The Lean Startup Frenzy
Oliver Milman, with Startup Smart, wrote an article on Lean Startup. Indirectly the article asks a valid question: is Lean Startup just a fad or does it generate real value for venture capitalists and founders?
The article's opening sentences signify the debate:
Entrepreneurs should be naturally wary of fads and trends. They need to be analysed to determine whether they are genuine, sustainable or even useful. Plenty of start-ups have rushed into “the next big thing”, only to promptly fall on their faces.
The article goes on to summarize Eric Ries' theory but also shows how Eric's ideas are probably not that new. In fact other writers have published books with similar theories of keeping costs low and continuously seeking feedback, among them:
Traditionally, results for company success are measured as a return on investment to it's owners over time. Since Lean Startup is relatively new, and the companies adopting it, young, we may have to wait for a true assessment of Lean Startup's worth.
But, this doesn't prevent debate over Lean Startup. A Quora.com discussion surfaced in 2010 on the merits of Lean Startup.
William Pietri illustrated one side:
The "lean" in Lean Startups has two meanings. People here have mainly focused on the common meaning, "not fat." I want to focus on the other one: "lean" as Lean Manufacturing.
The short answer is nobody knows for sure yet whether more success will come, but there are theoretical reasons to think so. There are a lot of things that differentiate Lean from typical western business practices, but let me focus on four:
And an opposing view from Josh McFarland:
To echo a component of David King's answer, the entrepreneurs I know who most religiously follow the tenets of the Lean Startup methodology also produce the least inspired products in my opinion... tired collections of other companies' features, designed by committee. Yes, they run "leanly" as they try to find PMF, but in the cases I'm monitoring, I'm just seeing them fail slowly.
I liken these disciples to the people who get "certified" for Product Management via any one of the myriad programs out there -- those PMs are always at the bottom of the stack when it comes to creating great new experiences or innovations.
While the discussion over Eric Ries' ideas may continue, it hasn't stopped the growth of the Lean Startup marketing machine and book sales. Indeed, Eric Ries greatest venture may be the Lean Startup movement itself.
What are your thoughts? Do you work for a company using the Lean Startup methodology? How is it working? How do you see it growing, changing in the next few years?
Ben Linders May 28, 2015