Lean Startup – Entering the Enterprise?

On August 3rd, the first LeanCamp Stuttgart took place. I’d like to say a big thank you to the organizing team, especially Daniel Bartel and to the event location: Coworking0711, the one and only co-working space in Stuttgart.

It was a great event, hugely inspiring – and very intense. All of that I had expected, actually hoped for.

But what quite surprised me was the number of corporate participants at the event.

In a previous blog post, I had written about German technology companies establishing corporate venture capital (CVC) units – and that these units are a key element of the innovation strategy of the parent company.

Well, it seems that corporate venture capital is not the only way how bigger German technology firms look to benefit from the innovation power of startups.

Keep in mind here that the term “technology company” in Germany usually refers to all kinds of technology, from advanced materials, to manufacturing automation, to automotive systems, really everything – except IT, where Germany has only a few companies with global relevance.

Among the participants was a project manager from a large technology company that is establishing a innovation accelerator organization right now. This is separate from the CVC that this technology company already has up and running. The project manager and his team will transfer into the accelerator to pursue the innovation project they have spearheaded. Of course, he is interested in applying Lean Startup principles to increase the chances of success for his project.

I met consultants – up to the partner level – from a well-respected regional strategy consulting firm who see their clients – global technology enterprises – put an increased emphasis on IT-enabled innovation. They believe that the Lean Startup framework can be a a valuable tool for their clients in that context.

And of course, the concept of the “intrapreneur” is still alive and might get a much-needed boost from the increasing popularity of startup culture and the Lean Startup framework. There is even a conference coming up dedicated to this topic: the Corporate Startup Summit, taking place on August 26 in Cologne:

“Corporate Startup Summit is your exclusive networking event to find out how corporates can do startup. Learn from other brave Intrapreneurs, exchange your experience and get inspired by international doers and thought leaders.”

Globally, I also see signs that Lean Startup is getting more broadly adopted in the enterprise: as I wrote a couple weeks ago, in May 2013, Lean Startup made the title of the Harvard Business Review: Steve Blank’s article “Why the Lean Startup Changes Everything” provides an excellent introduction to Lean Startup and Customer Development. A free reprint of the original article (PDF) is available from Steve Blank’s web site.

This is huge for the Lean Startup movement: it will make sure that corporate mangers across the world will at least know the terminology – including German managers, as the German translation of the article has been published in the July issue of the Harvard Business Manager (the German version of the Harvard Business Review).

Finally, there’s even a dedicated software application to help enterprises adopt the Lean Startup approach – Javelin, developed by Lean Startup Machine:

“Ensure your wild ideas lead to even wilder ROI: Javelin is Lean Startup software for enterprise teams to launch new products and improve existing ones. Currently in beta.”

It will be interesting to see how Lean Startup is making inroads into the enterprise. One of the guiding principles behind Lean Startup is getting customer feedback – frequently and from the very beginning of a project. Living in a global economy that is very much dominated by large enterprises, I believe that would certainly be good for all of us.

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