Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Lean Entrepreneur is here

Last May, I shared the news that long-time Lean Startup advocates Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits were working on a new book called The Lean Entrepreneur featuring illustrations by FAKEGRIMLOCK. That new book is about to hit bookstores everywhere.

I was honored that they asked me to write the foreword, and with their permission I'm posting an excerpt below. After the 2012 conference I viewed it as an opportunity to reflect on the growth and evolution of the movement as a whole.

One of the things that I love about what Brant and Patrick have done with The Lean Entrepreneur are the numerous case studies of how entrepreneurs are tackling new ventures, minimizing risk and learning their way to success - these case studies will speak to garage startups and corporate entrepreneurs alike.

A few of the detailed case studies include:
  • Tech legend Bill Gross building an MVP in 1999 to test demand for online car sales, which grew into
  • LitMotors approach to using Lean Startup to create a new vehicle category.
  • AppFog creating "high-hurdle" experiments to surface authentic early adopters with real pain.
  • The Embrace infant warmer was developed - by getting out of the country -- and how Rob Emrich learned and scaled his non-profit, Road of Life. (Social entrepreneurs take note!)
  • BetaBrand building apparel MVPs and testing them quickly with targeted customer communities.
  • Telecom O2 learning to move at the speed of the internet
  • 500 Startups and their accelerated feedback loops on what works, and what doesn't work in early-stage investing.
  • Scott Summitt iteratively leveraging the emerging technologies of digital fabrication and 3d-scanning to change people's lives.
  • PayPal, under the leadership of David Marcus and Bill Scott, re-defining and re-engineering itself by embracing Lean Startup to improve the product experience.
  • KISSmetrics building and empowering cross-functional teams to attack problems in their sales funnels via hypothesis testing.
  • Intuit showing large organizations how to combine Lean Startup with horizon planning to nurture internal innovation and startup experiments.
  • Berkeley Pizza: from pizza in the farmer's market to a sit-down restaurant.
Another thing I love about The Lean Entrepreneur is how Brant and Patrick are treating their book like a startup. One example is in their marketing, which in today's environment requires providing value. This doesn't mean pointing to the product and describing the product's value, but rather the marketing provides value itself.

As part of their book campaign, Brant and Patrick have teamed up with General Assembly to offer 4 free online video classes, including:
Lean UX Research Techniques - Rapid Prototyping - How to Hire Developers - Growth Hacking
Every book pre-order get access to all of these classes - and quite a bit more. You can pre-order on their site until February 10th 2013, and after that on Amazon.

Lastly, I wanted to share with you the foreword I wrote for The Lean Entrepreneur. As we head into 2013, it's a good time to reflect on how far the Lean Startup movement has come:

When I first started blogging in August of 2008, I had no idea what to expect. Startup blogging was hardly "cool" back then. Plenty of venture capitalists advised me against it. 
My personal background was as an engineer and my companies had been Web-based startups, so that is what I wrote about. Struggling to explain the successes and failures of those companies, I discussed principles like continuous deployment, customer development, and a hyper-accelerated form of agile. When I delved into lean manufacturing, I discovered the concepts and terminology dovetailed. The result: a new idea I called The Lean Startup. 
I started with some basic theory: that a startup is an institution designed to thrive in the soil of extreme uncertainty; that traditional management techniques rooted in forecasting and planning would not work well in the face of that uncertainty. Therefore, we needed a new management toolkit designed explicitly for iteration, scientific learning, and rapid experimentation. 
At the time, I viewed it as incidental that the theory might be tied to a particular industry, such as high-tech startups or web-based environments. Lean, after all, emerged from Toyota, a huge automobile manufacturing company. I simply stated my belief that Lean Startup principles would work in other types of startups and in other areas of business where uncertainty reigned. 
Boy, was I unprepared for what happened next. I was hopeful that we would change the way startups are built - but I didn't know.Fast-forward more than 4 years and I'm astounded by what has emerged. A nascent community has blossomed into a full-fledged movement. Entrepreneurs, both new and experienced, proudly share their Lean Startup learning in case studies, conferences, and many, many blogs. Books, workshops and courses authored by passionate practitioners relate experience, share insight, and create tools to teach students ways to make Lean Startup principles their own. Many investors, advisors, mentors and even celebrity entrepreneur icons speak the Lean Startup language. 
It's a big tent. We stand on the shoulders of giants: customer development, the theory of disruptive innovation, the technology life-cycle adoption theory, and agile development. Complementary lines of thinking, such as that of user experience professionals, design thinking practitioners and the functional disciplines of sales, marketing, operations and even accounting, come together to share practices that lift us all. 
Lean Startup has gone mainstream. I wish I could say that this was all part of some master plan, that I knew all along that companies of all sizes - far outside the high-technology world - would embrace Lean Startup. I wish I had foreseen that within a year of publishing The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Achieve Radically Successful Businesses, many large organizations, including such monsters as the United States Federal government (!) would have recognized that to cope with today's world -faster, more competitive, and inundated with data - new methods are needed to keep up. The truth is that all of this change has happened faster and more thoroughly than any of us imagined. And - as you're about to see - we're just getting started. 
That's why I am so excited by the volume you hold in your hands. The Lean Entrepreneur is about those new methods. Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits are among the earliest adopters of new ideas such as Lean Startup and customer development. Their new work turns their lens on three primary focal points: how to interact with customers, run experiments, and use actionable data to move the needle of any uncertain business endeavor. 
As with all of their work, theirs is not just a book of theory. Brant and Patrick provide great tactical depth in each of these areas. 
They endeavor to answer the question: No matter where you are as an organization, how do you know where to focus your Lean Startup activities? The Lean Entrepreneur offers new thinking, tools and activities that help organizations identify and act upon business model challenges in a waste-eliminating manner. Following the precepts of traditional lean thinking, Brant and Patrick introduce the value stream discovery process, which helps organizations hypothesize what they must do, including product development, marketing, and sales in order to create value. These business model assumptions are then ripe for testing, measuring and iterating upon. 
Further, the value you create is meaningless without a customer who needs, wants, desires and ultimately, determines the final value of your creation. Brant and Patrick spend considerable time helping you think through your customer segments. Cleverly and in the spirit of the scientific method, they even help you discover where your customer theory is wrong. 
Everyone likes a good story; Brant and Patrick interviewed dozens of entrepreneurs and documented numerous case studies both inside and outside of high-tech, in both startups and large enterprises. There's even a classic Wizard of Oz minimum viable product that dates back to 1998! 
Make no mistake, Brant and Patrick have been here since the beginning. They self-published The Entrepreneur's Guide to Customer Development in April of 2010
From the outset, they were both practitioners and mentors, urging entrepreneurs not to follow a paint-by-numbers approach, but rather to think lean: fast, agile and continuously learning. Over the last two years they've traveled around the world speaking, advising, and teaching Lean Startup. 
The Lean Entrepreneur is an important addition to the growing library of principles and practices designed to improve how we tackle innovation and uncertainty, be it in tech startups, Fortune 100, non-profits or government. 
I consider myself lucky to count Brant and Patrick as friends and colleagues. It is my hope that from this book you will gain valuable insights, make Lean Startup your own, and - much more importantly - that you are successful in changing the world for the better. 
Eric Ries,
San Francisco, December 2012

If you want to read more, you can find an excerpt of Chapter 6, Viability Experiments here.

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