Published 13 October 2017 Category: Startups, SMEs, Entrepreneurs, Business Insights, Workplace

Tips On Building A Lean Startup

In the startup world, how do you make sure you don’t invest your life savings in a business idea that users don’t want? That’s where the lean startup philosophy comes in. The Lean Startup concept, developed by Eric Reis in 2008, has been embraced by the startup community.

What is the LEAN startup principle?
The Lean Startup principle is a methodology that views startups as a ‘grand experiment’ which engages customers from the very beginning, instead of presenting customers with a finished product or service. This way, entrepreneurs can discover their customers’ preferences and create the best possible offering before it goes out the market. In other words, the Lean Startup principle helps entrepreneurs learn what customers want, while they are still developing their business.

Feedback is Key
As an entrepreneur, you need two things to work according to the Lean principle: a minimum viable product (MVP), which is the bare minimum that can be deployed to early users. It is the product in its most simplistic form. And a build-measure-learn feedback-loop, which enables entrepreneurs to implement the reactions they receive from their MVP and make informed decisions. This is called ‘validated learning’ and it helps cut back on development time and minimise the risk of failure.

The following three tips will get your business on board with the lean philosophy in no time.

1. Live by the build-measure-learn cycle
When it comes to startups, you don’t necessarily know what people want. Unlike someone providing a more established good or service, there may not be an existing framework letting you know what people like and dislike. And, even if you do have a history and wealth of information on your users, ideas can be wrong.

Rather than making assumptions, and developing a product and marketing plan based off of guesswork, Ries suggests that a better use of time and resources is to create a minimum viable product, or MVP, which acts a lot like a hypothesis.

Build a product - quickly, and without a ton of frills - to fit what you think users want. Then measure and learn from this MVP, so you know if you should move forward, and how. Should you pivot with your product, changing directions for what you’re providing? Or should you persevere and move forward with the product as is? Your users can be the best affirmation for which approach to take.

2. Utilise a ‘users-first’ methodology
Question all new features and functionality. Think users want a calendar feature as part of your product? Release a stripped-down version and see what response is like. Rather than predicting your customers’ reactions, give them something they can respond to.

3. Remember that success can be taught
The lean startup philosophy is a way to work smart, learn from failures, and always test assumptions with users. Successful lean startups value speed over perfection, and respond quickly to user feedback. It’s easy to romanticise the startup story and imagine it as once-in-a-lifetime kismet, but Ries pushes back on this hindsight version of startup narratives, writing, “Startup success is not a consequence of good genes or being in the right place at the right time. Success can be engineered by following the right process, which means it can be learned, which means it can be taught.”

Dropbox Did It
Most people know Dropbox, but they don’t know that Dropbox was created using the Lean Startup principles. When Dropbox began, it faced many competitors and didn’t know when or how to launch, given the environment they were working in. So they decided to start by speaking to their target audience, to find out if Dropbox was appealing. Dropbox presented its MVP – a 3 minute video that presented a snap-shot – to its target audience and based on feedback, they were able to get a better understanding of their customers early in the process. By connecting potential users with their MVP, Dropbox was also able to capture interest and gain buy-in, before their product had officially launched.

You Can Too
Dropbox used Lean Startup principles to create a product that was reliable and “just worked” and showcased it. By connecting consumers with your MVP, you can have authentic conversations and gain an understanding of what resonates with your customers. That is what Lean Startup principles are all about. Or as Ries describes his approach: it is “a process for systematically figuring out which parts of our idea are brilliant and which ones are crazy.” This way, entrepreneurs can focus on ‘keeping the main thing the main thing’ and build a sustainable startup.