Book Review – The Lean Startup by Eric Ries



Start up success is not a consequence of good genes or being in the right place at the right time. Start up success can be engineered by following the right process, which means it can be learned, which means it can be taught. ~ Eric Ries

There are many who will believe that startup success is about having the right products and being in the right place at the right time. Eric Ries in the Lean Startup agues that business success can be engineered by following a set of principles that get you to start small, start quick and go through several iterations.

Lean Startup is about learning what your customers really want. Its about testing your vision continuously, adapting and adjusting before its too late.

Eric Ries introduces five principles of the lean Startup. You can read about them in the book. I would like to talk about five keys I have leant from the book.

Key #1. Experiment

Every stage in your product or business development cycle is an experiment. You define your hypothesis, that is what is it you want to find out?  Then you build the product, version or implement the business process. You measure your results and you learn.

The Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop as Reis calls it is the core of the Lean Startup Model.

Key #2. Develop a Minimum Viable Product MVP

I like the concept of a minimum viable product. This would be the no frills version that allows you to test your hypothesis. Because every stage of your product or business development is an experiment, you need to get your product in front of your customers in a real market and not a test market as quickly and at as low a cost to you. This Is good because you don’t need all the money in the world to do this. You just need to have a clear idea of the minimum features to have.

Key #3. Be Prepared To Pivot or Persevere

Every business person at some point will come to this crossroad. I have had to ask myself the simple question “am I making sufficient progress to justify my continuing on this path. Or do I need to make a major change. The Lean strartup method advocates a more scientific and objective approach to this decision. Innovation accounting according to Reis helps you measure your startup progress and you will have to decide if there is any real progress. This helps take out the emotions involved in your decision to continue on the current trajectory or to curse correct on a major basis.

Key #4. Identify Your Engine of Growth

This is a reality check for all businesses. You cannot remain a start up forever. You need to find your engine of growth and then ride it. Reis talks about three engines of growth. You will need to get the book to read more about these three.

    • The Sticky Engine of Growth
    • The Viral Engine of Growth
    • The Paid engine of gGrowth

Key #5. Innovate

According to Reis, to grow and thrive, businesses will need to evolve into organisations that learn how to successfully balance the needs of existing customers with the challenges of finding new customers to serve. You will need to effectively manage the existing lines of business while experimenting with new products.

You cannot continue experimenting with your product since you already have established customers who are happy with the look and feel of your product. You cannot however rely on this. You have to make the shift into portfolio thinking and always have new products in the pipeline. Constant innovation will help you maintain create a product portfolio.

Not a How to Manual

The Lean startup is not an how to manual so you will not find in it the seven steps to a perfect startup. And the lean start up approach does not guarantee startup success. It just helps you find out if your assumptions are wrong as quickly and as cheaply as possible.

The book is filled with examples and stories from Reis’s life experience as an entrepreneur and from the experience of many others who have employed the lean startup approach to business development.

Whatever you believe about business startup success, this book is worth your time and money.

Leave a comment if you have read this book.