The ‘Odd Couple’ at BLN Lean Startup with Eric Ries

A guest post from Anton Clay at 21Apps about our CEO Tales event, The Lean Startup in London with Eric Ries.

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I don’t work at a web startup, we don’t make products and we’re not the usual kind of company you’d find at an event like BLN’s Lean Startup evening with Eric Ries last Monday.

To justify my ‘presence’ here, let’s start with some background – I work at 21apps ( we are a small UK based consulting organisation with one aim and that is to ‘inspire people to change the way they work’. We do this through consulting, training, mentoring and workshops and although our current focus is largely around working with our clients to implement Microsoft SharePoint effectively to support organisational goals (not just dump the technology in), we also work with non-technology clients and our aspirations are to ‘inspire everyone to change the way they work’.

Part of the awesomeness of 21apps is our ongoing strive for new (and sometimes not so new) tools and techniques from both technology and non-technology worlds that can help us inspire our clients to deliver their technology projects and support organisational change, these have included:

  • Business Model Innovation
  • Agile and Lean techniques
  • Learning Organisation
  • Adaptive Leadership
  • Hybrid Organisations
  • Serious Games:
    • Innovation Games®
    • Gamestorming
    • Visualisation techniques:
      • Graphic Recording
      • Visual Meetings
      • Visual Facilitation
      • Doodling
      • And of course the techniques described in The Lean Startup!

The Lean Startup both as a book and a set of concepts, tools and techniques really resonated with us at 21apps; we use the techniques internally to manage and evolve our organisation, we apply it to SharePoint projects and we even included ‘Innovation Accounting’ as a key theme in our recent eBook ‘Measuring the Intangible, SharePoint Social ROI’.

Based on this, myself (@Soulsailor) and Founder and CEO of 21apps Andrew Woodward (@AndrewWoody), excitedly signed-up for the Lean Startup event with Eric Ries (@EricRies) that BLN organised last week.

We were definitely ‘the odd couple’ at the event! Most if not all the other attendees were in the ‘building of products’ game, whereas our focus is very much on technology consulting, facilitation and inspiring people to change the way they work. But why should Lean Startup only be of value to internet startups? Our view was that it isn’t, so we were going to be there and be proud to be different!

Attendance was fantastic, and we spoke, albeit briefly to a handful of extremely interesting and innovative people which was great; we also used the time to try out (first time ever live) using Visual Notetaking (sketchnotes) to record our individual perspectives of the event and you can see them later in the post.

Lean Startup, Swollen Crowd

Eric's view of the world

After an entertaining introduction from Mark Littlewood [This is why I let your advert stay in!], Eric got straight into a great presentation on the background and concepts of The Lean Startup, filled with some great anecdotes and insights into how this applies to start-up organisations.

Following the ‘formal talk’ the event went into an absolutely fascinating Q&A mode. At times it seemed like Eric was seamlessly flipping from psychiatrist to marriage councillor to start-up mentor and back again! The questions asked by the attendees on stage were really interesting and Eric had an uncanny knack of listening really well, seeing through the words, visualising the scenario and articulating clear actionable advice that I’m sure everyone in the audience got value from.

One great piece of advice from Eric to an entrepreneur on stage was (paraphrased):

“…It’s a bit late to go ship your product tonight, but hey really what’s stopping you shipping it in the morning..?”

The silence from the attendee was very, very telling. The looks on the faces of many of the other attendees gave away that a lot of us could be shipping sooner, shipping now! The explanation as to why that Eric gave was simple… FEAR!

Our one regret was that we didn’t get a chance (actually we just didn’t have the ‘kahunas’ until it was too late) to get up on stage and ask Eric:

“…How do you see the lean Start-up principles applying to a start-up consulting organisation..?”

Maybe next time, or maybe he’ll read this and get back to us – we shall see.

Sketch Notes Eric Ries. Sketchnotes by Andrew Woodward (@AndrewWoody).

Sketch Notes Eric Ries. Sketchnotes by Andrew Woodward (@AndrewWoody).

It was great to meet a huge number of likeminded individuals, it was great to hear and chat very briefly with Eric himself, but what did we learn (validated or not!) from the event:

  • I learnt:
    • Live sketchnotes really does work as a technique, but it’s very challenging to do
    • Although in our ‘space’ we are very innovative, we need to innovate more, ship more rapidly and test the market with ‘minimum viable products’ (MVP)
    • The Lean Startup principles definitely apply to what we do at 21apps
    • You should always test what you are doing against ‘should you’ not ‘could you’
    • The Lean Startup principles are more about management than you think they are
    • (Eric likes a pint of Fuller’s London Pride)
    • Andrew learnt:
      • It’s an exciting time with the amount of UK innovation and exciting new start-ups
      • Lean Startup and entrepreneurial ideals are becoming an integral part of big business – This is where we see 21apps adding value, helping and facilitating
      • We didn’t see many non-web/product startup companies – There must be more like us, isn’t there?
Sketch Notes Eric Ries, Sketchnotes by Ant Clay (@Soulsailor)

Sketch Notes Eric Ries, Sketchnotes by Ant Clay (@Soulsailor)

So that’s the ‘odd couples’ view on what was a really awesome event (thanks BLN and thanks for the opportunity to do this guest blog post!) and don’t forget ‘kids’, lots of what we at 21apps do is of relevance to start-ups now and one day when you become ‘Big Corp’ you may even use SharePoint, feel free to get in touch anytime!

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Thanks for the write up. I really like the sketch notes. Excellent way of remembering things.

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