Startups are often romanticized in all forms of mediea. But contrary to the movies, books, etc. depicted startups are NOT about coming up with a brilliant idea and becoming an overnight success as many articles might have you believe. Entrepreneurship in fact is much more about testing and learning… faster than your competitors.
Most startups fail. But much of that failure is avoidable. And the Lean Startup is the methodology that helps entrepreneurs avoid failure.
The reason why many startups fail is that they operate based on a conventional approach to management. Traditionally, doing your market research, coming up with a solid strategy, and delivering a great product works.
But it doesn’t work with startups. Because it assumes that you already know what the market wants. And the moment you make that assumption, you’re doomed to failure: you will waste too much time and money developing the perfect product, before you realize that there’s no market for it.
The Lean Startup methodology is based on a rinse-and-repeat type of cycle: build – measure – learn. Build a product, measure your customers’ reactions, and learn if your idea has been validated or if you need to adapt. Repeat the cycle until your customers send you a clear signal that your product fits a market need… the much-coveted product-market fit.
Before embarking on this journey, start by considering: what are the 2 or 3 key assumptions that you’re making that will determine your startup’s success? And what is the cheapest and fastest way to test them?
Minimum Viable Product
Once you’ve designed your test, build your minimum viable product, or MVP. That’s not a product you’d be proud off, far from it. It just needs the critical features for your test to yield meaningful results. The singular role of the MVP is to play its part in your test.
After you have an MVP, you need a good way to measure your customers’ reactions. In order to avoid any biases after you’ve collected the data, it’s best to come up with a baseline of metrics upfront. If you’re measuring conversions or email sign-ups… how many do you need to consider the test a success? Be clear about what success and failure look like, because it’s going to be much harder to distinguish between the two later.
Pivot or Persevere
And finally, assess what you learned: should you pivot, or persevere? If your assumptions are confirmed, you’re off to the races and you can focus on refining the product. But if one of your key assumptions is proven wrong, you may have to pivot… change your idea, or focus on a different customer segment… and start the cycle over again. You may have to experiment more than you expected, before you can find what your customers really want.