Day 11 – Your Guide to Lean Analytics

February 17, 2014 at 8:46 pm

Today the teams got a visit from Alistair Croll, the co-author of Lean Analytics. He came in to give a great full-morning workshop about how to measure and track analytics. Most people or companies don’t put a huge focus on analytics or don’t know how to, but as Alistair explained, it’s crucial for startups to constantly be tracking and analyzing data. It’s important for young companies to be very aware of what’s working and what isn’t working for them, they need to be able to fail fast so that they can iterate before the money runs out. 

During the workshop he covered a variety of topics from what makes a good metric to understanding cohorts to how the Lean Analytics cycle is structured. To learn more, check out this video of Alistair giving a similar talk at Google Ventures a few weeks ago. 

Day 16: Startupfest Lean Workshop

May 6, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Every summer, over a thousand founders, analysts, investors, and entrepreneurs gather in Montreal for Startupfest, a sprawling week of events around launching new companies. Our friend and Mentor, Alistair Croll, helps put together the content for the event from elevator pitches in an actual elevator, to post-conference fireworks over the St. Lawrence River, to impromptu Q&A sessions with startup legends, to Montreal’s infamous nightlife.

Here’s a brief video of last year’s mayhem:

This year, Alistair and Ben Yoskovitz, authors of Lean Analytics, have teamed up with Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits, authors of the best-selling Lean Entrepreneur, to put on a one-day workshop immediately before Startupfest. Tickets are $90 if you’re also attending Startupfest, and $195 if you’re just coming for the workshop. The first 100 people to buy a ticket also get signed copies of Lean Analytics and The Lean Entrepreneur.

Marc Andreesen said “Markets that don’t exist don’t care how smart you are.” Whether you’re a startup founder trying to disrupt an industry, or an intrapreneur trying to provoke change from within, your biggest risk is building something nobody wants. This day-long workshop, happening in Montreal on July 10, will show you how to fix that.

Those of you looking for one hell of a learning experience, should continue to read more about the event here.


Day 13: Analytics, Exploits and Beer

May 1, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Alistair Croll popped in to Notman to lead an insightful workshop with the companies. Alistair co-authored the recently released Lean Analytics – one of the best reads out there for startups. Seriously. Everybody needs to read this book.


Most startups don’t know what they’ll be when they grow up. The majority need to figure it out as they go, pivoting and iterating based on what they learn along the way. Without metrics and analytics, it’s not possible to know which way to go.

We say we’re living in an information economy. However, an economy is defined by what is scarce, and information is certainly not scarce in today’s world. We’d be more accurate to call this an attention economy. The biggest challenge for a startup is thus to create a product or service that commands attention.

A smart approach to figure out what you should be building is to build a product in order to figure out the product you need to build. Anticipate your users’ needs and go from there. Would a focus group have led Apple to create the iPad if they had been asked what they wanted?

A great example of using metrics and analytics to experiment is how Airbnb came to offer photography services. They came up with a hypothesis – that better quality photos would increase bookings – and they tested by sending photographers to the spaces listed and measuring the impact on bookings of these spaces. We don’t know what incited this hypothesis, Alistair ventures that it could have been exploratory — they saw a correlation in their data between photos taken with good cameras and rentals — or maybe it was a qualitative hypothesis where someone at Airbnb thought that nice pictures are more attractive and perhaps nice photos would boost bookings. Whatever inspired the hypothesis, the key is that Airbnb picked a metric to measure that would change the way they behaved: if better quality photos did in fact lead to increased bookings, then they would start offering the services of professional photographers. The take-home message is that if a metric won’t change the way you behave, then it is a bad metric.

Alistair advices startups to focus your analyses on the stuff you don’t know you don’t know. This means exploring, asking questions, observing. A team at Procter and Gamble wanted to disrupt the soap industry, a big feat given how stable this industry had been for a very long time. So the researchers brought in a group of seniors, spilled stuff on the floor and stared the seniors down until they felt compelled to clean (the story, as told by Alistair). The team observed that instead of getting out a mop to clean, the seniors were using paper towels. This led to the “ah-ha moment” where the team realized they didn’t need a better soap but rather a new gadget, and the Swiffer was born. Swiffer is a 500-million-dollar-a-year product.

Deviating from the topics of Lean Analytics, Alistair gave the companies an unexpected piece of advice: be subversive. This advice popped up many times throughout his talk, which left no doubts about how important this message is. Alistair believes that to become successful, a startup needs to have a subversive attitude – think evil – ask yourself: “how would I do this if I were a hacker?”. Find the hack that helps you change the future. This is the nature of trying to disrupt a market. Only idiots play by the rules.

There are many things your startup can be doing (that aren’t illegal) to get an edge. Airbnb sent people who posted accommodations on Craigslist a message inviting them to post on Airbnb. The guy who created DuPropio drove around and called every house that had a black and orange “for sale” sign, and offered to list them on his homepage for free.

If you have a two-sided marketplace, get the side that makes money involved first. Buy them in if you need to — this strategy can cost less than marketing. To start, Uber paid every limo driver in San Francisco to sit around – and be available when a Uber user called. Create an artificial marketplace, and if you can create demand, you’re golden.

By the way, if you can’t make it work when you’re paying for the supply, then your business model won’t work. On a similar note, there’s nothing wrong with buying users if each user is going to bring on more users.

The harsh truth is that anyone can code; instead of focusing on building, your startup has to find the one idea that’s going to crush the competition. Alistair advices that until you find that killer idea, come up with 5 hacks everyday.

Oh… Apparently brainstorming works well when beer is involved! 

Day 40: Grab a Book Off the Shelf – Reading List

April 20, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Running a startup is a full time job. And we’re not talking 40 hours a week — it’s a 24/7 gig. So suggesting to a founder that he or she take the time to read a book might not make much sense. However, given the number of great reads out there and the people who are writing books and sharing knowledge that only they can, it’s worth it to put some time aside and pick up that book/kindle/iPad and flip through some of the recommended startup reads.

Tom Eisenmann, a Harvard Business School professor, wrote a post with a great list of books to read (thank you, Mark MacLeod, for sharing the list with us!). He makes the great point that, “Of course, learning-by-reading is no substitute for learning-by-doing — but almost everything on the list was written by people who work or invest in new ventures, so there’s a lot of wisdom [in the list].” So do, do, do, but don’t forget to do a bit of reading!

Here’s his “MUST READ” list:

Steve Blank’s Four Steps to the Epiphany

Eric Ries’ lean startup principles in a series of blog posts

Marty Cagan’s Inspired 

Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm and Inside the Tornado

Avinash Kaushik’s Web Analytics 2.0

Viral marketing analytics by David Skok

Startup metrics presentation by Dave McClure

David Skok on building a sales and marketing machine

Harvard Business Review article by Mark Leslie and Charles Holloway on the sales learning curve

Get working and get reading!!


Day 53: The Lean Startup

October 26, 2011 at 9:49 pm

We’ve shared a few books on the blog, but a really important one that we haven’t yet is The Lean Startup.

Eric Ries’ book hit the startup world like a storm, and is talked about along side famous authors such as Geoffrey Moore.

“Every so often a business book comes along that changes how we think about innovation and entrenpreneurship. Clay Christensen’s theories on disruptive innovation and Geoffrey Moore’s potent metaphors of “crossing the chasm” from small to mass markets, and going “inside the tornado” of starting a business, have loomed large over entrepreneurial theory for years. Eric Ries’s The Lean Startup has the chops to join this exalted company.” FINANCIAL TIMES

As it says on their website, the book is split in 3 categories
– Vision
– Steer
– Accelerate

If you haven’t picked this one up yet, you should.

Check out their website to learn more and see where you can get it.

Day 38: Brad Feld Visits FounderFuel

October 5, 2011 at 1:17 pm

We’re really excited today to have Brad Feld visit the FounderFuel teams. 

His latest book “Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist” is spreading like wildfire amongst startup founders, and we definitely recommend you pick it up.

In the book Brad shares his thoughts on:
– The Venture Capital ecosystem.
– Term Sheets and what to look for.
– Various funding stages.

Moreover, you should check out his upcoming webinar in which he will discuss the book.

Join him on October 11, at 11:00 am (MST). Sign up for it here.

Do More Faster

June 23, 2011 at 2:47 pm

I’ve been meeting a lot of startups since we launched FounderFuel, and among many recurring topics of discussion, it seems I’ve been talking a lot about Brad Feld and David Cohen’s “Do More Faster.”

Quite surprisingly not as many people have read it as I expected so I’ve decided to share with you the experience I had when I did, but first I must admit with quite a bit of shame, that I don’t read a lot of books. Perhaps unsurprisingly to you, blogs are where I do most of my reading.

But this was an exception I had to check out and when I got started, I was hooked from the very first few lines. I really couldn’t get enough of it and ended up reading through it in 48 hours. This was quite a feat for me, and so unlike me that my wife was convinced something was wrong!

The book takes us through startup stories told by Brad and David, but even more captivating were the chapters told by the teams who’ve been through the TechStars program. For me at least, those were the ones that really kept me turning the pages. The level of details and the learnings they share are really captivating.

Needless to say I think the book is great. It’s easy and fun to read, and I think every web entrepreneurs out there would learn a great deal from it.

Did I manage to get you excited about it? Pick it up!

Think your team has what it takes?