The so-called ‘Lean Startup’ methodology, coined by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Eric Ries, has come into vogue in recent years and aims to address the problem of heavy cash outlay during the early stages of your business. In other words it advocates proving your concept as far as possible without building the finished product. It aims to take the financial risk out of building a startup (as far as that is possible!).
The lean startup methodology is all about experimentation, feedback and iteration. Or to use the vernacular of a school science teacher: hypothesis, evidence, synthesis and improvement. The idea is that rather than spending hours and hours writing a ‘perfect’ business plan, keeping your ideas hush-hush and finally launching a fully developed product in the hope that investors and consumers will be won over, you test hypotheses by collating customer feedback from your MVP (Minimum Viable Product).
For example, you could throw up a landing page selling a product/service that, as yet, does not exist, and measure the popularity and interest in it. By this means, you can calculate whether the idea is worth pursuing and how it can be optimised; or whether you should ‘pivot’ or iterate, or change the concept entirely. For more information on what lean startup means, you can visit www.theleanstartup.com/.
But in this post I want to address the question of how far this lean startup method has proven itself as viable. Ted Ladd is a professor and entrepreneur who has conducted research on this question and recently published his findings in an article for the Harvard Business Review. Click here to read the full article.
In a nutshell, he concludes that while the experimentation and customer feedback produced by following the method does impress investors and presentation panel judges, it does not necessarily indicate subsequent success. He states a number of possible reasons for this:
– Too much feedback erodes entrepreneur confidence
– Method may produce ‘false negatives’ when there is no clear rule in place to stop testing and start scaling. In other words, entrepreneurs are experimenting so much that they always end up with negative results.
This leads him to say that while the lean startup method has considerable benefits for entrepreneurs, it is important that the testing and experimentation on a micro-level is combined with a broader strategy. That way, only the priority areas are tested; and time and confidence are not wasted testing every aspect.
He ends his article with the following:
“The popularity of the lean startup method is well deserved. But, as is true of any business process, the method must be tailored and employed with reflection and constraints, not blind allegiance. Just like the new ventures it creates, it will improve as researchers and practitioners propose, test, and incorporate refinements.”
Food for thought…