[book review] The Lean StartupPosted: September 12, 2012
As the title implies, the goal is to get lean. Lean might mean several things to you like starting with a lean budget, lean time, lean resources or a lean product. These descriptions are actually part of the book, but one of the key components with starting a lean startup is customer validation. The goal is to learn from a process that will allow you to validate your hypothesis, create the experiment, measure the results and build from these learnings. The key with the whole process is to create a way to keep iterating through your ideas and your experiments so that you will be able to react, not with gut feel, but with hard data. No assumptions but rather well backed decisions based on data.
The book is divided into three main sections, Vision, Steer, and Accelerate. These main categories take you through the journey of learning the method.
Vision is your high level, concept phase of learning the difference of the methodology from traditional corporate thinking. This section takes you to realize the whole concept that creating sustainable business is a process. When it’s a process, it can be learned, and can ultimately be taught.
Being exposed to a lot of entrepreneurial activities, the first section doesn’t cover anything ground breaking, rather it shows you the possibilities of viewing a challenge with a different perspective. Well repeated in the book is that the Lean Startup methodology is not just for new startup companies, but for any organisation creating a product. I think this goes well with anybody working in a knowledge based industry. Formulating marketing campaigns, community engagement and other community based marketing can benefit from having a lean approach towards their business.
Steer, talks about the methodology. Dropbox and Intuit were were given as examples while going to the process of build -> measure -> learn.
This whole section is what you want to read. Again, the whole book is not rocket science, but the process itself is well thought of and it’ll get you thinking whenever you go through the rounds of work. Several methods and techniques were presented here, again with the goal of getting you to rethink how you do things now and getting into the lean mindset.
One thing that stuck out for me was how we measure “success”. We have to get into the habit of measure the right things rather than the things that will make us look good. (which is very typical in large companies) I got my fair of vanity metrics that I see often. How, and more importantly, what we measure is a crucial step in learning. If we don’t measure the correct things, our assumptions might be validated the wrong way. If you are measuring page views on your site rather than activations, this might present you with a great chart, but it won’t give you more business. I like quantifiable measurements as it takes away any doubts and uncertainties whenever we look at metrics.
Accelerate talks about growth, releasing in small batches and how you will move after applying your validated learning.
I especially liked the chapter about batches as it’s quite common for us to procrastinate by releasing a larger batch until it’s perfect then getting bombed in the end as our work didn’t get enough validation or feedback.
The last part of the book also shared a lot of resources to get you on track with the lean methodology. Blogs, resources and other books that will help you get into the mindset of lean.
As me and a friend are building our product now, the book helped me think of how we should be constantly validating our assumptions and what metrics to measure. I’ll be talking about this more once we launch and I’m so happy that it’s going to be soon.
If you are looking for a precursor to startup life, this book is a great way to change how you think and how you tackle problems. I think this is not only for startup companies, but for individuals who wants to achieve more. Conducting experiments is not just for directors or people handling budgets, it’s also for people on the field who talk to customers and clients and can constantly reinvent themselves and adapt to different situations. With the lean methodology, you can categorically experiment while constantly learning. Read it and use. 😉