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Insights from the San Francisco Lean Startup Conference: Lean is serious and here to stay

Monday, 16 December 2013 | By Rose Powell

Jeffrey Tobias, angel investor and director of start-up social enterprise Give Easy, has returned from the International Lean Startup Conference in San Francisco convinced about the permanence of the lean start-up approach.


He told StartupSmart he went over as a fan of the approach, but wondering if it was set to be a short-lived experiment before the next hot approach arrived.


“The lean start-up movement is a serious one. I went there thinking maybe it was a flash in the pan, just a novelty, or are organisations really serious about it? But I went away knowing it was a serious approach to stay,” Tobias says.


Over 70 entrepreneurs shared their approach and experiences of the lean start-up methodology at the conference, including Steve Blank, serial entrepreneur and start-up methods pioneer; Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup (pictured above); Cindy Alvarez, head of user experience and design at Yammer; and Marc Andreessen, co-founder and partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.


It was the presentations from larger enterprises such as Toyota and Intuit that convinced Tobias of the permanence and pervasiveness of the methodology.


“It’s being adopted by start-ups, and enterprises are seriously looking at it,” Tobias says, adding Ries’s book was a breakthrough for the movement.


“What Ries did with his book is simplified it to such an extent that people can grasp the basics pretty simple and quickly: build, measure, learn, and get out of the building. These are sound bites you can absorb. None of it is very new, but it’s far more adoptable.”


Tobias adds he was also thrilled to see a conference-wide move towards problem-focused technology.


“There is a very strong movement away from producing technology for technology’s sake at the moment. Everyone at the conference was promoting the idea you start with a business hypothesis first, only when you’ve validated it you start building it,” Tobias says, adding this is a very different approach to the classic engineering approach.


Slide decks from the conference are available here.


Below is the video of Ries’s keynote speech on the state of the lean start-up.