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A talk I gave at UCSF for the Lean Startup Circle on September 16, 2009.

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How PBworks Used Lean Startup Techniques

  1. PBwiki was a Lean Startup (but didn’t realize it) AKA: An engineer’s journey into the wild world of business and some lessons learned along the way Lean Startup Circle Talk, 9/16/2009 by “David E. Weekly” <david@pbworks.com>
  2. Executive Summary <ul><li>Startups are tough and fast. </li></ul><ul><li>You can’t just count on data. Use your gut. </li></ul><ul><li>You’ll need to have a lot of bad ideas. </li></ul><ul><li>The good ideas will often need to be dramatically reworked. </li></ul><ul><li>… . </li></ul><ul><li>$$$ PROFIT! $$$ </li></ul>
  3. Business Is Not Sexy. (This is not you.)
  4. (Lean) Startups Are Poor. <ul><ul><li>We’re short on cash, people, and time. </li></ul></ul>
  5. (Lean) Startups Are Ignorant. <ul><ul><li>We aren’t sure what to build or for whom. </li></ul></ul>
  6. (Lean) Startups Are Misguided. <ul><li>We don’t know which ideas are right. </li></ul><ul><li>When ideas are right, we don’t know which parts. </li></ul>
  7. (Lean) Startups Are Prone to Failure. <ul><li>Lots of experiments mean lots of mistakes. </li></ul>
  8. But Why Does It Work? <ul><li>Humility w/Hubris </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Having confidence in the correctness of a general outcome versus making an idea your baby. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Scientific Method </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Form reasonable hypotheses given what you know, test them, iterate. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Low Bullshit Factor </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ya gotta eat. Cash is king. </li></ul></ul>
  9. Don’t Go Tabula Rasa… <ul><li>“ Blank site with just a UserVoice plugin” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Not so helpful. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>First feature requests tend to be: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>more porn </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>more dinosaurs </li></ul></ul></ul>
  10. Minimum Viable Product <ul><li>There’s a stone in stone soup . </li></ul><ul><li>Start with the simplest thing that could possibly be useful to anyone. </li></ul><ul><li>PBwiki’s first motto: “Ghetto But Useful” </li></ul>
  11. Hunches & Creativity <ul><li>The market is an oracle but not a seer. </li></ul><ul><li>Listen to customer problems more than customer-offered solutions. </li></ul><ul><li>Then get creative about solving those problems. </li></ul>
  12. So… <ul><li>Deliver a lot of ideas. </li></ul><ul><li>Count on most to fail. </li></ul><ul><li>When you find one that is clearly not a failure, drop all the others . </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(Even though it hurts.) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>When the market takes the idea a new direction, roll with it. </li></ul>
  13. Ideally… <ul><li>You can rapidly iterate on your ideas </li></ul><ul><li>to make sure you’re building the right thing </li></ul><ul><li>for the right market. </li></ul><ul><li>(but….) </li></ul>
  14. Data Can’t Tell You Everything.
  15. A/B Testing Low-Frequency Events <ul><li>How About… </li></ul><ul><li>95% confidence </li></ul><ul><li>of a >10% uplift </li></ul><ul><li>for a 3x /day action </li></ul><ul><li>(e.g. making a $10,000 sale) </li></ul><ul><li>? </li></ul>
  16.  
  17. <ul><li>If the proposed change is the only change tested against the baseline and it represents a 50% improvement over the baseline, you’ll still need over three months of data to be statistically sure it’s made at least a 10% improvement. </li></ul>
  18.  
  19. It’s Time for a Fallacy! <ul><li>Post hoc ergo propter hoc. </li></ul>
  20. Optimize Successful Correlations <ul><li>Find variables that correlate with success that occur at high frequency. </li></ul><ul><li>Judge which are likely causal variables . </li></ul><ul><li>Optimize for these variables. </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t game yourself! </li></ul>
  21. Human Judgment Is Key <ul><li>Your gut provides the ideas, strategy, and approach hypotheses. </li></ul><ul><li>The analytics judge if you were right. </li></ul>
  22. <ul><li>Started messing with private wikis (2002) </li></ul><ul><li>Started Coceve, Inc. (2003) </li></ul><ul><li>Got sick of setting them up by hand (2004) </li></ul><ul><li>Decided to let people set themselves up (Drunken 1 st SHDH, May 27 th , 2005) </li></ul><ul><li>Hired help (November 2005) </li></ul><ul><li>Got financing + an office (September 2006) </li></ul><ul><li>Got VC investment (February 2007) </li></ul><ul><li>Hired a CEO (June 2008) </li></ul>
  23. Was PBwiki a Lean Startup? <ul><li>Went for first three years without a salary. </li></ul><ul><li>Only employee for first two years. </li></ul><ul><li>$60k of friends-and-family cash. </li></ul><ul><li>LAMP + Danga </li></ul><ul><li>Bought servers off Craigslist. </li></ul><ul><li>Rapid-response Customer Forum </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Thanks for reporting this an hour ago; it’s fixed!” </li></ul></ul>
  24. The Products <ul><li>Hosted project management (2003) </li></ul><ul><li>IM Smarter (2004-2005) </li></ul><ul><li>BotBlock (2005) </li></ul><ul><li>SingleStat.us (2005) </li></ul><ul><li>Thwapp (never launched) </li></ul><ul><li>PBwiki (2005) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>PBworks Project Edition (2009), full circle! </li></ul></ul>
  25. PBworks Evolution <ul><li>Ad-supported Free Wiki </li></ul><ul><li>Consumer Freemium Wiki ($5/wiki/mo) </li></ul><ul><li>Tiered Freemium Wiki ($10-100/wiki/mo) </li></ul><ul><li>Paid Content (FAIL) </li></ul><ul><li>Educational Wiki ($99+/wiki/year) </li></ul><ul><li>Business SaaS Workspace ($8/user/mo) </li></ul><ul><li>Enterprise Collaboration ($20/user/mo) </li></ul><ul><li>Secret February 2010 Awesomeness </li></ul>
  26. The Model <ul><li>Rapid-release (Agile method) </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on being useful to users. </li></ul><ul><li>What’s the simplest useful thing we can do? </li></ul><ul><li>Ignore technical fanciness. Ignore competitors. </li></ul><ul><li>Note: simplicity empowers scale. </li></ul><ul><li>Ask your users what the heck they’re doing. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They may periodically surprise the heck outta you. </li></ul></ul>
  27. Pivot Questions <ul><li>“ You want to pay for an Internet service?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ You heard about us in Chicago?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ How big is the education market?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Am I passionate about enterprise sales and marketing?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ What would this look like in a movie?” </li></ul>
  28. Sci-Fi <ul><li>What would be ideal for the user? </li></ul><ul><li>Backtrack to what’s possible, build a roadmap. </li></ul><ul><li>Write out the user story, share it! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(we even made a short movie.) </li></ul></ul>
  29. Business Goals <ul><li>Don’t focus on acquisitions: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ It’s hard to sell a company but easy to get bought.” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Forget about IPOs for now. </li></ul><ul><li>Acquisitions are real but rare. </li></ul><ul><li>Create value, not lottery tickets. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Craigslist, The Math Works, HotOrNot </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Focus on making money. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This leaves the most options open! </li></ul></ul>
  30. Executive Summary <ul><li>Startups are tough and fast. </li></ul><ul><li>You can’t just count on data. Use your gut. </li></ul><ul><li>You’ll need to have a lot of bad ideas. </li></ul><ul><li>The good ideas will often need to be dramatically reworked. </li></ul><ul><li>… . </li></ul><ul><li>$$$ PROFIT! $$$ </li></ul>
  31. The Whole Point
  32. <ul><li> Now go kick some ass!  </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>twitter.com/dweekly </li></ul>
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A talk I gave at UCSF for the Lean Startup Circle on September 16, 2009.

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