I’m writing a book with my friend and fellow sometime-Montrealer Ben Yoskovitz. Ben is one of the other founders of Year One Labs, and one of the smartest people I know when it comes to entrepreneurship.
The book is called Lean Analytics, and it’s about using data to build a better startup faster. We decided to write it because running a data-driven startup is hard. It’s not just hard because analytics is challenging to get right. It’s hard because self-discipline is a bitch.
As a founder, it’s so tempting to run on gut instinct, pure adrenaline, high-test coffee and dreams. It’s the image of an entrepreneur we all crave—fast, small computer, scruffy jeans and comfortable shoes, late-model smartphone, glib witticisms on lips and hungry investors on speed-dial.
On the other hand, our image of analysis is craven. It sucks. It’s spreadsheets. It leads to paralysis. We don’t want to be so data-driven we lose sight of our souls, of the reasons we started a company in the first place. We don’t want to be the nay-saying analyst, hidebound by figures and models, questioning everything, eager for proof. We don’t want to wait until all the risk is gone—and with it all the reward.
Anyone who’s been there will tell you that neither extreme is reality. The real world is hastily-assembled pitch decks, last-minute meltdowns, and a million tiny issues clamoring for your attention. You need to strike a balance, adapting to change and dealing with crises while keeping the company on the one metric that matters to you right now. You need to be a hacker, a hustler, a designer, and an analyst.
Ben and I don’t have all the answers for how to do this. If that seems like a strange thing to say about yourself right before you write a book on the subject, well, it is. But if Lean is about anything, it’s about learning.
We learned a lot at our respective startups, and more from writing blogs and books over the years. Year One Labs gave us a chance to put some of what we’d learned into action, and mentoring startups in several other incubators and accelerators gave us a different perspective on how things work.
What we’re hoping is that we can channel all of out experience, and all the knowledge of the startup community, into some useful, practical, real-world-ready guidance on building a startup that makes something companies actually want—and doing it before the money runs out or your competitors catch up.
Lean Analytics is scheduled for release in early 2013. It’s part of the Lean series from O’Reilly Media, and we’re thrilled to be working with Eric Ries, Ash Maurya, and other great thinkers in the field of entrepreneurship and customer development.
We hope you’ll join us.