Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Promise of the Lean Startup

I'm honored to have a guest post on GigaOm to introduce the concept of the lean startup to their audience. It's the most general-purpose overview I've written so far, and although it was a lot less specific than my usual, I wanted to share it here, too. I'll share an excerpt and then I'd like to ask, once again, for your help.

Here's the excerpt:
Today’s high-tech entrepreneurs have at their command more than just the ability to invent new technologies — they have mastered the discipline and the methodology required to harness those technologies in order to serve customers. Such a combination of new technology and new understanding is unlocking new opportunities. In order to maximize such opportunities, this generation of entrepreneurs combines extremely low costs with faster cycle times to produce what I call lean startups.


The ultimate goal of a lean startup is to identify where its vision intersects with what reality can accommodate. It is neither a capitulation to “what customers think they want” nor a willful ignorance of conditions on the ground. It is a company built to learn.

As a consequence, this new startup is relentlessly metrics-driven. It tries out new ideas with a fraction of customers in order to prioritize using facts, not opinions. Its unit of progress is that of validated learning about its customers. Because this radical notion of progress is located firmly in the heads of its employees, and not in any artifacts they produce, the lean startup is employee-centric and knowledge-obsessed. It is a truly fun place to work.

This article also appeared on

Read the rest of the article here...

I have written several guest posts for other blogs that I haven't cross-posted here, including for VentureBeat, O'Reilly Radar, and The Four Hour Workweek. When I do this in the future, should I cross-post or not? I would welcome your feedback in the comments.

Now for my request. I get asked regularly to do guest posts, and I'm quite often at a loss for topic ideas. I know the audience on this blog, and I've become comfortable writing in the long-form style I normally use here. I've struggled to come up with topics that work in the shorter-form world of traditional and news-oriented blogs. So, if you have a topic suggestion, please post it as a comment. Ideally it'd be something you think would be useful to a general business or tech audience and could be addressed in a short piece or possibly in a series.

Thanks again for your continued support. Your feedback means a lot to me, so keep it coming. I know I've had a lot of events-related posts lately, but I'm doing my best to keep it balanced with more substantive essays. Am I getting the mix right? Please let me know in the comments. Thank you.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


  1. I'd like to hear a detailed *non* IMVU story (not necessarily your own) about a lean startup.

  2. As a start, I agree with Ravi. More examples and data input into this concept will help each of us relate and thus better tailor it to our own specific needs.

  3. For short stories - I think it is always good to introduce some practical problem (you might have heard from entrepreneur at early stage) and how the lean startup method helped solved that. My understanding is that, this adds a lot of value and also will inspire other business people or entrepreneurs to think about undertaking the problem in a lean way

  4. Eric,
    I do think you should cross-post them here. Specially because of Twitter and this information overload, I think many people have been struggling to reduce the number of RSS feeds they actually follow (it is my case), so it´ll become easier for us to keep track of your writing even if we´re not reading those blogs that often.
    Regarding the theme for short stories, I agree with Prashant on the small and practical problems.
    Also, this post on Hubspot´s blog should help you with this dilemma:

  5. To a certain extent this echoes other comments, but I always find it very useful to hear battle stories from the field. Perhaps short case study posts on each of the Lean principles that discuss other folks attempting to implement lean practices in their companies and their lessons learned? That way you get both the how lean principles helped solve the problem, as well as best practices for implementation beyond IMVU.

  6. How I would frame the topic for business/tech readers: Is Seed,Series A->C funding destined to disappear for software startups?

  7. Or another way: What Toyota, Sesame Street, and E-Commerce Experts have in common, and why Start Up Ventures are taking notes.

  8. How about a fictive short story about few guys starting up a web product company on lean startup way? What would be their first actions on the FIRST month? Yes, getting customers that pay cash is top priority, but if you go more into the details, I'd be really interesting about hearing what are the typical problems and what might be the first small-victories (if any). Let your imagination fly and write a short war-story on the lean-startup battlefield! :)

    just my 2 cents...

  9. How does a lean startup mature into a "best company to work for?"

    Is there a direct, causative link?

    Did gore tex start lean? Did southwest?

    Does lean startup xlate into sustainable success where a fast feedback/iteration loop yields market leadership?

  10. Does it make sense to play the customer chase with investors as well? Iterations, no early commitments, split-testing, etc?


  11. Yes, cross-post, briefly, so we know where to go look for more. After all, what are the chances of us stumbling across it otherwise in the age of Information Overload?