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Lean Startup Conference Comes to Brooklyn: An Interview with Jennifer Maerz


On May 10 - 11th the Lean Startup Conference comes to New York City’s Brooklyn Navy Yard. The conference introduces entrepreneurs and corporate innovators to the Lean Startup methodology. Recently Digital.NYC's editor, Marcos Dinnerstein, caught up with Jennifer Maerz, editor-in-chief & program chair of Lean Startup Co., to learn what’s in store for attendees.

Digital.NYC: Tell us, broadly, about this conference and its goals.

Lean Startup Co.: The conference is focused on helping business leaders systematically create more agile and adaptive organizations that respond to customer needs quickly, which is important both in staying competitive in any industry and recruiting and retaining talent. In New York, we’re homing in on leaders from established and enterprise organizations—from the City of NYC government and UNICEF to Nordstrom, GE, and The New York Times, among others—sharing stories of how they’ve revolutionized their approach to their customers and constituents and created a culture that fosters learning and experimentation. (We should add, it’s not just the stories of what’s worked out well—we’ll also have plenty of stories about the challenges of modernizing your business, since everyone knows this isn’t an easy process). We also have Lean Startup experts and innovation gurus leading hands-on, interactive workshops and speed mentoring sessions that immerse attendees in how to do the hard work of incorporating Lean Startup in large organizations, leaving attendees with actionable takeaways they can put to use when they get back to work.

Digital.NYC: Why the Lean Startup method? What’s special about this method and why would people want to learn it?

Lean Startup Co.: Basically, no one wants to waste a lot of money, time, and personnel on ideas that we simply hope and assume are going to work out, especially in an era when so many industries are being disrupted by startup competitors and rapidly-shifting consumer habits. On the flip side, one successful company’s way of operating won’t necessarily work somewhere else.

The Lean Startup isn’t a set-in-stone prediction of what will work best in the future based on one company’s success, it’s a practice devised to teach teams to engage with customers early on and embark on lots of small, low-cost failures (learning moments) so they can systematically work their way toward building better products and services. It’s about more than just the product or service, too—Lean Startup extends to creating new systems of accountability and cross-functional teams so ideas don’t sputter out in silos or get stuck in outdated annual review standards.

The idea is that no matter what challenges hit your business or industry, having Lean Startup—or your organization’s individualized adaptation of it—allows for maximum flexibility in moving towards the future, with minimal waste.

Digital.NYC: How is the conference structured? What’s the mix of lectures and workshops?

Lean Startup Co.: May 10 is a full day of interactive workshops with our inner circle of Lean Startup experts. It’s part bootcamp, and part opportunity to really network with the other entrepreneurs and teams as you work out common business problems together.

The second day, May 11, is a mix of war stories from the field (how different organizations are approaching being more adaptive), expert tips and takeaways, speed mentoring sessions, and a Q&A with Eric Ries himself where he’ll answer questions about the specific problems attendees are having in their organization in front of a live audience.

Digital.NYC: Who are your mentors and how will they work with attendees?

Lean Startup Co.: Hugely popular at past Lean Startup Conferences, Speed Mentoring gives our attendees a chance to talk one-on-one with our mentors. We're bringing 10 experts to give targeted advice on everything from analytics and user research to corporate innovation. We’ll match our attendees with a mentor based on topics they need advice on. Mentors include Sonja Kresojevic (Co-founder, Spinnaker); Thor Ernstsson (Founder & CEO, Alpha); Nick Kishfy (Founder & CEO, MojoTech); Danielle Tate (Author & Founder, Elegant Entrepreneur &; Victor Adefuye (Founder, Dana Consulting); and Steve Liguori (Founder, Liguori Innovations).

Digital.NYC: What else should people know about this conference?

Lean Startup Co.: We’re offering a lot of content for people to put to use back at work, but we’re also offering a strong community network. Ideally, when everyone goes home May 12, they have more than lots of big ideas in their head—they also have contacts of like-minded people who are in similar situations and can be allies when they need to step outside their own heads/organizations and talk through whatever challenges they’re facing.

Digital.NYC readers can get a $100 discount using code: DIgitalNYCDiscount at

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