Your Turn: Help the Lean Startup Conference Understand How Customer Development Works in Your Country

tl;dr – If you live outside of the US I would like to promote to any article you write about writing applying Lean Startup/Customer Development principles in your country or culture.  Just fill out the form below and I will link to your post – and possibly mention you in a webinar Eric Ries’s Lean Startup conference is hosting. 

I’m deeply humbled and honored to have been asked by Eric Ries’s Lean Startup Conference to co-Host a free webinar on September 24/25 called Beyond Silicon Valley: Applying Lean Startup Around the Globe1.

My Story – Reflecting on Two Years with the Asia Startup Community

Justin Wilcox and I taking a break from mentoring at accelerator JFDI to go for a run in Singapore

Justin Wilcox and I taking a break from mentoring at accelerator JFDI to go for a run in Singapore. (I’m the one without the mohawk.)

Nearly 2 years ago my family moved to Beijing, China where we now live.  After surviving 6 months of immersive Chinese language study I started helping startups across Asia apply Lean Startup & Customer Development tactics to build their companies.  I founded the Beijing Lean Startup Meetup, mentored at top-tier regional accelerators JFDI, Chinacellerator, AccelerateHK, and Kickstart, ran the first Startup Weekend NEXT Program in China, and hosted a workshop for Steve Blank’s visit to Beijing.

Oh, and I also had Startup Help Calls with over 100 entrepreneurs worldwide over Skype.

What I Learned – What Works in Silicon Valley Doesn’t Work Everywhere

Through these hundreds of meetings I’ve learned that…well…I have a lot to learn about startups, particularly that what works in Silicon Valley doesn’t work everywhere.  I saw teams borrow tactics advocated by me and others that just didn’t work well in practice.  I saw teams struggle to get the buy-in of mentors, co-founders, and investors who had a hard time putting Lean Startup principles in culturally-relevant context.

Most of what is written by/about Lean Startup concerns:

White men from California or Northeastern United States … applying these business techniques to …. other white people from California or Northeastern United States.

While there are some notable exceptions (Ash Maurya, Cindy Alvarez, for instance), if you look across the world’s educational institutions,  books and blogs you’ll see an obvious pattern.  It turns out most of the world’s entrepreneurs don’t look at all like me.

Should it really surprise me that my experiences in the US didn’t translate globally?

If you care about this topic, I hope you will join Takashi Tsutsumi (“aka The Steve Blank of Japan“), Justin Wilcox, and I at Beyond Silicon Valley: Applying Lean Startup Around the Globe.

We will share what we’ve learned working with teams worldwide at the webinar – but we also want to be able to share your experiences, in your words.

Let Me Help Tell Your Story – I Will Link to It in an Upcoming Blog Post

Have you or a startup you know tried to apply Lean Startup Principles in your culture or country?  What worked?  What didn’t?

How do the words “Lean Startup” translate in your native language – positively or negatively?  Did mentors and investors understand what you are talking about?  Did customers?  Did you have hard time convincing team members and employees of the value of search?

Share your story on your blog and I’ll link to it on an upcoming blog post on this topic – and share what I can during the webinar.

It doesn’t matter ….

…. if you are well-known.  In fact I’d actually prefer from people who are just getting started.
…. how successful you have been.  Take a look at my blog and you’ll read mostly stories of failure.
…. if you have a blog.  Just create one.  Write something.

You probably think your story is too small or you don’t matter – I promise you that you are wrong.  Simply by being outside of the US and writing about this topic you are far, far more unique than you realize.

  1. Yes, my friends in Asia…a webinar that is not happening at 3AM our time.  😉


  1. Miguel Guerrero September 12, 2013 at 11:27 am #

    I get that different cultural overlays can make it difficult to express the most appropriate interpretations of the concepts in countries outside the US, but I am struggling to understand how the basic concepts of Lean Startup (i.e. validated learning, etc.) would be not workable in Asia or even in middle America. Perhaps you will cover more of these details in your webinar or future blog posts. As for me, I am looking to see how entrepreneurs are applying Lean Startup principals in Vancouver Canada.

    • kevindewalt September 12, 2013 at 6:43 pm #


      You are absolutely correct – the basic principles are the same. It is all about the big idea.

      However, when you actually start working with teams trying to do customer development they are intensely focused on execution and not theory – and if they spend a week wasting time using a tactic that doesn’t work in their community they are understandably frustrated and skeptical of the whole thing.

      I’ve had a couple of startup help calls with entrepreneurs in Vancouver and it sounds like the culture is pretty similar to Silicon Valley, at least relative to working in Beijing, Manila, etc.

      • Miguel Guerrero September 13, 2013 at 9:52 am #

        When I worked with teams internally at a large global software vendor, I found a similar intensity on the execution and not the theory. In one case, I found the mock sales pitch of the SyncDev process to be helpful in structuring the teams towards early customer validation.

        Great blog, I am glad that I stumbled upon.

  2. J September 16, 2013 at 8:04 am #

    Hi, Kevin,

    Does the article have to be in english?


    • kevindewalt September 16, 2013 at 8:06 am #

      Definitely not. Write in any language.

      Good question….

  3. ayo Dawodu September 16, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

    Hi Kevin.

    So looking forward to this.

    Been a practitioner since last year.
    Got introduced via Stanford’s then venture-lab program.
    Great work.

    ayo – @tjwizking

    • kevindewalt September 16, 2013 at 9:53 pm #


  4. Kahlil Corazo September 18, 2013 at 6:31 am #

    Hi Kevin,

    More than location, I think its the kinds of businesses that people attempt that require a different flavor of Lean Startup (Cindy Alvarez and Ash Maurya are still “white guys” in this sense).

    I’ve explained what I have been doing over out lunch a few weeks ago. I would put it in the bucket of Service Delivery rather than Product Development. My experience with customer discovery and validation has been very similar to what I have heard and read from people all over the world – at least at the right side of the business model canvas. What I haven’t seen anywhere else is the need to validate scalability – or the left side of the business model canvas. Products – especially software – are inherently scalable. Service delivery – think Infosys, Wipro and the thousands of people working in HP, IBM and Accenture in the Philippines – require you to answer the following questions:
    – What kind of raw talent do you need?
    – How abundant is this raw talent?
    – How fast can you train from raw to a positive contributor?
    I created and ran an elective in a local university teaching the core skills the business needed (pay-per-click advertising, web analytics and conversion optimization) and found out – empirically – the answers to these. One surprise was the kind of academic background that fit best – for reasons I never expected.

    Last year, along with some guys you might have met (eg, Christian of Kickstart), I also ran a “pirated copy” of Steve Blank’s Lean LaunchPad for non-tech undergrads. That was sort of a lab to force me to understand the methodology deeply and to test its limits.

    It turns out it still works for non-tech, non-“VC-fundable scale” businesses. It does not make sense though for “execution” businesses – or known business models. One has to start simply with domain expertise or even just passion. I had teams tackling the domains of food, make-up, fashion and car accessories. They could not simply say “I will start a restaurant business.” They had to get out of the building and understand the unresolved pains and unmet desires in these domains. And with the help of their mentors, come up with solutions. I was winging and fumbling the entire thing, but it was great to hear my students say at the end that the course required a ton of hard work but they learned a lot – which shows you the strength of Steve Blank’s curriculum. I have a series of blog posts about it here:

    Lean Startup has so much space to expand outside Silicon Valley and its global outlets. I think we’re still in the early days.

    Looking forward to discussing these when you visit Cebu!


    • kevindewalt September 19, 2013 at 8:46 am #

      Great comments Kahlil and I totally agree with your comments on scale. We had the same experience with NEXT Beijing.

      The sw startups took forever to get going but scaled well one they did. The “real world” ones got going quickly but then scaling was the challenge.

      Teams like Power Supply are applying lean exactly as you described – running experiments to test scaling.

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