by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz
Published by Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781501121746
eBook ISBN: 9781501121777
Copyright (c) 2016 by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz

Buy the Book

“The young woman studied the hotel room decor: light wood, neutral tones, a newish television. Nice and modern, but nothing unusual. So what ‘was’ this interview all about?

Standing beside her was Michael Margolis, a research partner at GV. For now, Michael wanted to keep the subject of the test a surprise. He had planned out the entire interview to answer certain questions for the Savioke team. Right now, he was trying to understand the woman’s travel habits, while encouraging her to react honestly when the robot appeared.

Michael adjusted his glasses and asked a series of questions about her hotel routine. Where does she place her suitcase? When does she open it? And what would she do if she’d forgotten her toothbrush?

“I don’t know. Call the front desk, I suppose?”

Michael jotted notes on a clipboard. “Okay.” He pointed to the desk phone. “Go ahead and call.” She dialed. “No problem,” the receptionist said. “I’ll send up a toothbrush right away.”

As soon as the woman returned the receiver to its cradle, Michael continued his questions. Did she always use the same suitcase? When was the last time she’d forgotten something on a trip?

Brrrring. The desk phone interrupted her. She picked up, and an automated message played: “Your toothbrush has arrived.”

Without thinking, the woman crossed the room, turned the handle, and opened the door. Back at headquarters, the sprint team members were gathered around a set of video displays, watching her reaction.

“Oh my god,” she said. “It’s a robot!”

The glossy hatch opened slowly. Inside was the toothbrush. The robot made a series of chimes and beeps as the woman confirmed delivery on its touch screen. When she gave the experience a five-star review, the little machine danced for joy by twisting back and forth.

“This is so cool,” she said. “If they start using this robot, I’ll stay here every time.” But it wasn’t what she said. It was the smile of delight that we saw over the video stream. And it was what she didn’t do—no awkward pauses and no frustration as she dealt with the robot.

Watching the live video, we were nervous throughout that first interview. By the second and third, we were laughing and even cheering. Guest after guest responded the same way.

They were enthusiastic when they first saw the robot. They had no trouble receiving their toothbrushes, confirming delivery on the touch screen, and sending the robot on its way. People wanted to call the robot back to make a second delivery, just so they could see it again. They even took selfies with the robot. But no one, not one person, tried to engage the robot in any conversation.

At the end of the day, green check marks filled our whiteboard. The risky robot personality—those blinking eyes, sound effects, and, yeah, even the “happy dance”—was a complete success. Prior to the sprint, Savioke had been nervous about overpromising the robot’s capability. Now they realized that giving the robot a winsome character might be the secret to boosting guest satisfaction.

Not every detail was perfect, of course. The touch screen was sluggish. The timing was off on some of the sound effects. One idea, to include games on the robot’s touch screen, didn’t appeal to guests at all. These flaws meant reprioritizing some engineering work, but there was still time.

Three weeks later, the robot went into full-time service at the hotel. And the Relay was a hit. Stories about the charming robot appeared in the New York Times and the Washington Post, and Savioke racked up more than 1 billion media impressions in the first month. But, most important, guests loved it. By the end of the summer, Savioke had so many orders for new robots that they could hardly keep up with production.

Savioke gambled by giving their robot a personality. But they were only confident in that gamble because the sprint let them test risky ideas quickly.

The trouble with good ideas

Good ideas are hard to find. And even the best ideas face an uncertain path to real-world success. That’s true whether you’re running a startup, teaching a class, or working inside a large organization.

Execution can be difficult. What’s the most important place to focus your effort, and how do you start? What will your idea look like in real life? Should you assign one smart person to figure it out or have the whole team brainstorm? And how do you know when you’ve got the right solution? How many meetings and discussions does it take before you can be sure? And, once it’s done, will anybody care?

As partners at GV, it’s our mission to help our startups answer these giant questions. We’re not consultants paid by the hour. We’re investors, and we succeed when our companies succeed. To help them solve problems quickly and be self-sufficient, we’ve optimized our sprint process to deliver the best results in the least time. Best of all, the process relies on the people, knowledge, and tools that every team already has.

Working together with our startups in a sprint, we shortcut the endless-debate cycle and compress months of time into a single week. Instead of waiting to launch a minimal product to understand if an idea is any good, our companies get clear data from a realistic prototype.”


From three partners at Google Ventures, a unique five-day process for solving tough problems, proven at more than a hundred companies.

Entrepreneurs and leaders face big questions every day: What’s the most important place to focus your effort, and how do you start? What will your idea look like in real life? How many meetings and discussions does it take before you can be sure you have the right solution?

Now there’s a surefire way to answer these important questions: the sprint. Designer Jake Knapp created the five-day process at Google, where sprints were used on everything from Google Search to Google X. He joined Braden Kowitz and John Zeratsky at Google Ventures, and together they have completed more than a hundred sprints with companies in mobile, e-commerce, healthcare, finance, and more.

A practical guide to answering critical business questions, Sprint is a book for teams of any size, from small startups to Fortune 100s, from teachers to nonprofits. It’s for anyone with a big opportunity, problem, or idea who needs to get answers today.


Jake Knapp created the Google Ventures sprint process and has run more than a hundred sprints with startups such as 23andMe, Slack, Nest, and Foundation Medicine. Previously, Jake worked at Google, leading sprints for everything from Gmail to Google X. He is among the worlds tallest designers.

Braden Kowitz founded the Google Ventures design team in 2009 and pioneered the role of “design partner” at a venture capital firm. He has advised close to two hundred startups on product design, hiring, and team culture. Before joining Google Ventures, Braden led design for several Google products, including Gmail, Google Apps for Business, Google Spreadsheets, and Google Trends.

John Zeratsky has designed mobile apps, medical reports, and a daily newspaper (among other things). Before joining Google Ventures, he was a design lead at YouTube and an early employee of FeedBurner, which Google acquired in 2007. John writes about design and productivity for The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, and Wired. He studied journalism at the University of Wisconsin.

This week’s selection ‘SPRINT: HOW TO SOLVE BIG PROBLEMS AND TEST NEW IDEAS IN JUST FIVE DAYS’ by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz ‘appears Monday thru Friday and comes to you courtesy of dearreader.com and BurlingtonPublicLibrary.ca Business Online Book Club.

Buy the Book