What Lean Startup Is Not

I feel for Eric Reis. He seems compelled to say, in every talk, right in the beginning, “Lean is not ‘cheap’!”

I’m sure it’s because he gets hit with this constantly. Just yesterday I was reading about Education startups and a well-regarded startup founder and investor was quoted as saying that startups in the Education space need to be “pudgier”

“One of the things I feel strongly about is that everybody
pushes the notion of a lean startup,” said Katzman, who founded
the Princeton Review, online education company 2U (formerly
2tor) and his current startup Noodle Education. “And I’m kind
of in favor, especially in the education space, of a pudgier startup.”
John Katzman, as quoted in GigaOm

Katzman goes on to say some pretty smart things about the complexities of the Education market, but this “pudgier” statement has nothing to do with Lean Startup.

I believe the “good mix of people with deep backgrounds in education and business” Katzman calls for would do well to validate their assumptions and develop their product using the Lean Startup approach. Katzman seems to agree — he goes on to recommend strategies very much in keeping with Lean Startup. The video is worth watching.

Katzman makes a great example because he’s an experienced entrepreneur who actually agrees with the Lean Startup approach, whether he knows it or not. This is a guy who knows his stuff, who knows how important it is to listen closely to customers, who tells great stories of realizing after just a few usability tests that his assumptions were wrong. This is a guy we should be listening to, other than his mischaracterization of Lean Startup.

Make Something That Matters…

to Someone.

Thats the core of the Lean Startup. You start with your customer and the job your product is going to do for them. Does it solve a problem for them? Engage a passion? Develop your ideas about this (your Hypotheses) and test them. Keep at it, learning each time around, until you have a minimal product that is a viable solution for those customers — the Minimum Viable Product, or MVP.

I like the approach taught in the LUXr Bento Series, a set of workshop boxes that teach a user-experience based approach to Lean Startup. It’s methodical and incorporates tools that promote good team dynamics and clear thinking. This method is taught at some of the premier startup incubators and in my workshops. You can also now get the program directly from LUXr