The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

Most startups fail. But many of those failures are preventable.  The Lean Startup is a new approach being adopted across the globe, changing the way companies are built and new products are launched. Eric Ries defines a startup as an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty. This is just as true for one person in a garage or...

Title:The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
Author:
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ISBN:0307887898
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:299 pages

The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses Reviews

  • José
    Aug 31, 2011

    As I read chapter after chapter I found myself thinking 'Great introduction to the topic, now let's hope the next one contains some real meat'. Unfortunately that feeling accompanied me until the end of the book.

    Don't get me wrong, this book contains a lot of useful ideas if you are into entepreneurship: the build-measure-lean cycle driven by the knowledge you want to acquire, validated learning, treating everything as en experiment with its corresponding actionable metrics... but maybe I expect

    As I read chapter after chapter I found myself thinking 'Great introduction to the topic, now let's hope the next one contains some real meat'. Unfortunately that feeling accompanied me until the end of the book.

    Don't get me wrong, this book contains a lot of useful ideas if you are into entepreneurship: the build-measure-lean cycle driven by the knowledge you want to acquire, validated learning, treating everything as en experiment with its corresponding actionable metrics... but maybe I expected a little more insight into all these things.

    Instead of a thorough description of each of the concepts we have a series of front line stories illutrating them. The only points that are fully developed are the pivot types and the possible engines of growth.

    So after finishing the book I'm left with the feeling that, while now I have some sound guides to use, there's a lot of information I must research out there.

  • Adam Bradley
    Nov 13, 2011

    I think this book could have been effectively distilled into one of about a fifth the length -- and provided me with a much faster feedback loop on the ideas it contained. So consider that an example of the author not abiding by his own principles.

    Another example of the book not abiding by its own counsel: in recounting case studies, he assures us that the case studies are "successful" by telling us about venture funding and acquisition offers, which seem to me to be examples of the ultimate "va

    I think this book could have been effectively distilled into one of about a fifth the length -- and provided me with a much faster feedback loop on the ideas it contained. So consider that an example of the author not abiding by his own principles.

    Another example of the book not abiding by its own counsel: in recounting case studies, he assures us that the case studies are "successful" by telling us about venture funding and acquisition offers, which seem to me to be examples of the ultimate "vanity metrics" (getting speculators to bet on you is not synonymous with success).

    The basic insights of the book are valuable, but they are described with only enough detail for the reader to make a few false starts at applying them, recognize their failures retroactively but probably not predictively (a "vanity metric" is one which, by definition, causes you to make the wrong decision -- but you don't know it's the wrong decision when you choose which metrics to ignore), and probably go one to hire a consultant who can help you actually fill in the blanks of how to apply the concept to your particular business.

  • Herve
    Nov 15, 2011

    After reading Clayton Christensen, Geoffrey Moore and Steve Blank, I was expecting a lot from The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. I was disappointed. It could be that I did not read it well or too fast, but I was expecting much more. But instead of saying what I did not like, let me begin with the good points. Just like the previous three authors, Ries shows that innovation may be totally counterintuitive: "My cofounders and I are determined to make new mistakes. We do everything wrong. We build a mi

    After reading Clayton Christensen, Geoffrey Moore and Steve Blank, I was expecting a lot from The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. I was disappointed. It could be that I did not read it well or too fast, but I was expecting much more. But instead of saying what I did not like, let me begin with the good points. Just like the previous three authors, Ries shows that innovation may be totally counterintuitive: "My cofounders and I are determined to make new mistakes. We do everything wrong. We build a minimum viable product, an early product that is terrible, full of bugs and crash-your-computer-yes-really stability problems. Then we ship it to customers before it's ready. And we charge money for it. After securing initial customers, we change the product constantly. [...] We really had customers, often talked to them and did not do what they said." [page 4] On page 8, Eric Ries explains that the lean startup method helps entrepreneurs "under conditions of extreme uncertainty" with a "new kind of management" by "testing each element of their vision", and "learn whether to pivot or persevere" using a "feedback loop".

    This is he Build-Measure-Learn process. He goes on by explaining why start-ups fail:

    1- The first problem is the allure of a good plan. "Planning and forecasting are only accurate when based on a long, stable operating history and a relatively static environment. Startups have neither."

    2- The second problem is the "Just-do-it". "This school believes that chaos is the answer. This does not work either. A startup must be managed".

    The main and most convincing lesson from Ries is that because start-ups face a lot of uncertainty, they should test, experiment, learn from the right or wrong hypotheses as early and as often as possible. They should use actionable metrics, split-test experiments, innovation accounting. He is also a big fan of Toyota lean manufacturing.

    I loved his borrowing of Komisar's Analogs and Antilogs. For the iPod, the Sony Walkman was an Analog ("people listen to music in a public place using earphones") and Napster was an Antilog ("although people were willing to download music, they were not willing to pay for it"). [Page 83] Ries further develops the MVP, Minimum Viable Product: "it is not the smallest product imaginable, but the fastest way to get through the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop." Apple's original iPhone, Google's first search engine, or even Dropbox Video Demo were such MVPs. More on Techcrunch [page 97]. He adds that MVP does not go without risks, including legal issues, competition, branding and morale of the team. He has a good point about intellectual property [page 110]: "In my opinion, [...the] current patent law inhibits innovation and should be remedied as a matter of public policy."

    So why did I feel some frustration? There is probably the feeling Ries gives that his method is a science. [Page 3]: "Startup success can be engineered by following the right process, which means it can be learned, which means it can be taught." [Page 148]: "Because of the scientific methodology that underlies the Lean Startup, there is often a misconception that it offers a rigid clinical formula for making pivot or persevere decisions. There is no way to remove the human element - vision, intuition, judgment - from the practice of entrepreneurship, nor that would be desirable". I was probably expecting more recipes, as the ones Blnak gives in The Four Steps to the Epiphany. So? Art or science? Ries explains on page 161 that pivot requires courage. "First, Vanity Metrics can allow to form false conclusions. [...] Second, an unclear hypothesis makes it impossible to experience complete failure, [...] Third, many entrepreneurs are afraid. Acknowledging failure can lead to dangerously low morale." A few pages before (page 154), he writes that "failure is a prerequisite to learning". Ries describes a systematic method, I am not sure it is a science, not even a process. Indeed, in his concluding chapter, as if he wanted to mitigate his previous arguments, he tends to agree: "the real goal of innovation: to learn that which is currently unknown" [page 275]. "Throughout our celebration of the Lean Startup movement, a note of caution is essential. We cannot afford to have our success breed a new pseudoscience around pivots, MVPs, and the like" [page 279]. This in no way diminishes the traditional entrepreneurial virtues; the primacy of vision, the willingness to take bold risks, and the courage required in the face of overwhelming odds" [page 278].

    Let me mention here a video from Komisar. Together with Moore and Blank, he is among the ones who advise reading Ries' book. I am less convinced than them about the necessity to read this book. I have now more questions than answers, but this may be a good sign! I have been more frustrated than enlightened by the anecdotes he gives or his use of the Toyota strategy. In na interview given to the Stanford Venture Technology program, Komisar talks about how to teach entrepreneurship. Listen to him!

    To be fair, Eric Ries is helping a lot the entrepreneurship movement. I just discovered a new set of videos he is a part of, thanks to SpinkleLab. Fred Destin had also a great post on his blog about the Lean Startup and you should probably read it too to build your own opinion. Lean is hard and (generally) good for you. Fred summaries Lean this way and he is right: "In the real world, most companies do too much development and spend too much money too early (usually to hit some pre-defined plan that is nothing more than a fantasy and / or is not where they need to go to succeed) and find themselves with an impossible task of raising money at uprounds around Series B. So founders get screwed and everyone ends up with a bad taste in their mouth. That's fundamentally why early stage capital efficiency should matter to you, and why you should at least understand lean concepts."

    Let me finish with a recent interview given by Steve Blank in Finland:

    I have devoted the last decade of my life and my “fourth career” to trying to prove that methods for improving entrepreneurial success can be taught. Entrepreneurship itself is more of a genetic phenomenon. Either you have the passion and drive to start something, or you don’t. I believe entrepreneurs are artists, and I’d like to quote George Bernard Shaw to illustrate:

    "Some men see things as they are and ask why.

    Others dream things that never were and ask why not."

    Over the last decade we assumed that once we found repeatable methodologies (Agile and Customer Development, Business Model Design) to build early stage ventures, entrepreneurship would become a “science,” and anyone could do it. I’m beginning to suspect this assumption may be wrong. It’s not that the tools are wrong. Where I think we have gone wrong is the belief that anyone can use these tools equally well.

    When page-layout programs came out with the Macintosh in 1984, everyone thought it was going to be the end of graphic artists and designers. “Now everyone can do design,” was the mantra. Users quickly learned how hard it was do design well and again hired professionals. The same thing happened with the first bit-mapped word processors. We didn’t get more or better authors. Instead we ended up with poorly written documents that looked like ransom notes. Today’s equivalent is Apple’s “Garageband”. Not everyone who uses composition tools can actually write music that anyone wants to listen to.

    It may be we can increase the number of founders and entrepreneurial employees, with better tools, more money, and greater education. But it’s more likely that until we truly understand how to teach creativity, their numbers are limited. Not everyone is an artist, after all."

  • Andy Stager
    Apr 08, 2012

    I'm currently starting a new church as well as helping my wife run a bow tie business. This book is about entrepreneurship, and its examples mostly come from the software development industry. Nevertheless, there was much food for thought here.

    Takeaways:

    1. Put out a 'MVP'. As fast as possible, put out a 'minimum viable product' and see if anyone is willing to buy it. If you spend forever making the product the best it could possibly be, you may end up with a cool product that no one actually wa

    I'm currently starting a new church as well as helping my wife run a bow tie business. This book is about entrepreneurship, and its examples mostly come from the software development industry. Nevertheless, there was much food for thought here.

    Takeaways:

    1. Put out a 'MVP'. As fast as possible, put out a 'minimum viable product' and see if anyone is willing to buy it. If you spend forever making the product the best it could possibly be, you may end up with a cool product that no one actually wants or is willing to pay for. Throw the product out there, then improve it bit by bit. We accidentally did this with our bow tie biz, and are intentionally doing it with the church.

    2. Avoid 'vanity metrics.' Anyone can generate hype and a short-lived interest in just about any product. Real, sustainable success is driven not by hype but by discovering something that people actually want or need, offering it to them, and then continually innovating the product based on a greater understanding of what people want/need. We're trying to do this in both the bow tie biz and with the church: word-of-mouth viral marketing and social media are about the only way we've drawn people to either 'product'. The growth is slower and steadier, but, we hope, more sustainable than using a flash marketing stunt that might give us a lot of temporary excitement.

    3. Be lean. Learn from Toyota's manufacturing and respond quickly to customer feedback to provide monthly, weekly, or even daily iterations of your product. Again: don't build it and expect people to come---especially if you're only going to build once a year. Constantly iterate. We're doing consistent minor tweaks with the church and the bow biz rather than working hard at one "big launch". In fact, we're avoiding the notion of a "launch" altogether in the church plant. We're not astronauts, and we don't need rocket boosters. Momentum can come in other ways than going from land to space in 5 minutes.

  • Jon-Erik
    Jun 16, 2012

    If I was reviewing the idea in this book, it would get 5 stars.

    As a book, there are few problems. First, just stylistically, I feel like I'm being lectured by a precocious toddler about how to do things. The tone is professorial, to put it charitably.

    Second, there is a bit of incongruity between a system explaining that you need to engage in scientific testing in almost Popperian fashion on the one hand and a series of case studies on the other. Case studies are, of course, the currency of busi

    If I was reviewing the idea in this book, it would get 5 stars.

    As a book, there are few problems. First, just stylistically, I feel like I'm being lectured by a precocious toddler about how to do things. The tone is professorial, to put it charitably.

    Second, there is a bit of incongruity between a system explaining that you need to engage in scientific testing in almost Popperian fashion on the one hand and a series of case studies on the other. Case studies are, of course, the currency of business school. But they're about as scientific as the Psychic Hotline. And this is because sometimes science can only tell us that a system is complex beyond our divination.

    Third, when I don't feel like I'm being lectured, I feel like I'm being sold. This book seems like a portfolio of the author's work with a few sexy add ins like Facebook for effect.

    I'm not surprised that most of the reviews here are Goodreads are glowing. Most of the time, a brilliant idea is enough. The idea of taking an idea and turning it into something is exciting. But really, it is the execution that matters. That's really what the book is saying: it's saying, screw your original brilliant idea. Take it and evolve it! And do that using facts!

    I saw Ries's interview with Gavin Newsom totally by accident. I was glad to see him talking about some of the challenges entrepreneurs face aren't solved by the creation of new tax loopholes. But his delivery only confirmed my sense from the book: a lot of people are going to be turned off by his baby face matched with his know-it-all tone. This is too bad, because folks shouldn't dismiss these ideas.

    I do question whether this is something that can apply as universally as the author claims. The majority of examples in the book are web services that run in the cloud. They don't depend on the rainfall in Sacramento affecting the price of soy in six months affecting the price of an item on my menu. Some businesses can't adjust on the fly without significant destruction.

    Now, with all those caveats, I will have to admit that I will be (perhaps more humbly) applying some of the ideas I found in this book.

  • Stephanie Sun
    Dec 26, 2012

    I wasn't too surprised to find that Eric Ries is a great writer: clear, intellectually honest, articulate, and good-humored.

    As Ries readily admits in the Epilogue, the theories and frameworks promoted in this book have the danger of being used retroactively to justify what you did in the past, or what you've already decided that you want to do, no matter your industry. Its success no doubt has to do with its

    I wasn't too surprised to find that Eric Ries is a great writer: clear, intellectually honest, articulate, and good-humored.

    As Ries readily admits in the Epilogue, the theories and frameworks promoted in this book have the danger of being used retroactively to justify what you did in the past, or what you've already decided that you want to do, no matter your industry. Its success no doubt has to do with its

    self-help vibe.

    What's most important in this book is not the snappily named tools (MVP, Concierge, pivot, Build-Measure-Learn) but Ries's less sexy advice, like:

    Copy, paste, print these lines out, stick them on every wall of your startup: even the bathroom's.

  • Rick
    May 03, 2013

    This is a massively important book that turned out to be much harder to read than I expected, and left me still pretty confused about how to implement much of the advice in the book. But I like what it did to my thinking, even though I was familiar with many of the concepts in the book already.

    But boy, I sure do like Five Whys. I am so ready to have kids.

    There are some really wonderful simple quotes too:

    "management is human systems engineering."

    "Our productive capacity greatly exceeds our abil

    This is a massively important book that turned out to be much harder to read than I expected, and left me still pretty confused about how to implement much of the advice in the book. But I like what it did to my thinking, even though I was familiar with many of the concepts in the book already.

    But boy, I sure do like Five Whys. I am so ready to have kids.

    There are some really wonderful simple quotes too:

    "management is human systems engineering."

    "Our productive capacity greatly exceeds our ability to know what to build."

    The latter was from the last chapter, which was my favorite. Ries gets a little existential about the raison d'etre of business and building things. I liked it.

    And this might sound a bit precious out of context, but it did get me quite excited: "What is needed is a massive project to discover how to unlock the vast stores of potential that are hidden in plain sight in our modern workforce. If we stopped wasting people’s time, what would they do with it? We have no real concept of what is possible.."

  • Sher❤ The Fabulous BookLover
    Sep 10, 2014

    After initially giving this 3 stars I had to go back and give this 4 Stars. This book is amazing for those starting a company, those who already own a company and those thinking about making that move. Beware, this book is better in practice than in theory. If you consider yourself an entrepreneur and are willing to put the principles into practice, then it's worth reading.


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