The Grand Finale: Groupon VP Speaks at Startup Lessons Learned 2011

It has been an amazing day at Startup Lessons Learned 2011 – I can’t believe it but the day is done. We’ve had the chance to see fourteen talks which usually takes 3-5 days at most conferences but Eric Ries has managed to really pack the day full of amazing speakers. Yes – it’s been fast-paced, inspiring, and I absolutely think about the world differently now than I did this morning…and in a very good way.

What better way to end the day then two excellent case studies, IMVU and the big one I’m sure you’re all very excited to hear more about – Groupon!

IMVU learns from experiments and they have learned a lot from the process. James Birchler, the Director of Engineering from IMVU talks about the lessons they’ve learned with this hugely successful startup that is growing like crazy!

  • Started by making it very simple to run an experiment.
  • Over time made it simple to manage experiments
  • Made is simple to review findings and share them
  • Embrace Failure as an opportunity to learn
  • It’s okay to share good and bad news in the company
  • Culture is a key and this gives you the freedom to experiment
  • Build what customers say they want
  • Have a hypothesis to test against and have the courage to actually go through the process and do the learning
  • The bigger takeaway is to test hypothesis and don’t just form them

Next up and to end the day was Suneel Gupta, the VP of Product for Groupon discussing how to use Lean Startup Principles to Manage Hypergrowth.

Suneel started by talking about how much he loves working at Groupon, really dynamic group involved in music and theater. He posed the question – what are the similarities between theater and startups?

  • First act of a startup learn about the model, the team and the problem the want to solve
  • Second act they get their hands dirty and build the product
  • Third act – the product takes-off and they get to innovate and iterate

Five Questions you should think about in your startup:

  1. What does it look like?
  2. What is the problem we are trying to solve? Call-out all issues you see now, try to solve for them now, always keep them in mind – use one-pagers. Retro – get your developers in a room and really talk about what you’re working on, make sure you’re not on the wrong mountain.
  3. Will people get it? Success is not a to-do list, it is a to-learn list. Watching users interact with product is absolutely critical. Your development team will not necessarily look like your users. Building multiple designs and split testing., verifyapp, getting out of the building.
  4. How do we get there and fast? An idea swells in complexity with allotted time. Need to create artificial timelines.
  5. What’s your voice? Defining your culture, more important for Groupon to be interesting rather than impressive.

Think Big. Start Small. Dig in!

Apps Suneel uses: axure, balsamiq, screnflow, snapz

Of course to help you really enjoy the energy and excitement of this grand finale I thought I’d include this video of Suneel’s talk. Many more videos can be found on my YouTube channel as well!

Morgan Linton

Morgan Linton