Lean Startup Essentials With Steve Sanderson of Rackspace

In this episode, I talk with Steve Sanderson of Rackspace. Steve is an expert on and practitioner of the lean startup methodology. During our discussion, we give founders everything they need to know to get started with the lean startup methodology inside their company. Enjoy!

Have comments, questions, ideas, or feedback? I want to hear it. Tweet me at william_griggs.


Topics Covered In This Episode

  • Tell us briefly about your background and what you do on a day-to-day basis at Rackspace and Capital Factory.
  • Today I want your help in giving the founders and CEOs listening to this podcast, a crash course on the lean startup methodology.
    • First off, to get us started, what is at heart of the lean startup
      • What are the most essential elements? (80/20 Principle)
      • Why does Lean matter?
      • What problems does it address? (Why should people in the audience keep listening?)
      • What does a successful implementation look like inside a startup?
  • If you were to train one of our listeners for two weeks on the lean startup methodology so they could blow Eric Ries’ mind at a meeting and you had $10M on the line, what would the training look like?
    • What concepts would you focus on?
    • What if you had 4 weeks?
    • What kinds of skills does a founder or CEO need on their team to implement this?
    • What 2-3 mistakes do startups make with regards to implementing the lean startup methodology?
  • Are there any companies out there that are doing this really well that people would be surprised to hear about?
  • If you could only recommend 1 blog post or podcast (no books) on the lean startup methodology to enable our listeners to go a little deeper on the topic what would it be? (No books please).
  • What 1 or 2 people are most thought-provoking people in the lean startup space that people don’t know about, but should?
    • Who trained / influenced you most?
  • If people have questions, or want to connect with you, where can they find you?



Startup Slingshot Radio’s audio transcription is done by GMR Transcription

William Griggs: Hey Steve, thanks for joining us today.

Steve Sanderson: Great. I’m really excited to be here. I know we joked about a great company that I’m following but the truth is is I actually months ago had been thinking about how I could someday get on a podcast. And I was thrilled to tell my family last night that I’m going to do it this morning and – while they’re all asleep and told me to don’t bother them. We are very excited and I’m real thrilled to be here, so thanks.

William Griggs: Yes. I bet they were in awe. They probably had a late night telling all their friends that you were coming on Startup Slingshot Radio and now they’re sleeping in.

Steve Sanderson: Exactly. In fact, one fell asleep on the couch nearby just to be supportive so –

William Griggs: That’s what family’s for right there. So we really appreciate your time in coming on the show today. Let’s just get into it. Tell us a little bit about your background and what you do on a day-to-day basis at Rack Space and as a mentor at Capital Factory.

Steve Sanderson: Sure. So I’ll start with the simple stuff. Capital Factory, it’s an incubator co-working place here in Austin. And a while ago some of the folks, Josh Bare approached me and asked me if I’d be interested in mentoring. Which is great because after having spent many years working in the startup world and getting lots of scars, a part of what really helps me is to sort of continue to cycle through my learnings.

And about once a month or so I’ll meet with a group of different startups and – really mostly early stage and basically try and help them solve problems and try and get them to drink some of the Kool-Aid that I’ve got when it comes to Lean Startup.

On Rack Space, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. I’ve been working there for about 18 months and the day to day is really something that I’m inventing. They asked me to join them about a year-and-a-half ago, like I said. And the problem that they really put in front of me was, we know Lean Startup is out there. We know customer development is out there. We see that it works. It’s small scale and we hear whispers that it might be relevant at large scale inside existing companies. We have some potential problems that it could help us with. Would you be willing to come in and give it a shot?

So it was a very open-ended arrangement. I am an employee but I really function more like an internal consultant. And what that’s netted out to is this vision that we put together which is a company can become something like a platform where all the assets and resources, networks, relationships, what have you that a company has accumulated by doing their day to day should be harvestable as a platform for new ventures, whether they are sustaining to add-on to existing products or something completely new and disruptive that takes them to a new place in the market.

And the idea that we could essentially refactor or rewrite the DNA a little bit of a company so it becomes a platform, it should be able to outpace startups with an unfair advantage of having all of those assets. And the reality obviously isn’t that right now. If that were true then I wouldn’t have a job solving that problem.

So having said that, what we have done is found a number of different teams internally that are at various stages of adopting Lean and customer development and trying, mostly in the sustaining context, to have existing products or offerings. And they wanna understand whether they should build the thing that they wanna build.

They’ve got plenty of folks that know how to build it when they decide what to build. But really answering questions ahead of time, is this the right thing to build, is this the right market to go into, is this the right customer segment to address, what have you, all those sort of business model tweaks that you do.

William Griggs: Yeah, very interesting. It sounds like you have the perfect background for the topic today and today. I wanna dig in and really help give the founders and the CEOs listening to this podcast a crash course on the Lean Startup methodology, kinda like what you talked about. You help startups at Capital Factory with this. You help people at Rack Space do this.

So first off, to get us started, what is at the heart of the Lean Startup methodology? I feel like people hear about it a lot. There’s lots of talk about it. The crash course, one of the goals here today is let’s get down to the nitty-gritty, let’s figure out one of the most essential items that the startup CEOs and founders listening to this podcast can take away and start implementing. So what’s kinda the crux on the Lean Startup methodology?

Steve Sanderson: Great question. I actually took this podcast as a chance to sorta go back and look at what other folks are saying about that. I cheated. I went on Eric Reis’ site, the LeanStartup.com I think it is or dot co. What does he say are the main principles? What do some of the other folks that I admire say about that?

And I actually pulled, from my perspective, a slightly different set of things than what’s typically written up. So first off, the notion of startup obviously, like you said, covers both four folks in a garage as well as something at the other end of the spectrum, a team inside a big company that wants to try either a sustaining or disruptive innovation.

For all of those the themes – the elements that really come through for me in the Lean Startup methodology, there’s really sort of three main points. The first is, they’ve gotta have an audacious vision. They’ve gotta have some strong vision of what change they wanna create, both how it will affect them, how it will affect their customers.

Then they’ve got to be really, really brutally honest to themselves and unpack it. And unpack it into the underlying assumptions to really understand which are the riskiest of the underlying assumptions.

So at that point if a team unpacks it, finds that all of their underlying assumptions are really not that risky, then I honestly look at them and say, don’t both doing the Lean stuff. Just move on, build the stuff out because your cost benefit for solving the assumptions versus building the whole thing is so low that you just should do it. So unless they’re really dying to learn the stuff, I’ll stop them there if all of their underlying assumptions are reasonably low risk.

William Griggs: What’s a good example of a low-risk assumption?

Steve Sanderson: Oh, let’s say you are working in an existing market. You’ve got existing competitors. You know you’ve got – that you share the same customer segments as an existing company or set of existing companies. And they have – and all of your competitors have a feature. Your customers keep asking for this feature and you don’t have it.

William Griggs: Got it.

Steve Sanderson: And so the vision you might have is, hey, if we build this tremendous new feature, people are gonna spend more money, retain longer, what have you. Well, it doesn’t take a genius to look at your competitive situation and say, odds are we’re gonna do better. We’ve gotten lots of signals from competitors, from customers that we should do this.

So maybe you think the risk on this one is moderate to low. Maybe you mitigate that by some informal phone conversations with customers. Odds are you just go ahead and build the darn thing. And you don’t need the extra overhead.

And sort of the absurd example I use, if you’re the Steve Jobs that we all imagine Steve Jobs really was, the brilliant person that could figure it all out without any human input other than his own, if you’ve got that incredible crystal ball, you don’t need Lean. You just need to go and build the darn thing.

William Griggs: Right.

Steve Sanderson: So if you’re that end of the spectrum, either you are omniscient, which would be awesome, or you happen to know through other evidence that there’s a good chance that you’re really right –

William Griggs: Got it.

Steve Sanderson: — then don’t bother. Now on the other hand, at the other end of the spectrum where you just don’t know, you wanna keep going. The problem is, of course, right there there’s a real subjective factor. How do you know whether it’s really a big risk or not? And there can be arguments. And this is where self-delusion comes in. And ironically self-delusion was one of the interesting talks that people – that someone gave at the most recent Lean Startup conference, how much human nature is that we wanna fool ourselves.

So it’s easy to fool yourself and believe that all the underlying assumptions you’ve got are low risk, you’re brilliant, our friends are brilliant, let’s just build the darn thing. But let’s assume for the moment you’ve got some modicum of insight and you say, yeah, I’m trying to build something really new here. This underlying assumption is really uncertain.

All right. So then you go to the third step which is, now that you’ve unpacked it you’ve got a list of what your really most dangerous riskiest assumptions are. You’ve gotta rigorously validate those and you’ve gotta start with the biggest, nastiest one, the one that’s gonna gill your business if you’re wrong. And you’ve gotta start validating them.

And that’s where you hear people talk about the Bill Measure learn loop. That’s where you hear people talk about if you validate it then you continue to iterate and move forward. Or if you ultimately find out that you’re assumption is incorrect that you’ve gotta pivot.

So, three main steps, the audacious vision, the underlying riskiest assumptions that you unpacked from the vision and then the day-to-day iterations of rigorously validating those assumptions. But each time you validate you’re actually adding a new layer onto the product that you’re building. So you’re not just out there doing research, which is a whole different beast. You’re actually building the new stuff and additively increasing your product. So that was [inaudible] [00:10:15] –

William Griggs: That makes a lot of sense. Yeah – no, that’s a lot of good information for the listeners to kind of – I remember – the question was, what are the most essential items. And that’s what he’s broken out for us of the vision, unpacking it, validating it. But people are on the fence right now that’re listening. They say, that sounds great, it’s intuitive in hindsight but why does it matter? Why should I do that?

Steve Sanderson: Sure. So ultimately it comes down to increasing the odds of success if your vision is something that takes you into unknown territory. I mean, if I have a vision for building a new house, other than having the money and time to do it, that’s probably not a high degree of uncertainty. If I’ve got a vision about completely disrupting the house-building business, there’s a lot of uncertainty. There’s a lot of change there and I’m fighting a lot of odds.

If I wanna increase the odds of success for what I’m doing then this is probably the best way I know of to increase your odds. And it generates insights about the market, about the business, about the team, about the individuals as well. So it’s not just that you’re increasing the odds of success, which is obviously critical. If you’re open to it, it will generate insights along the way.

William Griggs: Got it. That makes a lot of sense. So that kinda gets people listening. They’re like, okay, we got these three main things, we got the reason why we’re doing it. If we don’t do this there’s a big opportunity cost, right. You could spend a lot of time going down the path that you won’t get back.

Steve Sanderson: Totally.

William Griggs: And once you realize that this is not feasible in a lot of resources either of your own or of others that you could burn through if you didn’t validate it. So do you have an example of maybe a successful startup that has done this? And can you walk us through a little bit more of what they did?

Steve Sanderson: Sure. So Food on the Table’s the last startup I worked at before Rack Space. And we had this grand hypothesis that families have a problem with the regular Tuesday night meals, that they get stuck in a rut, that they’re unhappy with it on several dimensions. They spend too much money so they can’t take advantage of what’s on sale at the store. They don’t eat well. They cook the same things over and over again. And there’s actually a tremendous amount of stress around solving that problem for parents especially that have kids. That when they get it wrong the kids are unhappy, the spouse is unhappy, what have you.

So after having interviewed a number of folks and found that we did see that problem, we wanted to go validate the business model. So typically what we would’ve done is said, let’s go built a new service. Let’s – at the time mobile wasn’t as prevalent for our customer segment so we would’ve built the website and we would’ve drawn people to it, bought ads and watch their behavior.

But instead of investing months’ and months’ worth of work, what we actually did was sat in front of a whiteboard and sketched out the design of the service we thought we would build. And then instead of actually building that service we simulated it. We printed out recipes by hand, we got the flyer from a customer’s grocery store and we met one potential customer at Starbucks where we sat down and I pretended to be the backend of the system and he pretended, this is the CEO Manuel Russo, pretended to be the frontend of the system. And he interviewed her and walked her through the meal planning selection process.

And meanwhile I was madly cutting and pasting into a spreadsheet, pulling things up off of Google. And at the very end of this hour-long interview where we pretended to be the software, we handed her a shopping list with a stack of recipes with photos where the items on the shopping list were flagged to say what’s on sale. And we had it organized by department for her grocery store.

So we gave her that first week free because our business model was, we think people are gonna need to use this one week trial and then if they like it they’ll pay. So we sent her away. And then after the fact we called her, got her feedback, asked her if she’d be willing to do it again but this time we charged her.

So we had her meet us again the next Monday at the same Starbucks. And we went through the process again using the insights that she generated with us from the last time and generated a new shopping list for that week. She loved us. She wrote us a $9.95 cent check for that week. And without writing one line of code we had started to validate the business model and generate revenue.

So we actually repeated this with several more customers prior to writing any line of code. And we didn’t write the first line of code – and I say we – I didn’t write the first line of code until we hit a scaling issue. So we were, I wanna say it was between four and eight people we were doing this by hand for for a specific store. And we saw that it was taking up too much time for us to do this by hand for a particular store.

So we automated some of the scraping and assembling of data so that we were more prepared to do those interviews. And we incrementally enhanced the system as we went based on what we saw was the biggest risk of successfully building out the service. So all along every time we did something we were testing another hypothesis with our customers. And that successfully drove us to – when I left there were 2 plus million registered users.

William Griggs: Very interesting.

Steve Sanderson: And ultimately got acquired by the Food Network Scripts Interactive.

William Griggs: Very cool. Yeah, so that’s a really good example that’s highly actionable because, like you said, it’s – some people call it I think the concierge model MVP. So if people wanna dig into that more online they can do that. But, like you said, you’re validating the business model. One piece says, hey, is someone gonna find value in this and one piece says, hey, are they gonna find so much value in this that they’ll be willing for us to pay.

And then as you’re validating this you’re probably finding, like you said, more items that you need to build out in the future –

Steve Sanderson: Oh, yeah.

William Griggs: — and add to it to make it easier or make it more valuable for them. What’s – can you unpack a little bit what the interviews looked like and what kinda questions they were asking?

Steve Sanderson: Sure. So there’s really a distinction between what I think of the interview is it helped us generate the hypothesis and the interviews we used to validate them. So if we look at the interviews that helped us generate the hypothesis, they were very open-ended. They literally were wine and cheese around a table at someone’s house.

A friend of a friend was tasked with getting us a group of moms who cook regularly from across the spectrum in terms of demographics. We didn’t wanna narrow it down to any one economic, social, ethnic group. We just wanted to cast a broad net. And we sat them in a room, chitchatted, gave them cheese, gave them wine.

They all knew each other so they all were all very comfortable and settled into a conversation about tell us what the dinnertime process looks like. Obviously we didn’t call it process but what does it look like at dinnertime at your house? How does that work? Is that all good? What does shopping look like for you? How does that work out? How does it work with you saving money, spending money, eating well? So we had some triggers that were around our initial hypotheses to trigger the conversations.

And mostly we did just informal conversation and took notes. And I have to say there’s one thing that really stood out for me in that whole process. As a technical guy I really appreciated the information we were learning. But as a non-marketing person there’s something that happened that just sorta blew me away which was at some point one of the moms had such a strong emotional reaction to the subject that she started crying.

And when we talked about it and her friends knew what was going on, I think the details were something that she was a stepmom and there was – one of the step kids was older, a teenager, didn’t like her. There was a lot of underlying animosity. Whenever she cooked something new that he didn’t like, which was a lot, he would stand up and stomp off and throw it in the trash and huff out of the room. And that’d create tension between the two of them which of course created tension between her and her husband. And it was just cascade, right.

So this was a tense situation. I looked at that and I was like, whoa, wow, that’s really intense. Manuel, the CEO who’s got a deep background in marketing, saw the emotional intensity, was thrilled, obviously not that someone was in pain but thrilled that this was the kind of problem we could solve.

William Griggs: Right.

Steve Sanderson: Going after a problem where there’s a lot of emotion, a lot of intensity is ideal. And going after a problem where people are indifferent and they don’t have a lot of passion, man, good luck, move on. So that blew me away and it just sorta – that whole process rewrote how I thought about a lot of stuff.

William Griggs: Yeah, that’s very interesting because it’s kinda like two sides of the coin. You say it’s – one, it helps you validate the business but two, it helps you motivate the team because you realize, hey, this is a real problem. We are solving it for real people. And it helps us – helps the developers know, hey, we’re solving this real problem. We’re not just building code – or writing code [inaudible] [00:19:57] code –

Steve Sanderson: Yeah.

William Griggs: And it helps the marketers know specifically what buttons to press, or how to shape the copy.

Steve Sanderson: And it really does. It comes through in a lot of ways. I mean, when we recruited people to help us solve these problems, to build a company, and we were able to show this might not be a problem for you, a 25-year-old man who doesn’t have kids. But if they have any modicum of empathy then when they hear the stories and then are exposed to the customers if they’re a real pain, they get it.

And suddenly they’re bought in not because they’re cranking out code and doing some really cool stuff on the backend and building a great scaling cash system. They’re also doing it because, hey, I’m actually helping – I’m gonna walk by someone whose life I’ve made better on the sidewalk on the trails. So it’s an incredibly secret weapon to get people engaged is that sort of intensity of a problem. So –

William Griggs: Yeah, that’s really cool.

Steve Sanderson: So I mentioned there were two sides to this. One side is generating the information to make a hypothesis. And that’s what those conversations were. Once we have a hypothesis, the relationship with our customers changes. And the way it changes is we approach them with a hypothesis in mind and it has to be testable. We can’t just have a hypothesis that says, I think people will like puppies. We have to be able to validate it and we have to be able to say, nine out of ten people that we present a fluffy puppy to will ask to hold the puppy. So it has to be very measurable.

And the forcing function of making it measurable causes it to become what’s called the falsifiable hypothesis. And it’s how we’re able to move forward. By having a hypothesis that can either succeed or fail then we will know and generate insights as to whether this part of our model was correct or incorrect.

And that’s one of the mistakes that a lot of people do is they make these hypotheses that sound plausible but you could never disprove them. And so they really are gaming the system unintentionally or intentionally and they won’t get useful information. And at that point they’ll just – their biases will drive the whole system.

William Griggs: Got it. So those are different questions. So it sounds like that’s a really important thing to kind of emphasize. You said once that interview is you’re kinda finding the problem, you’re digging into what their experiences are, what they’re facing. And then you basically come away with a bunch of information. Then you create the hypothesis that you’re then going to go to the similar target market and try to validate [inaudible] [00:22:44] –

Steve Sanderson: Exactly.

William Griggs: That’s very interesting.

Steve Sanderson: Yeah, so we went back and we believed that people would pay for this thing. If we had given this service away on day one and never charged for it, we would never have validated it that it could’ve been a business. We might’ve validated that somebody thought it was annoying enough to get something for free. But forcing them to pay us $10 the first month for two grown men to manually prepare their meal plans, right, they didn’t care about the implementation. They cared about the results.

Getting them to pay $10 a month for those results proved that they considered it valuable enough to put hard cold cash on the table. And that forced it to be real versus a just sort of, yeah, you’re a nice guy. Sure, I’ll do it for you, whatever. So you gotta have that. You gotta have that falsifiable hypothesis. Otherwise you’re just playing.

William Griggs: Yeah – no, that makes a lot of sense. It seems like this has been a really good kind of overview and crash course. And really the essential things are there. If you could only recommend maybe one more blog post or podcast on the Lean Startup methodology to kinda enable the listeners to go a little deeper, right. So we want [inaudible] to take this right now.

Steve Sanderson: Sure.

William Griggs: We want them to go out and act upon this information. But once they hit something where they’re like, I don’t remember what I should do here, I don’t remember what – or I don’t know what I should do next, are there any resources that you can point them to?

Steve Sanderson: Yes, there’s a ton. So I recommend Eric Reis’ book as a great way to understand why you should care. It’s a great book, reads really well. It’s very entertaining. But nobody I’ve ever met walks away from that book knowing what to do the next morning. And that’s a brutal problem.

The answer to that problem, the best answer I’ve seen so far in general is a guy actually here in Austin Ash Maurya runs a company called Spark59. Has a site called Practice Trumps Theory, does workshops, does coaching, writes books, does podcasts, video casts, what have you.

He makes this stuff extremely operational and he’s – I really admire his brain in the ability to turn it into very systematic approach to getting started and going. He nails that holistically better than anybody I’ve seen. And so I oftentimes will buy that book or recommend that book for groups that I’m working with. And I will tell them, we’re about to do this thing. Go read chapter six, seven. And then when we’re done with that read chapter eight. And that’s what we’re gonna do.

And it is a little bit that you fake it ’til you make it. You’re gonna import what he does and copy it but it’s a great way to learn without the benefit of having a mentor sort of in your face. The other – there’s – if I’ve got time for one or two more.

William Griggs: Yeah, for sure. Go ahead.

Steve Sanderson: So there’s a woman Laura Klein, UsersKnow.com I think is her URL. She’s got another book out “You Extra Lean Startups.” And she nails it ten ways. She’s super, super sharp with this stuff. She worked with Eric Reis and Manuel Russo at In View when this was all coming together. And she has the best insights into how a lot of the tactics and some of the why about how to learn from users and how to do it quickly but how to do it accurately. So hypothesis building, test generation, experimentation, she gets that stuff tremendously well, so great compliment to Ash’s work.

And then if you’re in a corporate context or you come from a corporate context, there’s a guy that nobody in the Lean world really acknowledges very much at all, a guy named Marty Cagan, Silicon Valley Product Group. And he really focuses on existing companies, big companies. And while he doesn’t frame it this way, from my perspective it is the answer to the question, how would I start to take this stuff and help get it into a product group at a larger company? And he’s able to explain it in a way that probably speaks their language better than a lot of the other sources.

William Griggs: Very good. Yeah, that’s awesome. I mean, that’s a great set of resources. Like you said, Eric Reis you kinda get the theory, Ash Maurya you get the kinda hardcore how to do it. Even with Laura Klein you gotta dig in even more into the weeds. And then with Marty it’s depending on what setting you’re in. Some of the stuff Ash provides I’m sure will be good in a corporate setting but very specifically, like you’re saying, stuff with Marty Cagan would fit even better.

So we’ve covered a lot of stud. We’ve covered a lot of the basics to get people started, the most essential items. We’ve covered a lot of resources they can dig into if they have any questions or if they wanna go further into this. Is there anything we’ve missed? Is there anything you wanna make sure we emphasize for the audience?

Steve Sanderson: Yeah, I think one of the biggest things that I wanna emphasize is learning Lean and the Lean Startup customer development playbook should be easier than it is. It’s hard right now. It’s – I would love to tell people within a couple weeks or a month you can read the stuff and be nailing it.

The truth is, whenever I have hired folks or whether I’ve taken on a team to bring them up to speed, it’s a three-month process that’s a little bit like breaking down some of the way they’ve operated before. And so don’t believe you’re gonna nail it in a couple weeks.

Having said that, there are things you can start doing the first week that will yield the results. It’s just as you become more effective at it, you start turning the wheel and going further, you’re gonna start running into things that challenge your treasured way of doing things. And it’s going to force you to either reconcile why you’re doing this when it might not be effective and [inaudible] [00:29:25] do something different.

William Griggs: Um-hum.

Steve Sanderson: Or you might get off the bus and say, yeah well, I don’t buy this. And so if you run this thing out, generally my experience is if you’re doing this under the context of working with somebody then three months in or so at some point you’ll be like, I get it. Probably a few weeks in you’ll say, this is cool and then you’ll hit some point where the model says you should put out what looks to you like a cruddy design or a cruddy piece of software or a cruddy set of something. And you’ll start to either blow out or challenge yourself.

So I’d love to say there’s an easy way for people to get over that hump but the best way I found is face to face with someone that’s holding you accountable.

William Griggs: Got it.

Steve Sanderson: So that’s – yeah, that’s – this is not additive to existing stuff. It sometimes scrapes old stuff off and replaces it in how you work. So just to be fair.

William Griggs: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense in that, I mean, that’s a reality check that most of the listeners need. Is there any advice on – you know, you talked about the only way to get over that hump – is there any – is – with maybe accountability, what type of accountability are you talking about and how can our audience kinda find – seek that out?

Steve Sanderson: So I would recommend finding local groups. I mean, this is a problem that I’m trying to tackle in the work that I’m doing, is how to start building accountable out without having to have an Eric Reis or a Manuel Russo or an Ash Maurya or something like that in your back pocket.

I think there are ways to do that. It’s – I don’t quite have an answer yet. I would recommend that if you can find someone who has been through this before and has some success with it, if you could hook up with them even to the point of saying, let’s have a once-a-week, maybe once-a-month, whatever the cadence is check-in so that they can mentor you on this, I would strongly recommend that.

I think there are benefits to also finding a Lean Startup group in your town. The problem is you’re probably gonna get a lot of signal from a lot of other people that are at the similar point in their journey. And so you’ll get – you might get a mixed message. So in some ways it’s what I imagine if I were a good writer what a writers’ group would be like in that it’s a mix of people that have nailed it and other people that are really trying to figure it out and they hold each other accountable.

So I don’t have a clean solution for that yet. If I did I’d be selling it. So I’m trying to figure out how to build that in – I mean, that’s the dilemma I’m running into in Rack Space is that I can do this face to face but how do I scale this puppy. So I think we’ll figure it out. This is a discipline – this is a group of work that is on the verge of becoming a discipline, an entrepreneurial management discipline. And at some point, as that starts to happen, I think we’ll see more and more things built up.

I mean, Steve Blank has got his video series where he takes people through a class and things like that but it’s not the interactive accountability of looking at someone and kinda going, really, is that what – did you really mean that? Having them go, well, I guess not. So we’re not there yet. We’re still trying to figure this out.

William Griggs: Yeah, I mean, that’s a good piece of advice. I mean, yeah, Steve has, what, it’s on [inaudible] [00:32:58], kinda has his own Lean lodge pad. Like you’re saying, there are meet ups. I know there are in Austin. I know there are in pretty much any city people are gonna be listening in, Lean Startup meet ups. Just go to MeetUp.com. It seems like something like a mastermind that they put together; find the people that are a little bit ahead of them, try to put the mastermind together, meet biweekly or something like that.

And then it seems like if that’s not an option or you have more money than time, then maybe you go somewhere like Clarity.FM and find a Lean consultant on there that has quantifiable proof of their experience. And you can pay them by the minute [inaudible] –

Steve Sanderson: Exactly, it is.

William Griggs: — still funny but you can pay them by the minute.

Steve Sanderson: And Ash – and to be fair, Ash has a regular workshop he does in a few places around the world, I know some places in the U.S. and Austin as well, where you can go and sorta do an intensive. I think that probably jumpstarts you in a significant fashion. So, yes, there are – if you look at it as a market opportunity, there are lots of sort of nascent ways that we’re trying to figure out how to solve this. So include that in your list too as well with Ash.

William Griggs: For sure. So if people have questions or they wanna connect with you, where’s the best place to do that?

Steve Sanderson: So I have a site that has been dormant for a little while. It’s CollectiveLeap.com. And it is where I am publishing a whole series of patterns and insights and pieces about trying to adopt this stuff at different scale and different contexts. So you can definitely connect with me there.

My – I have a personal blog that’s – you can – a mix of things. It includes some old writings about Food on the Table and a series that I wrote a while ago, Patterns of Lean Startup based on Food on the Table. And that is SteveSanderson.com. But CollectiveLeap.com is really gonna be the – I’ve cued up a bunch of stuff for January, 2015 for launch to start talking through a whole series of insights and patterns that I’ve started to see across the work I’m doing. So –

William Griggs: Awesome. Awesome. Well, we’ll make sure to put our link below the interview in the blog post. Steve, we really appreciate your time and thanks for coming on the show today.

Steve Sanderson: Great. Thank you. I really enjoyed it.


Steve Sanderson’s Bio

Steve SandersonSteve Sanderson is a hands-on product development executive, with a passionate focus on start- ups using a strong Lean Startup, customer-driven approach.




Connect With Steve

Some Patterns of Lean Startup from Food on the Table
Collective Leap



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About William Griggs

William Griggs

William Griggs is a product and customer acquisition strategist who has helped numerous startups including companies backed by Andreessen Horowitz, FLOODGATE, & 500 Startups. In addition to his consulting work, he has written for Mashable, VentureBeat, & ReadWrite. You can check out his podcast on iTunes (The Startup Slingshot TV) or follow him on Twitter @william_griggs for Tweets chock-full of delicious knowledge nuggets.

In addition to everything tech startups, William loves breakfast tacos, dogs, short emails, and Amazon Prime. He currently resides in Austin, Texas with his beautiful wife Elizabeth.

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