Meet 31 Innovators & Instigators In The World of Startup-Driven Innovation

Some of Our Favorite Friends & Mentors You Should Know

Some of our favorite friends, mentors and “gurus” making waves in the area of #StartupDrivenInnovation

Surviving (let alone winning) in today’s climate of change and disruption requires a fair dose of innovation. From startups to corporate boardrooms, the nature of innovation itself is changing.

How can companies keep up with the new tools, techniques and talent required to change the way products, business models and markets are created? We made a list of talented folks you should know and follow to make it a bit easier.

The following are some of our favorite friends, mentors and “gurus” we’ve learned from or worked with over the past decade who are making waves in the area of #StartupDrivenInnovation.


We can’t start a discussion without including the people who coined the terms and provided the framework for a new way of thinking about innovation and the tools you can use to get there.

Eric Ries

Eric Ries is creator of the Lean Startup Methodology and coined the term “lean startup.” The Silicon Valley entrepreneur wrote the 2011 bestseller “The Lean Startup” and authors the blog Startup Lessons Learned. It hasn’t been active lately, but there are eight years’ worth of posts. @ericries

Steve Blank

Steve Blank authored “The Four Steps to the Epihany” — a book credited with launching the Lean Startup movement — and “The Startup Owner’s Manual.” He developed the Customer Development model, a scientific approach entrepreneurs use to understand their customers and strengthen their products. This methodology is one of the pillars of the Lean Startup movement. @sgblank

Alexander Osterwalder

Alexander Osterwalder is a Swiss business theorist who created the Business Model Canvas , a tool that helps entrepreneurs describe, design, challenge and pivot their business models. He co-wrote “Business Model Generation” and “Value Proposition Design.” @AlexOsterwalder

These are a few of the people in the trenches of executing lean and customer-centric innovation.

Janice Fraser

Janice Fraser founded LUXr, the first Lean Startup coaching firm for early stage companies. She is currently director of Innovation Practice at Pivotal Labs and has coached, taught and interviewed thousands of startup founders. @clevergirl

Brant Cooper

Brant Cooper co-wrote “The Lean Entrepreneur: How Visionaries Create Products, Innovate With New Ventures, and Disrupt Markets.” His firm Moves The Needle helps organizations with lean innovation, helping them move from theory to practice. @brantcooper

Diana Kander

Diana Kander wrote “All In Startup: Launching a New Idea When Everything Is On The Line.” She’s founded and sold a number of ventures and now coaches and trains companies on innovation. @dianakander

Alistair Croll

Alistair Croll is an expert in data-driven business and entrepreneurship. He co-wrote “Lean Analytics: Use Data To Build A Better Startup Faster.” He also co-founded Coradiant, a pioneer in User Experience Management. @acroll

Ben Yoskovitz

Ben Yoskovitz is the other co-author of “Lean Analytics.” This Canadian angel investor also writes the Instigator Blog. @byosko

Justin Wilcox

Justin Wilcox founded Customer Development Labs, which teaches startups and communities how to practice the principals of Lean Startup. The blog at Customer Development Labs also offers advice. @Justin_Wilcox

Tristan Kromer

Tristan Kromer is a lean startup coach who blogs at GrasshopperHerder He also volunteers with Lean Startup Circle, a non-profit that develops innovation ecosystems through peer-to-peer sharing. @TriKro

Shane Reiser

Shane Reiser is a corporate innovation specialist and partner at Your Ideas Are Terrible. He’s also cofounder of the Startup Genome, a nonprofit that maps entrepreneurial ecosystems. @shanereiser

Ash Maurya

Ash Maurya wrote the book “Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A To A Plan That Works” and founded LeanStack and Lean Canvas, an adaptation of Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas. @ashmaurya

Laura Klein

Laura Klein is an engineer and UX designer who wrote “UX For Lean Startups: Faster, Smarter, User Experience Research and Design.” She’s also a Principal at Users Know. @lauraklein

Trevor Owens

Trevor Owens wrote the book “Lean Enterprise: How High Performance Organizations Innovate At Scale,” and created Lean Startup Machine and QuickMVP. @TO

Cindy Alzarez

Cindy Alvarez is director of user experience at Yammer, a Microsoft company, and author of “Lean Customer Development: Building Products Your Customers Will Buy.” She’s a booster of women in tech, and her blog offers advice as well. @cindyalvarez

Sean Murphy

Sean Murphy and his firm SKMurphy offers early customers and early revenue for tech startups. His blog there is frequently updated. @skmurphy

David Bland

David Bland founded Precoil, a San Francisco-area innovation consulting agency @davidjbland

Paul Singh

Paul Singh is a “Lean VC” formally with 500 Startups and Disruption Corporation. He runs an amazing weekly newsletter at Results Junkies. @paulsingh

Jason Calacanis

Jason Calacanis is the outspoken angel investor and founder of the LAUNCH Conference which brings out over 10,000 startup founders, investors, and innovators annualy. @jason

Ryan Hoover

Ryan Hoover is a blogger and writer who founded Product Hunt, which reports daily on the best new products. He also posts frequently on Medium. You can listen at Product Hunt Radio. @rrhoover

Andy Shannon

Andy Shannon lives in London and heads up global operations at Startupbootcamp, a large European startup accelerator. @atshannon1

Andrew Hyde

Andrew Hyde is a startup community expert who founded the Startup Weekend movement and Startup Week. He works at Techstars @andrewhyde

Joshua Ness

Joshua Ness is the cofounder of StrategyHack, an organization designed to help marketers learn think more like startups. @jcness

Marc Hemeon

Marc Hemeon is a product UX and design expert who founded Design Inc., which helps companies build beautiful products that are simple to use. He’s led design at YouTube, Google, Digg, Oakley and others. @hemeon

Des Traynor

Des Traynor cofounded Intercom, a personal messaging service for businesses and their customers, and is a product design expert. @destraynor

David Binetti

David Binetti is a lean accounting expert who created Innovation Options, a valuation framework that calculates the ROI of innovation. @dbinetti

Last but not least, these are some of our favorite innovators whom we met at the recent Lean Startup Labs NYC: Enterprise Summit (Feb. 24 -25). Look for some upcoming episodes of our Inside Outside Innovation podcast with interviews from a few of them as well.

Viv Goldstein-Wiltshire

Viv Goldstein-Wiltshire is global director of innovation acceleration at General Electric who was co-architect of the FastWorks methodology that brings Silicon Valley thinking to GE innovation.

Aubrey Bruggeman Smith

Aubrey Bruggeman Smith is a Lean Startup coach who founded Sparked Advisory, which uses Lean Startup and Design Thinking methods to coach teams and to lead workshops and strategy working sessions.

Philippe Boulanger

Philippe Boulanger is chief technical officer of Neopost Labs, a big player in digital communications and shipping. @Ph_Boulanger

Ken Durand

Ken Durand is head of innovation at the Atlanta Ideas Factory (Ericsson). At the Enterprise Summit he discussed what he did when a Lean Startup project got mediocre results. @atlideafactory

Andrew Breen

Andrew Breen is vice president of product delivery at American Express and developed the Innovation Engine, a framework for overcoming cultural and organizational hurdles. @buckybanjo

Who did we miss? Reply below in the comments.


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Brian Ardinger & Josh Berry

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