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.

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!

This Week in Tech Events, Feb. 28 – March 5, 2011

Bootup will be hosting a startup workshop with Danny Robinson:

Co-Founder’s & Captables

Here are some other local startup events worth checking out this week:

The Lean Startup with Eric Ries hosted by BCTIA

Introduction to Samsung Bada Platform hosted by WaveFront

  • Thursday, March 3 8:30-11am
  • WaveFront – 1055 West Hastings Street, Vancouver
  • Free

6th Annual Women In Film Festival – Digital Media Forum

  • Friday, March 4 9:ooam
  • Vancity Theatre – 1181 Seymour Street, Vancouver
  • Tickets $75, WIFTV members and $90, non-members

If we missed  your event, feel free to let us know by leaving a comment below.

For more tech events and news, you can also check out our media partner, Techvibes.

Eric Ries coming back to Vancouver on March 3

Eric Ries, creator of the Lean Startup Methodology is no stranger to Vancouver. He dropped by Bootup Labs in April ’09, met with the startups and showed off his lean mug.

Last year, Eric’s Startup Lessons Learned Conference was happening in San Francisco on April 23rd, 2010.  Troy Angrignon and Bootup teamed up to host the simulcast conference live in our Gastown digs.  More than 5o entrepreneurs and developers signed up to attend the simulcast.

And now, BCTIA is bringing Eric to back BC with stopovers in Kelowna, Victoria and ending his tour in Vancouver on March 3rd.  Using examples drawn from his own experiences in Silicon Valley, Eric will guide you through key areas proven to increase the success and creativity of your innovation and tech company from business strategy, product, engineering, QA, marketing and delivery.

All registrants will also receive a free copy of Eric’s new book “The Lean Startup”.

Don’t miss your opportunity to hear him speak. Register here.