Author Archives: Ritika

Innovation Tips from the First U.S. CTO

The Lean Startup Conference, a five day gathering of entrepreneurs, is held at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco from December 8th through December 12th 2014. (© 2013 Photo by The Lean Startup Conference/Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin)
Photo credit: The Lean Startup Conference/Jakub Moser & Erin Lubin

Imagine that you’ve just joined a 233 year-old organization, with more than 4.4 million employees, as the very first CTO. A few weeks into the job, you’re asked to take on a complex project that touches the lives of six million people each year. Your timeline is 90-days, and there’s absolutely no wiggle room because you’re CTO of the United States, and your direct supervisor is President Barack Obama.

In April 2009, the Obama Administration appointed Aneesh Chopra, Virginia’s then Secretary of Technology, to be the first CTO of the United States. Soon after, Chopra found himself immersed in a billion dollar immigration project, a program to help Veterans retrieve healthcare records faster, and an initiative to help accelerate approval processes within the gold standard of bureaucratic organizations—the FDA.

Success, according to Chopra, wouldn’t be as simple as creating an MVP. The Federal Government can’t afford to make mistakes. The stakes for Chopra and the Obama Administration were high, because if something did fall through the cracks, it would end up on the front page of The New York Times and impact millions of Americans.

Under these tight constraints, Chopra learned a powerful lesson—that innovation and bureaucracy aren’t mutually exclusive. Watch the video below to learn how he applied Lean Startup within the U.S. government:

Some Highlights:

  • Using customer development to prioritize product development. Entrenched in a multi-billion dollar transformation project, Chopra’s team knew that they wouldn’t be able to fix the underlying system overnight. With a deadline of 90 days to fix a key problem, Chopra relied on customer development to figure out where to prioritize his team’s efforts. His team pinpointed one ‘blockage’ as a starting point for ‘unclogging the arteries.’
  • Asking before mandating. With one of the first iterations of, Chopra and his team found that health insurance shoppers wanted plan data that wasn’t yet available. Instead of mandating and requiring insurance carriers to share this information, Chopra and his team illustrated demand based on user search data. From this process of learning, the team positioned itself to make iterative changes and improvements.
  • Untangling politics. In federal government and healthcare-related government arms, there are many stakeholders and variables at play. In the webcast, Chopra explains how his team navigated these often-competing forces to push initiatives forward.

Love what you’ve watched and read? Come join Aneesh Chopra at the 2015 Lean Startup Conference from November 16-19, where he’ll talk about leveraging Lean Startup principles in public/private partnerships, alongside entrepreneurs like Ryan Hoover of Product Hunt and corporate innovation leaders like Janice Semper of General Electric.

If you can’t wait until November, check out our next webcast, “Speed as a Competitive Advantage”, featuring GE’s Lean Startup Methodology with Eric Ries and Mark Little of GE by signing up here.

This post was written by Ritika Puri, resident storyteller at The Lean Startup Conference.

What business challenges can we help you solve?

Lean Startup Conversations. Photo credit: The Lean Startup Conference/Jakub Moser & Erin Lubin
Lean Startup Conversations. Photo credit: The Lean Startup Conference/Jakub Moser & Erin Lubin

Last week, we announced our initial speakers  for the 2015 Lean Startup Conference. With featured speakers like Ryan Hoover of Product Hunt, Janice Semper of General Electric, and Dr. Alexander Osterwalder of Strategyzer, we look forward to helping our community of entrepreneurs, corporate innovators, and modern managers increase experimentation, alleviate uncertainty, and minimize risk in organizations large, small, new, and established.

What excited us most about our speaker lineup is that there’s more room to grow—much more. In the next five months leading up to the conference, we’ll be recruiting many more speakers, hosting bi-weekly webcasts, and writing weekly blog posts for our 130,000-person community of innovation leaders, Lean Startup practitioners, and entrepreneurs..

That’s where you come in.

We want to learn what you want to learn at the 2015 Conference. We want everything that we launch to be a product for you.

Share your thoughts about what you’d like to see at the 2015 Lean Startup Conference, on the blog, or on our webcasts by filling out this super short form.


This post was written by Ritika Puri, resident storyteller at The Lean Startup Conference.

Read this before building your next product

Read this before building your next projectMost new ventures fail.

This statement has been pounded into our entrepreneurial souls, at every step of our product development and growth journeys. It’s the reason why so many startup entrepreneurs and corporate intrapreneurs stop before they have a chance to get started. Nobody likes the thought of taking on a big risk, especially when facing a failure rate that some startup analysts quantify to be 92 percent.

It’s this idea that underscores the rationale for running a minimum viable product (MVP) that yields the highest return on investment at the lowest risk.

MVPs help entrepreneurs and corporate intrapreneurs outsmart the odds of failure by compartmentalizing big decisions—and big risks—into a series of smaller ones. As a result, we’re empowered to course-correct our decisions before risks outpace our chances for success.

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Here’s How 5 Companies Create Remarkably Innovative Cultures

Mark RandallPhoto credit: The Lean Startup Conference/Jakub Moser & Erin Lubin

Some businesses make innovation look easy. While most of us are struggling to find the right idea, certain brands (you know who you are, Apple, and yes, we’re jealous of you) seem to have everything together—steady streams of new products, never-before-seen branding concepts, and serious creative magic.

The untold story behind today’s most innovative brands, however, is what happens behind the scenes. While success stories are plentiful, what most people don’t see is the amount of trial, error, and learning that goes into setting up workflows, empowering employees, and figuring out initiatives to prioritize. Regardless of whether you’re a part of an established company or two-person startup, the task of bringing new ideas to market is hard.

Success with building an innovative culture boils down to one simple and completely ‘unsexy’ (at least to most of us) word: process. The following videos will show you what that process looks like for 5 very different companies.

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Build, measure, and learn with us at the 2015 Lean Startup Conference

A massive rain storm blew through San Francisco in the middle of last year’s Lean Startup Conference. We woke up to a city-wide power outage, and Day Two of the conference had stopped before it started. No lights, no wifi, and no A/V.

Power Outage at The Fairmont San Francisco. Photo credit: The Lean Startup Conference/Jakub Moser & Erin Lubin

What could have been a disaster evolved into a valuable, unplanned MVP: attendees embraced the three hours of darkness, while we organized “unconference” sessions and Q&A discussions, and gathered people in windowed rooms for impromptu meetings.

Community-led discussions. Photo credit: The Lean Startup Conference/Jakub Moser & Erin Lubin

These community-led experiences were so much fun — and became a source of such serendipitous, fruitful connections — that we’ve decided to iterate on the idea for the 2015 conference and make it a core part of our program.

Why You Should Join Us in 2015

Since 2010, The Lean Startup has helped countless ventures transform ideas into thriving businesses. The movement has inspired a powerful community that includes leaders from enterprise organizations, government agencies, nonprofits, and early stage startups.

Like previous years, the 2015 conference will feature 100+ expert speakers on topics ranging from corporate entrepreneurship to analytics, product development, engineering, sales, marketing, and design. Our ‘power outage MVP’ has inspired us to offer five new reasons why you should attend the conference (again) this year:

  1. We’re hosting more meetups, peer discussions, and expert Q&A sessions.
  2. We’ll be delivering more in-depth case studies and advanced lessons in experimentation, measurement, team enablement, MVPs, and innovation accounting than ever before.
  3. We’re creating hands-on sessions with leaders who are tackling the same challenges as you. Share your toughest problems, and we’ll help you solve them.
  4. We’re creating opportunities for startup and corporate leaders to collaborate and connect with each other.
  5. We’re hosting the conference one month earlier this year to avoid a big storm (lesson learned) and well before your holiday travels.
Peer-to-peer learning. Photo credit: The Lean Startup Conference/Jakub Moser & Erin Lubin

Whether you’re attending for the first time or the sixth, we’ll make sure you meet great people, tackle your biggest business challenges, learn, and have a blast. You’ll go home with actionable takeaways to implement — immediately — with your team.

Get Involved

The 2015 conference will be held from November 16th-19th at historic Fort Mason in San Francisco. Register today to take advantage of our Spring sale prices. Prices increase on June 30th.

Follow us on Twitter or join our mailing list for updates on our speaker lineup, upcoming webcasts, and community initiatives.

Attendee Stories

Check out some of our favorite attendee stories from 2014:

“I went to the Lean Startup Conference because we were having challenges figuring out how to apply the principles in practice and were getting sidetracked with many different ideas and various ‘shiny objects’ that distracted us from engaging with customers. During the conference I took lots of notes on customer conversations through the sessions, asked tons of questions during the after-hours 1-on-1 sessions with experts, and received direct feedback from Eric Ries on the final day of the conference. Since then we’ve been able to have hour-long conversations with more than 20 of our customers, have designed scripts that allow any member of our team to have a quality conversation, and have designed three new products that came directly from customer feedback and are proving popular in initial testing.” — Emmanuel Eleyae, co-founder at Satin Lined Caps (SLAPS)

“The Lean Startup Conference has been instrumental to helping my team, one unit within a large organization, stay innovative. I’ve had my team attend the past three years, and we plan to attend again in 2015. There were two big lessons that we learned in 2014. The first was to remember the real reason that our customers come to us — and to add tools for our internal teams to build upon our core product faster. The second was to remember that we’ll never really innovate if we don’t keep trying new things and its my job to protect the new by creating a culture of experimentation.” — Darin Foster, director of product at Disney

“Our firm specializes in product development. We are also on staff at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business as project coaches for the Product Development and Market Research Course. We work in the medical device and industrial sectors, and our clients have expressed dissatisfaction with the traditional phased and gated approach. My business partner, Kathy Morrissey, and I went on a search for a more flexible and lean approach to getting product to market quicker. Specific challenges for our firm is the cultural piece of implementing these types of practices in a large company. We attended in 2013, and we enjoyed it so much that we attended again in 2014. Our favorite sessions in 2014 included a session on leading by asking questions, in addition to a panel discussion on the challenge of implementing Lean Startup within large, complex organizations like GE. We’ll be back in 2015!” — Mary Drotar, co-founder at Strategy 2 Market

This post was written by Ritika Puri, resident storyteller at The Lean Startup Conference.