2012 Year in Review – Lean Startup Enterprise and Family

For me, I think this year should be dubbed “The Year of Lean Startup and family”. I tried my best to strike a balance between 34 trips and spending quality time with my family and friends. All things considered it was an incredible year for Maria, Miranda and I. My only wish is that 2012 did not include unexpectedly losing my mom to liver cancer.

In December of 2011, I moved from Intuit’s IT department into HR as a product manager for the Personal Growth and Development team. At that point I was armed with a basic set of product management skills, the right mindset and a few extremely smart and insightful mentors. Through my journey this year, I can honestly say I feel extremely confident as a product manager and look forward to being able to continue to move up the ranks quickly.

I believe this confidence comes primarily from my application of Lean Startup practices both inside and outside Intuit. In January I was asked to provide a “Tech Talk” inside Intuit for our development community. The goal was to give a high level overview of Lean Startup and how it applied Inside



Intuit. At that point Eric Reis was starting to do quite a bit of speaking for Intuit and many employees were still not making the connection between these “startup” ideas and how they apply inside of a multi-billion dollar enterprise like Intuit. The tech talk went great and it made me realize that there was a big opportunity in helping others to apply these concepts.

With that realization, I started investigating the possibility of having an event called Lean Startup Machine (LSM) come to Tucson for Intuit. Having been to the event myself about a year prior I knew it was an extremely high impact event. Through the founder I learned that someone else from Intuit was trying to bring them to San Diego. He was a fellow Innovation Catalyst named Ben Blank. We quickly decided to pilot our own version of the event with a few teams to see if we could create value for Intuit before deciding to pay $60k for LSM.

We had a total of 5 teams for our first Lean StartIN (Lean Startup in the Enterprise) event in San Diego. We were fortunate enough to be able to get Eric Reis to help us kick off the event via skype and Brant Cooper came in person. It was a huge success and the teams were thoroughly excited after the 2 days were over. Ben and I quickly jumped to run a second event in Mountain View.

This event had a total of 12 teams crammed into a small room (high energy!). We were able to get our CEO, Brad Smith and Luxr’s Janice Frasier to participate as judges for the event. Again, the teams accomplished more in 2 days that most Intuit teams accomplish in months! We knew we were on to something big.

After these two energizing events, Ben came up with the crazy idea to do a Lean StartIN World Tour! We would conduct 10 Lean StartIN events across 10 different Intuit sites over the course of 10 weeks. This would allow us to train 100 Intuit teams on Lean Startup and Rapid Experimentation. In early June we ran an updated and improved “pilot” event in Menlo Park just prior to the world tour.

This insane world tour significantly contributed to the 53,906 miles I travelled this year across 3 different countries. In addition to creating a bunch of great intrapreneur driven startups for Intuit, Ben and I learned a ton about the cultural differences between sites at Intuit, ways to effectively coach teams and get them out of the building QUICKLY!

As the article title notes, I tried my best this year to balance my busy work schedule with family time. Historically, I haven’t been very good at this and it seems like something that I’m constantly putting on my New Year’s resolution list. I did a decent job of balancing things this year, but due to the loss of my mom in September I had a little over a month of almost pure family time.

To support my brother, sister and I during the passing of my mom, my dad came out from Thailand for about 6 weeks. It was really incredible to have him around through all of that. He helped with anything and everything he could. I’m not sure that we could have made it through her passing, celebration of life and 2nd funeral (my great aunt decided to put on) without all of his love and support.

I don’t feel like I’m ready to write about the experience of losing my mom, but I can say that it has completely changed my outlook on life. I have actually started including family time in my schedule to ensure that it always happens. I’m intentionally trying to get work that allows me to travel to places on my bucket list. I’ve tried Karaoke and am trying to say yes to anything new that I haven’t attempted before. It seems like such a waste to say things like “I don’t do that” or “That’s not me”. It’s really as simple as saying “yes” and giving things a try.

I think this is best represented in what has happened this year at Gangplank Tucson. We successfully ran 2 Lean Launchpad events for a total of 17 different teams. The first class was quickly pulled together through a grass roots effort in the community in just under 2 weeks. If you’d like to know more, you can read about my lessons learned from putting that class together. Another project for Gangplank is to get our collaborative working space moved downtown. To support this effort I’ve been puttting together stories from our lean launchpad teams about what they have applied after the class and how it has changed their outlook on business. It is absolutely amazing to read some of those quotes.

My adventures this year with Intuit and Gangplank have opened my eyes to a skill that I didn’t realize I had. I have learned that I am a pretty good Lean Startup and Innovation coach. For anyone out there that wants to become an expert in something I would suggest you get a couple books, go get some practice and then start teaching others. This process worked incredibly for me over the last few years. I effectively immersed myself in Lean Startup coaching by teaching 300+ teams for Intuit, and 50+ teams outside Intuit this year.

Now that I’ve taken the time to look back I am amazed at how incredible 2012 was for us. There is absoultely no way I could have accomplished all of this without the help of my super-wife Maria and well behaved daughter Miranda, and hordes of smart people at Intuit, Gangplank, Startup Weekend and Lean Entrepreneur.

THANK YOU ALL for an incredible year, let’s rock 2013!

  • John Eden7

    Its so true that the passing of your mom was a terrible tragedy and something that was very hard to go through, but as you’ve seen events in our lives can have life-changing effects, (both positive and negative)…if we are paying attention.  As your Dad, I couldn’t be prouder of you and your accomplishments, Aaron.  Your new attitude about life and willingness to try new things is, in a word, awesome.  Having Maria and Miranda by your side just makes the ride that much sweeter.  Love you and miss you bunches,

    • aaroneden

      Thanks dad, I love you too. I agree, having incredible people around me all the time makes things much much sweeter.

  • Ben Blank

    As one of your Intuit teammates throughout this crazy year, I think you did a great job balancing work and family. In fact, I’m continuously impressed with your ability to do both, and I couldn’t ask for a better partner in crime. Here’s to making another awesome run in 2013!

    • aaroneden

      Thanks Ben, I really appreciate that. It’s hard to believe that 2013 is going to be even more incredible than 2012!