For years, startups and their founders first built their products, and only then searched for their markets and prayed for the best. But if you want to build a successful business, then it is now the right time to learn about the Lean Startup approach.
The Lean Startup has evolved into a movement that is having a significant impact on how companies are built, funded and scaled. As with any new idea, with popularity come multiple interpretations.
I’d like to clarify this concept for myself and therefore decided to ask LI members about it. Below you may find the answers that I found most interesting and useful.
“We are exploring lean startup approach in my team for our business incubation project. So far this approach sounds very exciting and promising. In my opinion the biggest challenge we have at this point is finding customers to continuously validate our ideas regarding product functionality. But I think different teams will have different challenges. For example, one of the prerequisites of running lean startup is having appropriate “agile” development process in place. Many teams are not prepared to release new version of their product/application weekly or ever daily. I don’t think lean startup approach is about saving money. It applies very well to both funded and bootstrapped organizations. Also lean startup approach doesn’t mean that it will take longer to launch, I think it actually means the opposite. The idea here is to reduce waste, and don’t do things you are not confident you have to do.”
Lead Engineer at PARC
“All startups are “lean” by their nature. The trick is keeping them lean.”
V.P. of Engineering
“I shall make a slight correction to Darren’s statement – all successful startups are lean by nature. You are always looking to maximize the chances of success while minimizing resources at risk; to find a way of delivering what enough customers would find valuable, in a timescale that gives fair return on investment. Using Lean approaches and thinking does two things for you; it increases the chances of success, and it can help you to decide to fail sooner than you might otherwise have done. Andrew’s comments about ‘agile’ are pertinent if your product is software; on the other hand I don’t like putting as much emphasis on reducing waste as he does. The three goals in order of priority are 1/ deliver value; 2/ enable flow; and only then, 3/ reduce waste….As the agile folk say, “try the simplest thing that could possibly work”. Even though sometimes it doesn’t work, it’s good enough often enough to be a winning strategy.”
“Most all start-ups are lean. Fat ones tend to spend money and never get around to starting up.
Staying lean is a great goal – as long as you don’t strangle the company’s growth by focusing on leanness over more important business issues.”
CTO at Catalina Payment Systems
“Most “successful” startups start and remain lean (not only in software development terms), at least until they reach the growth phase. There is a lot of debate going on about startup funding vs efficiency. I have experienced both worlds of funded and bootstrapped and unless the management team is very experienced and already had a business failure because of bad management of the “fat”, it is much more efficient to start lean and stay lean until you´ve proven a profitable and scalable business model. Once you need to accelerate it becomes a different story.”
“The lean startup approach is like any other approach to business management in that it makes sense in some instances but not in others. In this case the lean approach to a startup only works if your innovation will support rapid deployments and subsequent gathering of customer feedback. Really good examples of success using this model are in smart phone apps and casual games. Using existing popular distribution sources (i.e.: app stores and game portals) producers can quickly distribute and collect feedback from a large existing and often knowledgeable customer base. New offerings or updates can be just as quickly launched and the older ones removed.
Now contrast this company with one marketing new embedded chip software for RFID tags. The embedded software company cannot be as reactive as it must deal with the costs of prototype manufacturing, distribution, and customer adoption in trials. The lean startup approach may not be the best strategy for them.”
“Lean, as in the American add-an-expert equivalent of the Toyota Production System (TPS), doesn’t carry that much for extra features into a startup. A startup should be entrepreneurial (entre) and the entre pattern matches a good agile development pattern. A good entre/agile team is mostly relatively collegial for good information sharing, not so much the refining inject-the-expert that lean follows. TPS gets a million new ideas a year from the factory floor up, and that is a good entre success pattern. ‘Lean’ as a term sells better than TPS or agile. I much prefer to suggest that a good agile/entre startup creates almost accidental design thinking & doing cycle that spirals towards success.”
Growth spurts for People Teams Orgs. Agile Entrepreneur
“Would like to add that being lean should not be your key driver in a start up, it’s far more important to be agile/flexible and responsive as you change your product/service to mesh with emerging and probably changing product design & market needs. This is called “making it up as we go along”, and is very typical of many startups, and there is nothing wrong with this in a startup, actually it’s quite desirable. Shouldn’t your key drivers be market and customer needs?
No point being lean if you are making the wrong thing!
What’s your point of view on this topic?