The concept of Lean Startup - which originated from the book written by Eric Ries - is so pervasive in Startupland, and so ingrained in me, that I am always surprised to find plenty of new startup founders who have not heard of it.

Perhaps it's because it's "old" (almost 10 years, so a lifetime in Tech - and some of its initial precepts have been contested and/or improved upon), or just because young founders have not heard of it yet.

Perhaps it's just me, and I just encountered the 1%.

In any case, thought I'd share here...

So Eric Ries wrote the book "The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses" published in 2011, which is the foundation for the Lean Startup movement, and has become the defacto standard for building startups (and corporate innovation).

Beyond founders, I believe anyone in an innovation position within a large company, should also read the book and be aware of its precepts.

Miguel Arias, now Global Entrepreneurship Director at Telefonica, recommended it to me in 2012 and I will always be grateful to him for that πŸ™πŸΌ (I love great book recommendations!)

It's the underlying precept that is of interest.

It's a quick and easy read (read it all in one go on a flight between San Francisco and London). A good read. But not breathtaking.

And to be honest, I was a bit underwhelmed when I read it at first.

But after processing it (the tiredness and jetlag did not help I guess πŸ˜…), I realised that it broke the common understanding that a business is built on the back of a clear and long-term business model (including precise financials and what the company will do).

Startups are messy. Risky.

The commonly accepted definition of a startup, which originated from Steve Blank (the "Godfather of Startups".. or "of Silicon Valley"? πŸ€” Can't remember... anyway, he's legit 😁) is "a temporary organisation, searching for a repeatable, scalable and profitable business model".

So a startup precedes the business model.

If you have a business model, it means you are building a traditional business - a bakery, a restaurant, etc... and that's fine.

But startups are searching for a business and its associated business model.

It's an exploratory endeavour.

And that search can take a scientific form.

Just like in scientific research, you formulate a hypothesis (an idea), you define the experiments to test that hypothesis, and you learn from the results of the experiment.

Contrary to scientific research though, the successful output is not a paper (a "scientific report") earning its credentials by being peer-reviewed (ie approved by qualified 3rd parties), but a business earning its credentials by having user adoption, and ultimately making money.

The actionable insights

In startup terms, the steps to follow are:

  1. Identify a pain to solve* (most critical aspect for rapid adoption)
  2. Build a MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
  3. Use the MVP to test your assumptions (hypothesis)
  4. Measure your tests
  5. Learn from each (small) test
  6. Iterate on your hypothesis

Rinse and repeat until you hit gold 😁

"MVP" is now a common term. Here is in a short graphic what building a MVP and iterating looks like:


(the faces represent the users, in case you wonder)

"Build, Measure, Learn" is the mantra of startups following the Lean Startup principles.

Though do not let me spoil everything.

There is more to it, and learnings happen really only when part of a story or larger context.

So if you haven't read it, and you are currently or plan to build a startup, I highly recommend you to read Lean Startup.

The official website:

The Lean Startup | The Movement That Is Transforming How New Products Are Built And Launched
The official website of all things Lean Startup presented by Eric Ries.

The book on Amazon: The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses eBook: Eric Ries: Kindle Store
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses - Kindle edition by Eric Ries. Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets. Use features like bookmarks, note taking and highlighting while reading The Lean S…

Or the Audible audiobook:

The Lean Startup
<p>Most startups fail. But many of those failures are preventable. <i>The Lean Startup</i> is a new approach being adopted across the globe, changing the way companies are built and new products are launched.</p> <p>Eric Ries defines a startup as an organization dedicated to creating something new …

(Clean links)


I will post soon about how to build a MVP when you are not a programmer yourself.

If you want a deeper dive into the Lean Startup approach, my upcoming post "The Lean Startup Approach" in my #StartupPlaybook series might be of interest to you.

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Have you read the Lean Startup? How did you find it? Has it helped you?

I'm very interested to hear if you have examples where the precepts failed for you, and learnings you extracted from it?

Comment below πŸ€—

* in the case of my 2nd startup, I decided (knowing, but underestimating the challenge), to go full Lean Startup, but without focusing on a particular problem to solve (one key criteria to make it work). It's definitely harder! You can read more here if curious:

OFFICEBOTS: (HALF) YEAR REVIEW: Finding Product-Market Fit