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Interviews

Interview: SF Local, Eric Ries and Ian McFarland

This week we got some questions in with lean startup champions Eric Ries and Ian McFarland. For those who don’t know, Eric is the creator of Lean Startup methodology (we’re subscribers of this style at The Fetch!) and the author of the popular entrepreneurship blog Startup Lessons Learned. Ian is the founder of Neo, a global product innovation company and all-round tech trends leader.

Eric Ries

They’re busy getting ready for the annual Lean Startup Conference to be held in the San Francisco Bay Area next week. As expected, it’s sold out already but you can watch the livestream most places in the world at one of these 300 locations. Eric was also on KQED’s Forum yesterday so you can check out the hour-long talk about lean startup and entrepreneurs online @ http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201211281000

Finally, another solid initiative worth noting is their focus on diluting the ‘white male’ speaker dominance we commonly see at tech events. In this post, Sarah Milstein and Eric discuss their efforts on diversifying the speaker roster.

Kate: You recently highlighted that one of the largest companies in the world, GE, is using lean startup principles. Is the Lean Startup Movement just for startups? Why do you think corporates are adopting this way of thinking?

Eric: In the past, companies could be market leaders for decades on the strength of a single suite of products. Now, the market is moving faster, cycle times are falling, and companies are faced with much, much more competition. Continuous innovation is critical in order to survive and thrive. The best way to manage the creation of new growth initiatives is by creating startups or innovation centers within the larger organization. The Lean Startup gives companies a discipline of entrepreneurial management to create that continuous innovation.

Lean elements are slowly being applied to other disciplines such as marketing – is this due to the world’s current love affair with startups or will it be a part of a permanent vernacular? 

Eric: I hope it will be permanent, but time will tell. When the original lean manufacturing moved out of the factory floor into management, healthcare, IT, etc. people thought it was a fad. But it’s had remarkable staying power and success.

In less established startup ecosystems, like Australia, we find startups have no choice but to be lean. Is lean out of necessity always good? When is the right time to then scale?

Eric: Lean does not mean cheap. Lack of resources can help keep the mind focused (as it did for Toyota in post-war Japan), but lean is more about using resources well (not building the wrong thing) and figuring out what customers want with discipline and speed. When done right, lean startup techniques lead to hypergrowth and scale.

Ian McFarland

What other events happening around the conference should we check out? 

Ian: On Sunday night (Dec 2) at the Intercontinental, we’re hosting Ignite: Lean Startup. With so many great speaker candidates this year, we added an extra round of presentations. Each speaker gets five minutes and 20 slides – which advance automatically every 15 seconds. Fast-paced, thought-provoking and social, you’ll hear from in-the-trenches entrepreneurs ready to share their lessons learned. If you are a conference attendee, there is no fee for Ignite: Lean Startup, but you must register in advance to attend. We also have a limited number of tickets for the general public, so register today. (Link = http://ignitelsc.eventbrite.com/#)

There are also some other great events leading up to our conference (these are sold out, but look for coverage): 500 Startups’ Warm Gun: Designing Happiness conference is on Friday, November 30; and Lean Startup Machine starts the evening of the 30th and runs through Sunday, December 2.

Stay tuned for the conference coverage via this blog and in our biweekly event email digest. We’ll also be tweeting throughout the day as @thefetch and @katekendall. 

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