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Getting Lean
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Getting Lean


Presentation by Nick Ducoff at the Boston Lean

Presentation by Nick Ducoff at the Boston Lean

Published in Technology , Business
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  • New to BostonSpent last decade in Austin with stints in NYC and SFTwo-time founderJDspace, early social and professional network for law studentsInfochimps, venture-backed data startupVC lawyer and committed to becoming a more active angel investor
  • Want to understand demographics of audience
  • Dharmesh Shah tweeted this week “Being lean is not about being cheap, it’s about being fast.”I agreeWill separate being cheap, from being fast, and explain what I mean.
  • Being a jack of all trades and master of none is OK but not ideal for a founder or founding teamYou need to be able to see the path clearer than anyone else, and get there fastEngine can only stay in red line for so long before over heatingAt all times have the right team to get to your next inflection pointThat said the worse thing you can do is over hire at the junior levelBetter to have fewer people with more experience, than more people with less experienceManagement overhead can become a real problem with junior peopleWhen you can work in concert like Katness and Peeta, you can kill it
  • Continuing with the concept of working in concertScrums, stand-ups, etc are helpful for having efficient meetingsThat said, always ask yourself why you are having the meeting in the first placeDo a quick by email/yammer before meeting to see if everyone is on same page, if so, cancel the meetingMost important outcome of a meeting is that everyone is on the same pageI call this the island concept. Draw the map, point to the island, and row. Ok to send scout ships to other islands, but only if everyone agrees. Otherwise it is rogue.
  • As Dharmesh Shah said, lean isn’t about being cheap but about being fastI call this the Ramen Fallacy.Yes, by being cheap you might get to ramen profitability, but you will be severely malnourished.You need to be in shape to get through the build-measure-learn cycle as fast as possible.You also need to be focused to understand they why from what you learn.
  • It’s not just about making the customer happySometimes the customer doesn’t know what they want, and many times can’t articulate it5 Why’sGet to root causeIt is important not only to understand why things aren’t working, but also understand why they are
  • Earlier we talked about being fast, not cheap.I really can’t stress this enough.You need to spend money to make money.Make little bets, so you can course correct until you find what works.Then double down.
  • I wasn’t running infochimps in a lean way before I read Eric Ries’s book.I knew what lean was because Ash Maurya is in Austin and has a big following.But I was running the business the way I had run my previous startup, which I started in 2005.The first thing I did was admit that the vanity metrics we were watching (which were growing quickly) weren’t the right metrics.If you’re doing it right what you’re watching is what will grow. We were doing it right, but were watching the wrong things.We decided to put marketing and bus dev efforts on auto-pilot and moved those two team members to Product.We also moved our two front end engineers to Product to build test apps and support the Product teamThis also helped my management overhead by reducing the number of teams from 5, to 3.
  • Remember the picture earlier of those dorks standing upThing of meetings as deathSometimes they are very important, mission critical, but remember the point of them is to get everyone on the same pageNOTE: same page does not equal consensus. I am happy to talk about this in Q&A or over beers about my philosophy on consensus.More important to have everyone working in concert, and rowing towards the island.Can deliberate forever about choosing the island, but that’s somebody’s job and they should own it. Just get there fast in case it’s the wrong island.
  • If it isn’t crystal clear by now.LEAN IS ABOUT MOVING THROUGH THE LOOP FASTER
  • We thought people wanted dataWhat they really wanted was the ability to make sense of their own data, and then graduate to using external data sourcesInfochimps went from being a data content play, to being a data architecture playCompletely different businesses.
  • Before we spent money on a bunch of things to improve our vanity metrics, now we spend money predominantly on thought leadershipFor us the X is being known as the best at making big data manageable, not driving scads of users to the site


  • 1. Getting Lean by Nick Ducoff
  • 2. A Little About Me605040302010 0 Startups Ive founded Startups Ive advised, represented or invested in
  • 3. A Little About You• Are you at a startup? –If yes, • CEO? • Founder? • Engineer? • Business role? –If no, • Where?
  • 4. AgendaMy lean philosophy Getting lean
  • 5. My Lean Philosophy• Goldilocks team “Being lean is not about• Work in concert being cheap, its about being fast.”• Be fast and focused• Understand why• Make little bets
  • 6. Goldilocks TeamThis isn’t lean This is lean
  • 7. Work in ConcertThis isn’t lean This is lean
  • 8. Be Fast and FocusedThis isn’t lean This is lean
  • 9. Understand WhyThis isn’t lean This is lean
  • 10. Make Little BetsThis isn’t lean This is lean
  • 11. Getting Lean• Reorganize team• Less meetings, more communication• Build -> Measure -> Learn (faster)• Aha!• Invest in What Works
  • 12. Reorganize Team Before After• 8 Engineers • 6 Product• 3 G&A • 6 Engineers• 2 Product • 3 G&A• 1 Marketing• 1 Bus Dev
  • 13. Less Meetings, More CommunicationWeekly stand ups, daily scrums Continuous communication
  • 14. Build -> Measure -> Learn (faster) Move through the loop faster
  • 15. Aha!What we thought they wanted What they really wanted
  • 16. Invest in What WorksBefore After
  • 17. Pivot or Persevere?If you’re asking the question, there is only one answer…
  • 18. Questions?