Lean Startup In a Nutshell
“Stop Building Things People Don’t Want”
Lean Startup is the defacto framework for any startups and has been used for probably five years now to tackle new business ideas and how to understand the market and how to scale. Nowadays it’s really hard to raise money, especially early level funding, without understanding and implementing Lean Startup and you can’t really understand the business for the last probably five to ten years without understanding the basics of it.
Lean startup is a methodology for developing businesses and products that aim to shorten product development cycles and rapidly discover if a proposed business model is viable; this is achieved by adopting a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and validated learning. The lean startup framework was popularized and written by Eric Ries in his book called “Lean Startup”. You can find more about Lean Startup here http://theleanstartup.com. In this post, I will try to summarize what this book tells us.
What is Lean Startup
Lean Startup to tells us that we actually don’t know anything about our idea until you get out there and you start testing it.
Lean Startup is a framework to help founder, business person, or product owner to get a better understanding of how startups can understand or predict the future and think about their ideas in a way that can mitigate risk and accommodate what they call absolute uncertainty.
Now the first thing that the framework wants you to know is that when you are launching a new business product or service you are launching into a market that has 0% certainty. You don’t know anything about it, none. Maybe a lot of people hearing that will say “no actually I do know lots about the market, I read a blog about it, or I talked to my friends and they absolutely like it.” Believe me, the vast majority of great startup ideas are wrong at the initial phase and needed to be pivoted before the startup can nail the market. Just read the history of Instagram, Facebook, even Microsoft. We actually need this framework, Lean Startup, to tells us that we actually don’t know anything about our idea until you get out there and you start testing it in the actual wild and you start introducing it to customers, only then you know something about your market or your product.
We already there at least once, when we’re in the shower and thinking about our idea, suddenly in your mind “Eureka! my idea sounds brilliant?” But the reality is that most of our ideas are actually terrible, get used to it.
Tl;dr All of our ideas are terrible, one way to make your ideas less terrible is to implement validated learning.
Now according to the Lean Startup, the only way that you can improve your idea or seek to understand your market is through a thing called validated learning. Validated learning is an approach to demonstrating progress against business goals when traditional key performance indicators (KPIs) are not very useful. Eric Ries described validated learning as a small unit of progress that can be quickly verified to determine whether a chosen direction is correct. You might think that “hey I read an industry report” or “hey I talk to some potential customers, Isn’t that learning?” You actually half right, that process is called learning, but not validated learning.
What makes Validated Learning different than plain old learning or market research are:
- We know and have control over whether or not the information we’re getting is biased or false
- The object of the research is your idea, that specific product, not someone else idea or product.
Validated learning is good at helping us o avoid building features that customers don’t need. The thinking is that by continually validating what matters most to customers, the startup will be more likely to eventually demonstrate progress against traditional KPIs, including revenue.
Tl;dr MVP — spends a minimum amount of time and resources to execute the idea.
Ok, we all know we should implement Validated Learning, but how? We don’t have anything to show to customers. We need to solve this chicken and egg problem. You want to know whether or not my product or service is a good idea and I want to get real feedback from customers but I can’t do that until I actually build it.
The best way to get validated learning is through MVP experiments not just showing them a mockup, design, or pitch deck. We need to show them an MVP, period.
What MVP anyway? MVP is short for the minimum viable product. It’s a concept from Lean Startup that stresses the impact of learning in new product development. Eric Ries, defined an MVP as that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort. This validated learning comes in the form of whether your customers will actually purchase your product.
To fit the MVP in the whole picture, we need to figure out how we systematically build miniature versions of what our product or service is going to do. Sometimes very miniature and the information we get we can actually incorporate into our broader understanding of whether or not this idea is good. Basically what we’re trying to do is that we need to spend a minimum amount of time and resources to execute the idea.
That’s it. I think Lean Startup is only about those 2 points, Validated Learning and MVP. You may think Lean Startup covers more than that, yes, that's true. But I think Lean Startup is only about those 2 points, the rest is actually pretty overlapping with other agile frameworks. That’s the reason why I only put those 2 points in this post.