OtherEntrepreneurship 101: Speaker Spotlight on Luke Kanies of Puppet Labs

Luke Kanies, Founder of PuppetLabs
Luke Kanies, Founder of PuppetLabs.

Hope and inspiration can often be effective drivers for the aspiring entrepreneurs, but not always. Luke Kanies, as a case in point, founded Puppet and Puppet Labs in 2005 out of fear and desperation. His goal was to produce better operations tools and change how we manage systems.

Luke has been publishing and speaking on his work in system administration since 1997, focusing on development since 2001. He has developed and published multiple simple sysadmin tools, contributed to established products like Cfengine, and presented on Puppet and other tools around the world. His work with Puppet has been an important part of DevOps and delivering on the promise of cloud computing.

Luke Kanies of Puppet Labs will be sharing his story on June 6 at OEN’s Entrepreneurial Summit: The School of Hard Knocks. (Learn more.)

We asked Luke to design a course for aspiring entrepreneurs, the course he wishes he’d taken in school. Here’s what he came up with:

Entrepreneurship 101

Key lesson students will take away:

Iterate from your successes, but learn to accept and tolerate failure.  I think the startup world glorifies failure to some extent, and the real point is to find success but not be too conservative to fail, or too brittle to recover from it.

It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do, whether you succeed or fail.  You can’t avoid the misery and difficulty.  Failure is more painful, but even “success” is incredibly difficult.

Perseverance is the only correlation to success.  You can’t quit, and you can’t ever stop learning.

Key skill the course will develop:

Constant learning: If you don’t learn faster than your company scales, you’ll get swamped.

Behavioral interviewing, and hiring overall: Know what matters in a role beyond function, and how to interview for it.  Hiring is just about the biggest lever for a CEO to control things, so you have to become great at it.

Listening: You’re wrong, about something critical. You have to hear people’s criticisms.

Reading List:


  • Build a company strategy and a plan to execute against it.
  • Design a company cadence:  Who meets when, about what, etc.
  • Design a product to solve a specific (given by me) problem.
  • Design a marketing campaign.
  • One of your employees has accused another of sexual harassment, publicly.  What do you do, and why?
  • Build a job description and interview plan for a role outside your area of expertise (e.g., sales, if you’re a product person).

Class Field Trip:

I would take students to an actual factory, so they could see the different techniques and tools people use to manage their work.

OEN’s Entrepreneurial Summit 2014: The School of Hard Knocks

Get schooled at The Kennedy School on June 6, where Luke Kanies and 15 other successful entrepreneurs will share their stories. OEN’s Entrepreneurial Summit: The School of Hard Knocks offers you a chance to learn their stories and the real-life lessons that they didn’t learn in school. 


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