The Lean Analytics Backchannel


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Ben Yoskovitz and I are launching something today. It’s a chance for data-driven entrepreneurs to dig deeper into the metrics and analytics of growing their businesses. Here’s why.

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Back in 2012, Mary Treseler sent Ben Yoskovitz and I a contract for a book. O’Reilly Media was publishing a series of books to dive deeper into what Eric Ries had written in The Lean Startup, a book that made most startups and investors reconsider how companies were launched. We signed the contract, and spent the next year writing.

y1l-logo-tempLean Analytics was born from a startup incubator that Ben and I, along with Ian Rae and Ray Luk, ran in Montreal. That incubator, Year One Labs, was based on the idea that 90-day, pitch-centric startup accelerator model was fundamentally flawed. We felt it didn’t give companies enough time to find their markets, explore possible products, and develop customers. This insight came largely from Eric’s book.

But there was a problem. At the core of The Lean Startup is a constant cycle of building, measuring, and learning. Each innovation informs the next. Unfortunately, we’re bad at learning. We lie to ourselves about what matters. We like the building part, because we can control it. The measurement is less fun, particularly when it tells us what we don’t want to know, because it forces us to ask the question: am I good enough?

And back then, nobody really knew what Good Enough looked like.

Ben and I started asking around, trying to find useful baselines and targets for businesses. During that year, we talked to dozens of founders, investors, and mentors, asking them what Good Enough was like. Gradually, slowly, they shared data with us. The result of those discussions became the core of Lean Analytics.

Since that time, much has changed. For starters, Lean Analytics went much farther than we thought it would. It’s been translated into nearly ten languages, and we’ve spoken on every continent except Antarctica about it. It’s found its way into big, public companies. We’ve recorded talks on Udemy, and spoken at places like Google and General Assembly.

Nobody’s more surprised than Ben and I.

Each time we speak, someone asks us if there’s more. We’ve considered writing another, updated edition of the book. But that seems somehow strangely twentieth century. Most of the case studies and metrics we cite today aren’t from the book, they’re from conversations with the startup community, anyway.

There’s another reason for an update. Plenty has changed since Lean Analytics proposed six fundamental business models.

  • Baselines are different—time passes, and what used to work well doesn’t work any more. The first banner ad had a click-through rate of 44%; today’s have a fraction of that.
  • New platforms need new metrics. The Internet of Things and Augmented/Virtual reality have entirely new kinds of engagement, and we need new ways of thinking about them.
  • What we can measure has changed. We weren’t able to collect certain kinds of data; now companies like Affectiva and Sociometric can measure faces and voices to detect emotion and stress level.
  • The tools founders use have changed. Slack, Github, new IDEs, testing platforms—all have shifted now that mobile is the dominant computing platform. There are also newer, more specialized analytics services, and many platforms include instrumentation (consider, for example, Amazon’s just-launched gaming engine, Lumberyard.)
  • Hardware startups are a different beast, and prototyping is an important, different field when you’re working with atoms instead of bits.
  • And we’ve branched out into other topics, particularly enterprise innovation (which I started writing about at Tilt The Windmill) and positioning (which April Dunford and I are tackling in a book called Different:Better.) Of course, Ben continues to work on startup topics with his hugely popular blog, Instigatorblog.
  • Enterprises care about Lean. Many of them, like Motorola, Qualcomm, GE, and Cognizant, devote significant resources to managing innovation portfolios, using hard-won frameworks and metrics they’ve tested over time.

Lean Analytics Community artSo we’re launching this. In true Lean fashion, we’re going to test it first—we have a specific goal in mind, and if we get enough people to sign up for what we’re calling the Lean Analytics Backchannel, we’ll turn it on. Join us, and make this the most vibrant platform on the planet for discussing the data that drives better businesses faster.

You can sign up, and get more specific details, on our Gumroad page.