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117. Lessons from the Lean Start-Up by Eric Reis

"Successful entrepreneurs don't have better ideas, they have a better process," says Eric Reis in The Lean Start-Up. To learn how to innovate with speed, listen to this week's episode.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • A start-up is a human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty,” says Reis.
  • Do not to apply your corporate experience to start-ups.
    • Corporates have:
      • Departments
      • A known business model
      • A known problem
    • Start-ups have:
      • 3 people and a dog
      • No proven business model
      • A problem hypothesis
  • To test new ideas in conditions of extreme uncertainty, follow the Build-Measure-Learn cycle:

(Diagram from The Lean Start-Up)

  • This process is not only for tech products. Use it to invent new products and services, and if you get traction with existing tools, then consider investing in tech.
  • If you do not have a technical background, you will not know how to build a product so you could...
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112. The three stages of start-up teams

A tech start-up begins its life with a tiny team. The founders are either technical or tech savvy, but as the company scales its team has to change. 

Learn about the three stages of start-up team growth here.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • At stage 1, the start-up is focussed on building its first product and getting the first customers. The team is usually tiny, and each team member is either building the technology themselves or is very closely involved in the process. Everyone learns from each other on the job.
  • At stage 2, the start-up has raised Series A or Series B and is focussed on scaling. This is when specialists in non-technical fields start getting hired: HR experts, sales people etc. The gap between the techies and the non-techies widens, and this is where opportunities get lost.
  • At stage 3, the start-up is a late stage venture and is either preparing for a merger or an IPO. At this point, the original founder is very unlikely to be the CEO....
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111. B2C vs B2B start-ups

The biggest difference between business to business and consumer facing ventures is how they grow. The growth curve and costs of B2B vs B2C growth is what surprises (and sinks) many start-ups.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Business to consumer start-ups growth through paid marketing. If you launch a consumer app on the Apple App Store, expect to pay around 40% of the money you raise on Facebook advertising.
  • Business to business start-ups grow through sales. Sales is much more dependent on relationships and human interaction, than digital marketing. 
  • In the early stages of a B2B start-up's life, the founder is usually the one doing sales outreach.
  • Both approaches have serious costs. Do not make the mistakes that because marketing requires money and sales requires elbow grease, that sales is free. Always remember opportunity cost: if you are doing something, you are not doing something else.

 

 

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110. Cutting through tech hype with the Actionable Futurist

Conferences are full of speakers saying that the latest tech will change the world, but that often leaves smart people even more confused. Knowing about trends is irrelevant if you don't know what to do about them.

To learn how to cut through the tech hype, listen to this episode with Andrew Grill, the Actionable Futurist. Andrew began his career as an engineer, became a Global Managing Partner at IBM and today is a keynote speaker on tech & business trends.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • “To understand the technology, you need to play with it,” Andrew says. Using new software or devices at home makes you comfortable with trying new technologies. (e.g. try TikTok! you'll see what an engaging algorithm really feels like and you'll have a laugh)
  • Innovation theatre is a problem if there is no clear understanding why a company has a digital strategy. This is usually a leadership issue, not a tech issue.
  • The job title of Chief Digital Officer or...
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105. A surprising outcome of Speaking Tech (& a lesson from Apple Watch)

Listen to what happened when Apple forgot a key market and how to avoid the same mistake. When product teams consist of entirely white males, they make products for white males. When non-technical professionals learn to Speak Tech, you get better products, happier customers & better profits.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • While there are plenty of programs to get minorities into STEM, they will take years to have an effect.
  • In the next few decades, most developers will continue to be white males. To prevent baking unconscious bias into products, the simplest, cheapest and fastest way is to teach non-technical teams how to work with the techies. 
  • Bringing diverse voices into product development is not a moral issue; it is capitalist self-interest. E.g. if women are not involved in product innovation, companies can lose up to 50% market share. 

To get Sophia's monthly business update, register here. 

 

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104. Do things that don't scale

"One of the most common types of advice we give at Y Combinator is to do things that don't scale," says Paul Graham, Y Combinator founder. Recruiting users manually and getting feedback is what lets you build a scalable product.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • "The most common unscalable thing founders have to do at the start is to recruit users manually. Nearly all startups have to. You can't wait for users to come to you. You have to go out and get them." - Paul Graham

  • A product is always a solution to a problem someone is experiencing. The better you understand the problem and the users, the better the product will be. This often means 1:1 conversations with your customers.

  • This advice doesn't only apply to early stage start-ups. If you are creating products, you are always looking for customer feedback to make them better. Brian Chesky still books Airbnbs to live in so he can experience his product as a customer.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

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101. How companies really use AI

AI is a great tool to help you make decisions, but it's often not sophisticated enough to make good decisions by itself. This is why companies often rely on AI to do most of the task, but leave the final decision to humans. 

  • Most tech initiatives fit into one of these three buckets:
    • Reach scale
    • Increase efficiency
    • Increase customer satisfaction
  • Fashion retailer Stitch Fix uses a stylist algorithm to select outfits to send to customers, but the final selection is made by human stylists.
  • The Netflix content team uses an algorithm to get suggestions on how much to pay for new shows, but ultimately the final decision rests with them (and isn't always the what the AI suggests).

 

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There are 2 ways to apply this work to your goals:

For individualsAPPLY...

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99. The top skill you need to succeed in the Information Age

Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen famously wrote that “software is eating the world.” While digital transformation is everywhere, and even your coffee shop has an app, this doesn't mean we all need to learn STEM subjects and become coders.

The vast majority of jobs remain non-technical. 

To succeed in today's economy, ambitious professionals need to learn how to become Digital Collaborators. This means learning additional skills, rather than completely retraining.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Microsoft says that "the demand for digital skills continues to grow, and we estimate that digital job capacity – or the total number of technology-oriented jobs – will increase nearly five-fold by 2025, rising from 41 million in 2020 to 190 million in 2025. These numbers are in stark contrast, and they illustrate the digital skills gap that has accompanied the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
  • Being a Digital Collaborator means learning to...
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96. How to innovate at a corporate: lessons from Apple and Intel

Every company wants to be innovative, but how do you balance the risk of innovation with the need to keep the lights on? Listen to this interview with Kapil Kane, Head of Innovation at Intel China, to find out.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Most tech innovations die because they do not have a solid business case. As much as non-techies need to learn to speak tech, techies need to learn to speak business. “No matter how smart you are, if you are not able to get your idea across in the language of a lay person, you are missing out a lot,” says Kapil.
  • To structure creativity within an organisation, Kapil advises learning from Apple, where teams often worked on projects that other teams did not know about. This meant that they could focus on their work, while upper management connected the dots.
  • The innovation accelerator at Intel China Kapil set up brings in revenue, but that is not the only benefit. It serves as a training ground for ambitious people “If...
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93. Lessons from the Netflix C Suite

How do you get to the top of a tech company as a non-technical professional? How can you drive innovation, when you’re not building the technology yourself?

That’s what you’ll learn from this interview with David Wells, ex CFO of Netflix and chair of the board at Wise.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • It’s called tech, or working in tech, but the entire economy is going to be this. So calling it tech is a little bit apocryphal at this stage,” David says.
  • Tech jargon distances people from the actual understanding of the concepts.” Learning core technology concepts is not as hard as the jargon has many believe.
  • Learning what data scientists do and how to work with them is the best skill set to develop for business people in tech. “Data science is the analysis of the lifeblood of the company and you have to ask fundamental insight questions against it. You do not have to build the models yourself, but you are at an advantage if...
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