deep dive into specific aspect of lean development with some of the conference’s most exciting presenters. Below are a few of the people you’ll see at the Lean Startup Conference…

Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits

These two co-authored “The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development for Tech Startups”. Brant has been bringing technology products to market for 17 years, and Patrick has two startups under his belt and is deeply involved in LA’s lean startup community (he’s also a 500 Startups mentor).

Ash Maurya

Ash founded USERrecycle, wrote Running Lean, and is probably worth the price of admission all alone. His personal blog is a rich resource of lean startup principles and will be speaking on functional application of techniques to move quickly, be decisive, and iterating for speed, learning, and focus.

Owen Rogers and Steve Jones

Owen and Steve employ agile practices at Pulse Energy to develop SaaS solutions for large customers, and should have a fresh and unique perspective on the subject for having transitioned their team into a hybrid form of traditional and lean development methods to reflect their company and customer profile. Steve is also a Canadian paper airline champion, which is always worth noting.

Rob Walling

Rob runs about a dozen lean software companies and wrote “Start Small, Stay Small“. He’s an advocate for hyper-fast go-to-market processes and writes SoftwarebyRob, one of the web’s most popular startup blogs.

Lots More

That’s just a primer; the list of speakers and presenters is chock full of founder insights, investment perspective, and practical agile methods for technology builders and entrepreneurs. The entire agenda is here.

If you’re already going or grab your ticket in the next few days, let us know! A bunch of us Bootuppers will be there, so let’s connect!

Technical + UX/Designer = Love? Yes Speed Dating is back!

Yes, you heard right… this time it’s TECHNICAL/UX DESIGNER ONLY!  No pesky business people allowed.

Registration for Co-Founder Speed Dating is now open on Crowdvine.

Log in, answer 6 easy questions and get ready to meet your match!

Event Details:

Wed Apr 6, 2011 @ Bootup HQ 163 West Hasting St, Suite 200

5-5:15p            Kickoff

5:15-6:15p       Speed Dating

6:15-7:15p       Drinks & Networking

Register here:  http://co-founderspeeddating.crowdvine.com/

Technical + Technical + UX/Design = Cool New Ideas

This unique event will bring together technical to meet technical and/or UX/Design folks to brainstorm, invent, re-create and get crazy.  No business people allowed!

See you April 6!

Your Dating Diva,

Angela