What is the Lean Startup Method?

Entrepreneurs are everywhere

Bossman at the chicken shop is an entrepreneur.

Everyday he toils away in the kitchen preparing fried chicken with the hope that people will buy it.

Some days he may experiment with the recipe, maybe add some more spices and then observe the look on his customers faces as they chomp down on his new spicy wings.

Entrepreneurs are everywhere, even if you work in a large corporation you can still be entrepreneurial.

Here’s a formal definition of a startup from Eric Ries (the author).

A human institution designed to create new products and services under conditions of extreme uncertainty.

There is no mention of size in the definition above.

Let’s say you are tasked with creating a new brand of face masks for L’Oréal.

Yes L’Oréal is a gigantic corporation but creating and selling a new brand of face masks is still creating a new product under conditions of extreme uncertainty.

It is common for people to dismiss their entrepreneurial abilities because they have only worked for large corporations.

It’s not about who you work for, it’s about what you do.

When you start taking responsibility for business problems and try to solve them in innovative ways, you are already being entrepreneurial without having started your own business.


Validated Learning

A startup cannot exist without customers.

Today there are startups which have not turned a profit for years and continue to survive through funding, but that does not mean that these startups do not have customers.

To obtain funding in the first place, startups must convince investors that they can make money in the future.

All startups make assumptions about what their customers want and how to go about meeting these demands.

The trouble is beliefs and gut feelings are no solid evidence to support your assumptions.

The true learning and development starts when customers are using your product.

The product or service you offer is never finished. As an entrepreneur you are constantly finding ways to make your product or service better. You do not have enough resources to be obsessing over perfection.

Get out there and start testing.


Build-Measure-Learn

When it comes to building, it does not have to be complicated. You are building to test an assumption.

For example, you set up a website which sells two types of t-shirts. One of the t-shirts has ‘unemployed’ written on the front and the other has ‘entrepreneur’. You promote the t-shirts on social media and measure how many orders you receive for each t-shirt. Keep in mind that you have not produced any t-shirts, you simply want to measure the number of orders.

The results are in and you get 100 orders for the ‘entrepreneur’ t-shirt and 5 for the ‘unemployed’ t-shirt. All of the customers have inputted their payment details so you know they are serious about making a purchase.

You now know that you should focus on marketing the ‘entrepreneur’ t-shirt.

You have followed the process of build-measure-learn.

Ignoring this sacred loop can lead to trouble. Imagine ordering 1000 ‘unemployed’ t-shirts and trying to sell them. Now your home is filled with t-shirts and you are struggling to pay your bills.

That is why the lean startup method is important to avoid the wastage of precious resources.


Innovation accounting

Facebook could report that a record 100 million users have joined Facebook this month, and you may think wow that’s some serious growth but what if in the same month, the time people spent on the platform and the number of posts and interactions fell by 15%.

Would you say Facebook had a good or bad month?

I would say bad.

Facebook sells attention. Marketers pay large sums of money to Facebook so that they have your attention when they try to sell you things.

Attention of its users is what matters to Facebook, the number of registered users is secondary.

Find what matters for your startup which often comes down to how you make your customers feel.

You may only have 3 customers to start off with, your priority should be to make sure that those 3 customers love what you have to offer.

Ultimately, what makes people use your service or buy your product? What makes people want to tell their friends about it?

Measure what matters.


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2 Comments

  1. b

    innovation accounting – this is such a simple but effective tool that i often find that i have to drum this into my head once in a while. you can easily apply this to anything you do. for example, if you are studying, it is easy to focus on what doesn’t matter: you might pat yourself on the back because you studied for many hours. but what actually matters is your understanding – you have to spend time testing how well you understand the material.

    and the idea of ‘build-measure-learn’ is something we can all do to find our own ways of doing things. if something doesn’t work out for you currently, then make a small change and see what impact it has. if you find that life is passing you by for example, just write a bit every day and see what impact it has. measuring the impact of such things may be more difficult than objective figures like sales, but as your capacity for self-reflection increases, you should learn that you can figure out what’s working for you.

    Liked by 1 person

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