Lean startup – Lessons from the frontline
Posted on November 23, 2011
I am starting my own company, as you’ve probably guessed by now. While I’m sure that you’re interested to hear what I plan on doing I need to save that for a future post. In the interim, I’m going to share some of my lessons learned from kicking off a new company.
When I first heard of the Lean Startup methodology that Eric Ries developed, I found it incredibly appealing because it provided a structured approach to creating a successful startup. Reis argues that you should be building the smallest possible product that attracts paying customers, listening to their feedback, then quickly and continuously improve the product. The methodology relies on measurement, experimentation and adaptation based on the real feedback from your customers.
Running a Lean Startup encourages you to think differently about the value of your company, and to understand how you can create that value in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of effort. In addition to ideas taken from lean manufacturing, developments such as agile software development and the emergence of cloud computing paved the way for lean startups.
Over the past two months, I have spent a lot of time speaking with startups, serial entrepreneurs, advisors, and everything in between. I found it very easy to apply the lean startup methodology to someone else’s business. Without being emotionally attached to their idea, staff or operation it was easy to hand out advice that aligned nicely with the concepts of Lean Startup.
At the same time, I was oblivious to this oversight in my own company. In the first iteration of my business plan I completely ignored the Lean Startup concepts. I was planning on making a huge gamble by hiring a big team and kick-starting the business without customers in the pipeline. I attribute part of my mentality to coming from a big company where everyone has specialized skills and roles. However, I was also emotionally vested which prevented me from taking a hard look at my plans through the Lean Startup lens.
Thankfully, I eventually noticed the oversight and fixed it. Or at least I thought I fixed it. Two weeks later I realized I had only applied the lean startup methodology to the technical side of the business. I needed to make some more mistakes before I came to that realization.
The Lean Startup methodology is very easy to read, understand and appreciate. The hard part is trying to take the emotion out of it. Eric talks about this a lot in his book and interviews but it took me learning it the hard way for the lesson to stick. Hopefully someone else can learn from my mistakes. Anyone else struggled with this one?