A Conversation with Mitch Kapor at Startup Lessons Learned 2011

Following a great talk about the lean startup movement, Eric Ries sat down with legendary entrepreneur and inventor Mitch Kapor (blog – http://mkapor.posterous.com/). The discussion started with Mitch talking about one of his first startups that failed. Of course Mitch is famous for a lot of things, one of them was starting Lotus and helping to make RealNetworks, Mozilla, and the list goes on.

mitchkapor_ericries_sllconfBelow are some of the notes I took during this truly inspirational talk:

– the capacity for self-delusion is infinite

– innovations happen at periods of punctuated equilibrium

– people can make mistakes by applying conventional thinking where it does not apply

– when you’re in a period of disruptive innovation you have to have the courage to proceed ahead in the face of enormous skepticism

– if you were starting a company 20 years ago, nobody would be holding you accountable for your carbon footprint. These days awareness that businesses use energy and have a certain carbon footprint is really widespread. You are either part of the problem or part of the solution

– what we are trying to do is encourage an alternative point of view: businesses should be thinking about social value rather than just economic value

– as an investor the value of lean startup today in 2011, is that when we see a startup that has embraced its principles fully I think it confers an unfair advantage on them compared to other startups with equally smart people

– it is just crazy to not do this, go lean!

Questions from the audience:

Q: Should I use my own funds first before going to venture capitalists?

A: Conventionally it is said that if you can’t get an outside investor it is failing some basic test. That is largely true but not sufficient. The reason I mostly don’t like self-funded after a certain point is that it’s asking an individual to do too much. I like teams that have a goal and are working towards that, and they know that at the end of a period of time there will be some discontinuity if they do not make progress.

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