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We had the opportunity to attend the Product Innovation Unconference during our second week here in San Francisco. This event brings together product, marketing and technology professionals from many disciplines and industries to teach and learn from each other in a 3-hour impromptu conference format.

Attendees include anyone involved in designing, building and growing new technology products and companies. So it was the perfect occasion to meet people coming from a wide range of backgrounds such as product managers, marketers, startup founders, designers, user researchers, sales professionals and people involved in innovation projects.

How an unconference works

An unconference is a conference that has a predefined structure but no predefined topics. Indeed, the topics are decided upon by the attendees after they arrive.

Runway Innovation Hub
The event was held at Runway Innovation Hub in San Francisco

People can propose topics by writing them down on a sheet of paper and adding them to the dedicated wall where they will vote for their favourite topics with sticker dots right afterwards.

Session Wall
The «Session Wall» after the vote with the sticker dots

The unconference typically has three concurrent tracks and there is always something for everyone. The vast majority of sessions are round-table discussions, meaning that they are a discussion amongst every in the room. People can submit their most challenging problem they are facing in business right now and try to find innovative solutions together.

1st session – How to define effective product goals for an MVP?

The first session was dedicated to the following challenge: How to define effective product goals for an MVP?

First session round-table
First session round-table

Several interesting challenges were discussed, including a cosmetic company founder who was wondering what data to collect and how to leverage the available data.

One point that came out was to take away the unnecessary in order to assess only the most critical business assumptions of your product.

2nd session – Choosing the right startup cofounder

The second session was about choosing the right cofounder when you are starting your own business.

Second session round-table
Second session round-table

This time, there were fewer people but some were able to contribute with their experience while other were actively listening to the wise advices.

Three points stood out: 

  • That’s essential to gather complementary skills
  • Founders shouldn’t have too high egos
  • That’s extremely hard to make it solo

So surround yourself with smart, skilled and like-minded people in your entrepreneurship journey!

3rd session – Demo prototype, how much is enough?

The final session we attended was focused on determining how much is enough for a demonstration prototype.

Third session round-table
Third session round-table

We were only a few people for this round-table but it was captivating to listen to other people’s stories, experiences and insights in product development and innovation.

Two cofounders were sharing the main challenge they encountered while developing a business intelligence software destined to financial companies.

Everyone agreed on a single and simple advice: focus on what you are trying to prove, such as getting investors or testing business models) and choose only one pain point to solve for your customers.

To conclude, if you are around San Francisco and interested in product, marketing or innovation, I strongly recommend you to spend some time in a Product Innovation Unconference! You will undoubtedly meet some great people coming from a wide range of backgrounds with a lot of things to share.