Learning from the Lean Startup

When it comes to startups, there are a lot of ways to waste money. The push and pull to spend is never-ending. Most startups fail because they don't manage their cash well and run out of money. The Lean Startup philosophy can help by changing the way you think about building a startup.

The basic idea is that you build small, measure furiously, and learn fast from real user behavior – not your gut.

 My brother and I were not full blown converts of the lean approach at the outset of our second startup, however we did put some concepts into practice. We did this by rejecting the "all or nothing" mentality.

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I was passionate about getting iOS apps! I assumed we had to have an iPhone and iPad app to go along with our website to achieve success. Our developers, who were advocates of the lean startup helped us see the light. The apps were going to cost $60 to $75K a piece. An amount I naively, assumed would take to build everything – apps included!

Luckily, we did not build the iOS apps. We still haven't. It turns out we didn't need the apps to be successful. What we needed was an minimum viable product (MVP).

The MVP was popularized by Steve Blank, and Eric Ries (for web applications).

Imagine starting a taco food truck. What's the most crucial element for success? It's not the stand, the logo, or the napkins – it's the tacos. How do they taste? Are they any good?

If the tacos aren't any good then you don't have a business. Making sure your tacos taste amazing is the MVP.

When we were close to launch, we became convinced that Lightstock needed one more big feature to survive. This was the last feature we built and it's creation added six weeks and $18K in development cost. Months after launch, we discovered few people used the feature despite our growing traction. Our assumptions were wrong.

All of this money and time could have been saved, if we would have stuck-to-our-guns and applied the lean approach.

The question I find myself asking these days, is how do I implement the lean approach beyond the start phase and into the growing phase? The more I think about it, the more I see the wisdom in the lean approach.

What about you? What experience do you have with the Lean Startup? Have you tried implementing leaner principles into your business?