Build Your Own Lean Startup Hub

 2013 Photo by The Lean Startup Conference/Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin
2013 Photo by The Lean Startup Conference/Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin

Thinking about starting your own Lean Startup group? Here’s a list of ideas on how to get started, from Ursula Shekufendeh, a strategic partnerships manager and former Lean Startup Conference Speaker.

Her company, AppFolio, introduced her to Lean Startup methods in 2012. One year later, Shekufendeh was running an experimental company initiative, RentApp, as part of an internal incubator.

Here are Shekufendeh’s tips for joining and staying close to the Lean Startup community.

  1. Start a book club

Shekufendeh’s initial exposure to Lean Startup was through a company book club. After reading The Lean Startup, AppFolio’s VP of Product decided to launch an internal incubator, to experiment with Lean methodologies and build a cross-functional team.

“We would read a few chapters every week,” Shekfundeh says, “discuss, and share perspectives on how to apply those ideas to ongoing experiments with RentApp.”

Using this approach, AppFolio spent time discussing frameworks, tracking successes, figuring out ways to measure success. The book club, in a way, was its own Lean Startup MVP.

  1. Host a community event

The Lean Startup Conference has a live stream that you can broadcast, if your team members are unable to attend the event in person.

“A few months after experimenting with Lean Startup, our team signed up for for the conference live stream,” Shekufendeh says. “This was the first time that I got to watch the talks. Our team did something similar in 2013, and in 2014, I attended the conference for the first time, as a speaker. Several of my team members and I will be back in 2015.”

In addition to broadcasting the Lean Startup Conference live stream internally, AppFolio hosted an event for the public. The company advertised the Lean Startup Conference through Facebook and Eventbrite and invited local startups to come to AppFolio’s headquarters.

“We broadcasted the live stream in one of our conference rooms and offered food,” says Shekufendeh. “It was a great way to meet people. We actually discussed each talk with one another.”

  1. Tune into a live Lean Startup webcast

Lean Startup Co. hosts 1-2 webcasts per month. These sessions feature live, interactive Q&As with business leaders like Aneesh Chopra, former CTO of the U.S.; Mark Little, head of global research at GE; Laura Klein, UX leader and principal at UsersKnow; and Cindy Alvarez, head of user experience at Yammer.

Why not invite your team (or even companies in your community) to view the webcast and discuss takeaways after? You can access the Lean Startup webcast library here.

  1.  Build your own Lean Startup curriculum

Pick and choose what you want to learn, and use Lean Startup Company’s resources to build your curriculum.

In addition to its webcast recordings, Lean Startup Company has an arsenal of content from past conferences. Co-founder Heather McGough also hosts a podcast series. Instead of watching and listening to these recordings alone, why not invite your company team or meetup group? Here are a few ‘editor’s choice’ recommendations:

  1. Attend the Lean Startup Conference in person

The value of attending the Lean Startup Conference is that you’ll be able to meet practitioners, experts, and community leaders from all over the world. It’s your one annual opportunity to connect with others and see what’s happening at other companies. You’ll get actionable lessons that you can apply immediately.

It was after two years of following Lean Startup from a distance that Shekufendeh decided to join the conference in person. She explains that connection-building opportunities were invaluable and plans to attend the conference, as much as possible, in future years.

One big difference between being there in person, than the livestream, is the conversations that happen outside, of the talks,” says Shekufendeh. “So connecting with people that might be going through the same challenges, or have run into similar situations as you, and exchanging those ideas is invaluable.”

“As you’re there, with everything happening around you, you can bounce ideas off of each other, in the moment,” says Shekufendeh.  “You can ask as many questions as you want and see what the other person’s experience has been, or you can enrich your own as well. If you have people that are familiar with your own context, with your own situation, and your own challenges, and then can pick and choose the lessons that you heard from other companies.”

You can even bring your new connections back home.

AppFolio recently invited Kathryn Kuhn, transformation leader at Rally Software and 2014 Lean Startup Conference speaker, to come give a local talk on product development. Shekufendeh and Kuhn met at the 2014 event and stayed in touch. For this reason, Shekufendeh encourages Lean Startup practitioners to attend events in person.

If you’re interested, you can learn more here.

Final thoughts

At its heart, Lean Startup is a learning experience. The time and energy you spend getting familiar with Lean Startup is an investment in your own education, and a valuable resource for your company.

“We’ve very lucky to have senior management being supportive of our learning,” says Shekufendeh. “They see Lean Startup as an investment and way to grow.”

Prioritize your group like you would any other educational investment. Track milestones, make sure that you’re evolving, and find ways to built on one another’s insight.

If you want to bring speakers like Kuhn to your own event, you can reach out to Lean Startup Company to set up a series of coaching or business education sessions. Just email [email protected] for suggestions, case studies, and coaching session options.
For more info on Lean Startup, check out and join us at The Lean Startup Conference in San Francisco, November 16-19