We’re doing a 3 hour workshop on how to integrate Lean Startup, User Experience Design and Agile Development on January 20th.

This is a more in depth workshop that extends the sold out one hour workshop we gave at the Chicago Product Management and Association in November.

Lean Startup, Pragmatic Marketing, User Experience Design and Agile Development are all approaches to improve your odds of creating successful products. Are they mutually exclusive, or can you assemble them together to make a lean, mean product success machine?

Join Pathfinder Software’s Amy Willis (UX) Bernhard Kappe (Products Strategy) and Reid MacTavish (Agile Development) as they share their lessons learned in making lean+ux+agile work.

We’ll cover:

  • Pragmatic Marketing and Lean Startup- which is right for you?
  • Lean UX – Design as the differential gear between customer development and agile development
  • How to run a successful inception
  • It’s never too early for metrics and analytics
  • Agile practices and pitfalls
  • Continuous deployment and A/B testing
  • Team composition and how to hire

Are you hungry, smart, and analytical?
Can you write persuasively?
Do you dream about changing the world with technology?

Pathfinder is at the epicenter of Chicago’s tech scene. We mentor and incubate startups, build and launch products, and run things like the Chicago Lean Startup Circle and Lean Startup Challenge.

We’re looking for a marketing intern to join our team. You’d be working directly with me organizing, writing, running experiments and learning on your feet.

If this sounds a challenge you’re up for, put on your AIDA hat and write us why you’d be the right person for the job. Extra credit for getting someone we know to refer you.

Bernhard Kappe
Founder and CEO, Pathfinder Software
Organizer, Chicago Lean Startup Circle and Lean Startup Challenge

Pathfinder’s Amy Willis (UX), Reid MacTavish (Agile) and I are giving a presentation on November 15th to a joint session of the Chicago Product Management Association and Chicago Agile Project Management group on how to integrate Lean, UX and Agile. We’d love to see you there.

Here’s some more on the presentation:

Lean + UX + Agile: Putting It All Together

Lean Startup, Pragmatic Marketing, User Experience Design and Agile Development are all approaches to improve your odds of creating successful products.

Are they mutually exclusive, or can you assemble them together to make a lean, mean product success machine?

Join Pathfinder Software’s Amy Willis (UX) Bernhard Kappe (Products Strategy) and Reid MacTavish (Agile Development) as they share their lessons learned in making lean+ux+agile work.

We’ll cover:

  • Pragmatic Marketing and Lean Startup- which is right for you?
  • Lean UX – Design as the differential gear between customer development and agile development
  • It’s never too early for Metrics and analytics
  • Lean + Ux + Agile: putting it all together

If you’d like to join us, you can RSVP at the Chicago Product Management Association site. Space is pretty limited, so it’s good to sign up early.

I came across this infographic earlier today that illustrates how quickly physicians are embracing mobile devices and mobile healthcare solutions. Presented this way, it’s suprising how much faster demand for mobile healthcare solutions is rising than in other areas. But if you look closer, it’s not surprising at all. Healthcare is an almost perfect setup for mobile: Physicians usually don’t sit at desks, but are at the side of the patient, in the operating room, doing rounds, or taking call from home. In all of those situations, they need information at their finger tips, clearly presented, in context, and in real time. We see this every day in our work with physicians, hospital systems and medical software companies.

Hat tip to the fine folks at Airstrip and the creators of the infographic at

I was at the dentist this morning. When they went to take x-rays of my teeth, it started as usual, with the lead bib to reduce radiation. The technician stuck the uncomfortable contraption in my mouth to hold the film in place, stepped away, zappo, and came back to move it to the next position.

That’s when things stopped being usual. The first thing that struck me was that she looked over my shoulder back toward her work area and remarked “they look good”. What looks good, I’m thinking? Then, without putting new film on the contraption, she re-positioned it and took another set of x-rays. Now I knew something was up. So I asked.

Turns out my dentist does x-rays digitally now. Although it still includes a dose of radiation, it’s apparently a lower dose than traditional x-rays. Plus it allows the dental staff to easily compare images from year to year, enlarge them to see particular spots, or increase the contrast for a better view. They can also share them more easily and clearly with other practitioners should the patient need to be referred to a specialist or change dentist. All around, better for the patient and better for the dentist. Oh, and just in case you were curious. No cavities!

Pathfinder Software are looking for talented and team-oriented user experience designers who want to design commercial software products. We do a lot of exciting work for both start-ups who have never launched a product and established firms looking to launch something new or redesign an existing product, in industries ranging from medicine and education to consumer services.

We have built a strong reputation as the top software development firm in Chicago that incorporates lean startup thinking, lean user experience design and agile development, and and are looking for more great team members to continue accelerating.

We take great pride in our work environment. We believe in highly collaborative teamwork, informal communication and pairing with co-workers to puzzle through tough problems and generate creative ideas.

Our office is a big open loft space in Chicago’s river north neighborhood, with lots of whiteboards, glass and distressed hardwood, with walls covered in project artifacts, with after work activities like yoga, game nights and happy hours.

We are highly interested in designers with the following qualities:

  • You have solid UX skills in the areas of user research, personas, workflows and wireframes
  • You will thrive in a team environment and be supportive of the give and take needed to work in a highly effective way with others
  • You get a great sense of pride building strong and empathetic relationships with clients
  • You can understand a complex domain and come up with UX solutions that are simple and well-organized
  • You can write very clear and complete logical requirements – familiarity with Agile methods such as user stories and acceptance tests is a plus
  • You can quickly visualize ideas with simple low-fi tools such as markers, sticky notes and a whiteboard
  • You can generate multiple design directions for a given problem
  • You can prioritIze what is important in a design and help clients figure out what “Release 1” looks like
  • You are capable of leading group workshops to come up with user personas, user goals, workflows and rapid storyboards
  • You want to give back to the design community by furthering the state of the art, writing helpful blog articles, speaking at professional meetings and conferences from time to time

If this sounds like it might be up your alley, we’d like to hear from you. Go to our careers section and submit a resume and cover letter telling us what you’re passionate about and how you approach design.

I’m interviewing Eric Ries, author of the just released The Lean Startup at the Chicago Lean Startup Circle this Thursday.

As a developer, entrepreneur and startup mentor, I’ve seen many startups (and many large companies) fail by building products based on vague market research, unexamined assumptions and wishful thinking. It’s no wonder that nine out of ten startups fail. The Lean Startup methodology helps entrepreneurs better those odds by giving them the tools to clarify their assumptions, run the right experiments to validate them and use the results to avoid the costly missteps that lead to most new product failures.

I was initially inspired by Eric Ries’ blog Startup Lessons Learned, which got me reading Steve Blank’s Four Steps to the Epiphany, Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits’ Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development, Ash Maurya’s Running Lean, and lots of great blog posts and presentations on Lean Startup thinking from folks like Dave McClure, Dan Martel and Hiten Shah.

I’ve been mentoring startups with this approach for a few years now, and I can see a big difference between those that follow the approach and those that don’t: Those that follow the approach learn faster, make fewer missteps, have a better understanding of their customers and how to solve their problems, and ultimately create better odds of success.

If you’re running a startup or involved in innovation at any size company in the Chicago area, you should join us this Thursday!

You can RSVP here, and get a copy of the book when you get there.

I’m always on the search for examples that illustrate the difference between problem and solution in product design. Recently, I’ve found a really sweet one.

In our various processes — whether it’s customer development, product design, or usability analysis — we end up asking people about their problems. What works for them; what doesn’t  work for them; what takes too long; what seems unnecessary? We asks lots of leading questions and play lots of little games to get at the underlying question of problem. Only then do we propose solutions to that problem and vet them with customers.

If you misunderstand the difference between problem and solution, you’ll end up launching a SaaS product for travel agents rather than Expedia or Orbitz.

My favorite example illustrating this problem up until recently was the automated scanning of license plate numbers at places like toll booths. It turns out that with dirt, lighting conditions, blur from movement, and different angles of the plate, this is a really hard problem. But it isn’t the real problem. You want to identify cars, not scan letters. Adding some sort of bar code that is much easier to scan than letters would solve the real problem.

My new favorite example is the beat-less artificial heart. If the problem is constructing an artificial version of the human heart, then we have mechanical versions of that. They have quite a few moving pieces and the unfortunate tendency to fail more often than we would like. If we look at the problem more closely, however, we see that the only reason a heart has to beat is that it is a muscle. Muscles need to expand and contract in order to keep working. But the problem really isn’t about that. It’s about circulating blood around the body. A highly reliable rotary pump with only one moving part and no beat will do just as well. The rest of the body doesn’t care that the blood pressure is constant and there is no pulse.

If you are an entrepreneur or product manager, realize that good problem analysis isn’t a luxury, but a critical step before you stumble toward a solution nobody may want.


SPARK Chicago is a new startup competition unveiled during Techweek, the Lollapalooza of tech startup conferences. SPARK follows Startup Weekend with an intensive 3 day acceleration that matched three finalists from the weekend with three Chicago software development firms, Pathfinder, Obtiva and Doejo.

At the end of the three day acceleration, the three companies presented their work to a panel of VCs and successful tech startup executives, who voted our incubatee Code Mountain as the winner and gave them a cool $100,000 in cash and prizes.

Code Mountain came to us with a great concept and a great team, and over the three days we paired our developers, designers, marketers and strategists with them to refine their product and their business model.

Over those three days, they were literally living in our office, staying over night, taking showers in the morning (it helps to have showers in the office), and moving at lightning speed. Together we did customer interviews, refined and built their minimum viable product, explored their customer acquisition strategy and product evolution, and even got letters of intent from a number of companies.

They’re at an early stage, with a lot of customer development yet to do, but we definitely think they’re on to something. Here’s their current pitch:

A lot of non programmers dream of building software to make ideas a reality, but most don’t even know where to begin. There’s a mountain of resources out there, but no clear path and no good way of knowing if you’re making progress. No wonder people give up hope. Code mountain gives structure and direction to those resources, feedback on your progress, and the support of a community that’s on the same climb, so you can stay motivated and keep climbing. So stop dreaming and start building.

Code Mountain is a great group to work with: They’re super passionate and organized, they have great leadership from two Northwestern University student body presidents, they have marketing, design and development talent, they learn fast and they know how to work together as a team.

They seem to like working with us as well. Here’s what Code Mountain founder Neal Sales-Griffin had to say about us:

Working with Pathfinder was the best thing that could’ve happened to us during SPARK Chicago. We learned more from Pathfinder in 3 days than I think most do in a year of running a startup. If there’s one thing we’ve taken away from working with them, it’s the importance of customer validation. On top of all of this, Pathfinder gave us more than their full attention, time and support. They also have a pretty awesome office space.

We were so impressed with Neal Sales-Griffin, Mike McGee and the rest of the Code Mountain team that we invited them to keep incubating with us over the next few months as they get their startup up and running. They’ve been in here every day working with us, launching their first project, Code Academy, and continuing customer discovery for the Code Mountain platform. Stay tuned for more updates.

Thanks to Code Mountain member Justin Love for some of the photos. Check out his description of the whole competition at

The FDA regulates software for medical devices, and may in future regulate mobile medical software as well. Can you speed up time to market with Agile development in an FDA regulated medical environment?

We shared our experience developing software using lean ux and agile software development best practices for medical devices and mobile medical software at a recent joint Health 2.0 and Product Management Association meeting.