Friday, 14 June 2013

Beau Dimanche - Beginning to learn

Bootstrapping learning

Beau Dimanche co-conspirator Cat sent me the names of a couple of books she was recommended to get me started thinking about starting a startup and entrepreneurship. I am a bit of an academic at heart, and I wanted to get into the groove early with the right mindset and make sure that I had the right tools. The first book was "Lean Startup" (French title), or "The Lean Startup" in it's native form, by Eric Ries. And I was hooked...

Back when I changed directions from Linguistics to IT a little over a decade ago, I did a course on programming focussing on using XP as a programming technique/philosophy with Elizabeth Post. XP is a "Lean/Agile" way of doing things and I was immediately attracted to it. Agile was still pretty unknown back then, and Elizabeth's energy and passion for it meant I was exposed early in my programming career. Thanks Liz! Alas, while I promoted XP in my two main programming jobs after that, I got mainly amused looks (what you been smoking lad?) when I pushed for things like peer programming, tests-first and regular/constant refactoring. The ideas stuck though and the basic concept of waste reduction has been with me since. I moved more into (IT) admin/operations for a while and then into email marketing deliverability. Along the way I came across the DevOps movement (agile operations) and finally discovered Kanban. Many of the basic philosophies came from car manufacturing and many decades ago to boot! There were obviously some very powerful ideas at the root of all this and I definitely wasn't alone in thinking so.

So I bought myself The Lean Startup, raced through it and then bought a few more books from the "movement" (Running Lean, Lean Analytics, The Startup Owner's Manual, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Customer Development, for the moment). I have also finally started using my tablet (Nexus 7) - Amazon makes it far too easy to buy books on these things! Google would have been getting my money but they just can't seem to get this strange thing called B2C right... but I digress :-). I want to get a solid base from books and then move on to the plethora of blogs out there. There are heaps of meetups organised - even here in Paris (don't get me started on the anti-entrepreneur sentiment here...) - and I'll definitely be going to as many of those as time permits to share and learn. I am also enrolled in the upcoming Coursera (16/06 start) Startup Engineering course from Stanford. There are just so many really cool ways to learn I'm going to have to start limiting myself very soon or I won't have any time left to actually DO :-).

So I'm still learning about "Lean" but it's definitely how we are going to move Beau Dimanche forward. The incubator we're in is also pushing us that way so it's a perfect fit! We are still at the very beginning and don't have any investors or major source of capital and I'm beginning to think that is a good thing - if you have loads of money (particularly if it's someone else's), then there is always the risk of throwing it at something and not focussing on the rapid experimental learning approach Lean Startup promotes. I'm a geek and love building stuff so there is an inherent risk of me just thinking I know what people want and starting to build it without actually validating our thinking.

I had planned to work in academia/science before moving to IT but I quickly got tired of the Ivory Tower and it's disconnect from reality. So let's bring the agile scientific method into the real world. This is just what I've been looking for!

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