||A major contributor to this article appears to have a close connection with its subject. (October 2012)|
|Born||September 22, 1979|
|Occupation||Entrepreneur, blogger, author|
Eric Ries (born 1979) is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and author recognized for pioneering the lean startup movement, a new-business strategy which directs startup companies to allocate their resources as efficiently as possible. He is also a well-known blogger within the technology entrepreneur community.
In 2001, Ries graduated from Yale University with a B.S. in Computer Science. As a high schooler, Ries had published a book called Black Art of Java Game Programming. While at Yale, he began his entrepreneurial career as the co-founder of Catalyst Recruiting, an online forum for university students to network with potential employers. During this time, Ries was also on the advisory board for two startup incubators and a venture fund in New Haven, Connecticut. He took a leave of absence from his undergraduate studies to pursue his newly founded company, however, due to a lack of business experience and the burst of the dot-com bubble, Catalyst Recruiting folded shortly thereafter. Ries felt he was "lucky that the company failed soon enough that [he] could do it during a leave of absence," and returned to Yale to complete his undergraduate degree.
After graduating, Ries moved to Silicon Valley in 2001 to work as a software engineer with There, Inc. He worked with the firm until the 2003 launch of its web-based 3D Virtual World product, There.com. The company failed and in 2004, Ries left to start another company, IMVU Inc.
In 2004, Ries joined one of the founders of There.com, Will Harvey, to co-found IMVU, a 3D social network where users can maintain personalized avatars, chat, and play games with other users. Through IMVU, Ries met Steve Blank, a successful serial entrepreneur, Silicon Valley thought leader, and one of IMVU’s investors. In exchange for funding IMVU, Blank insisted that the top executives audit his class on entrepreneurship at UC Berkeley. Blank’s emphasis on putting real features in front of customers and measuring user feedback resonated with Ries, who would use the methodology to rapidly develop IMVU’s products.
As Chief Technology Officer, Ries was charged with writing and overseeing all of the product’s code. He would also test alternate versions of the product by attracting visitors through Google AdWords and measuring download rates. Ries would add newly written code into IMVU’s production cycle nearly 50 times a day, an unusually rapid development cycle.
Since large companies like Microsoft, Yahoo! and AOL were already participants in the instant messaging market, IMVU’s goal was to integrate instant messaging’s mass appeal with the high revenue per customer of traditional video games. Drawing from prior experience, Ries and Harvey did not seek a large amount of initial funding and released a minimum viable product with the intention of bettering their product through continuous customer feedback. Within six months, IMVU was released and began to receive customers.
In 2006, IMVU raised $1 million in its first round of venture fundraising from the Seraph Group, and would go on to raise an additional $18 million. During this time, IMVU quickly grew in membership and popularity, in large part due to the efficiency-oriented management practices championed by Ries. In 2008 after a new CEO joined IMVU, Ries stepped down as CTO, remaining as a Board Observer. As of 2011, IMVU has 40 million users and generates $40 million in revenue.
After leaving IMVU, Ries joined venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins as a venture advisor, and six months later, started advising startups independently. Since he had experienced both success and failure with high-tech startups, Ries began to develop a methodology based on select management principles to help startups succeed. The Lean Startup philosophy originates from the Japanese concept of lean manufacturing, which seeks to increase value-creating practices and eliminate wasteful practices. Since production costs and speeds are markedly reduced when producing and distributing digital goods as compared with their physical counterparts, Ries applied the lean manufacturing methodology to web-based technology. Ries states, "Lean isn't about being cheap [but is about] being less wasteful and still doing things that are big." Ultimately, the aim of the Lean Startup philosophy is to build capital-efficient companies by making them more responsive to consumer demand and subsequently reducing time and resources wasted.
Startup Lessons Learned blog
In 2008, Ries began receiving requests to sit on advisory boards to share his experiences. At the suggestion of his mentors, Ries began to document his philosophy on his blog with a post titled "The lean startup."
Soon after writing about the Lean Startup philosophy on his blog, Startup Lessons Learned, the movement gained momentum in Silicon Valley and began to spread throughout the world. Ries was invited to speak at the Web 2.0 Expo by Tim O'Reilly and was offered a position as entrepreneur-in-residence at Harvard Business School. Ries began to devote all of his time to the Lean Startup project, and held conferences, gave talks, wrote blog entries, and served as an advisor to companies. He hosted the Lean Startup Track at SXSW in 2011 and 2012 with Dave McClure, Steve Blank, Robert Scoble, and dozens of other entrepreneurs and investors.
Today, Ries still updates Startup Lessons Learned, which as of 2011 had 75,000 subscribers. He hosts an annual Startup Lessons Learned Conference, which is attended by 400 entrepreneurs.
The Lean Startup book
In 2011, Ries collected his Lean Startup philosophy into a book, titled The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, which was published in 2011 by Crown Business Publishing. On October 2011, The Lean Startup debuted at #2 on the New York Times Best Seller list, with CNBC stating that it had, "already [become] a must-read for any entrepreneur." Amazon listed the book as one of their Best Business Books of 2011, and as of June 2012, the book has sold 90,000 copies.
Lean Startup implementations
Some high-tech companies employ the Lean Startup philosophy, including Intuit, DropBox, Wealthfront, Votizen, Aardvark, and Grockit. The Lean Startup principles are also taught in classes at Harvard Business School and are implemented in municipal governments through Code for America. In addition, Ries is a fellow at IDEO.
Todd Park a former Chief Technology Officer of the United States delivered a talk at the SXSW Lean Startup track, in which he explained how the US government has implemented Lean Startup methodologies. Park previously stated that in order to understand customer demand, the Department of Health and Human Services recognized "the need to rapidly prototype solutions, engage customers in those solutions as soon as possible, and then quickly and repeatedly iterate those solutions based on working with customers."
Ries's blog posts, entrepreneurial advice, and books have been featured in Reuters, CNBC, MSNBC, The Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, The New York Times, Inc. Magazine, Forbes, and Wired Magazine. He has also hosted several sold out conferences, and advises the Lean Startup Machine workshop series, now in over 20 cities.
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