Lean Startups Are Like Science
written by Tim on June 13, 2012
We work with a lot of startups, and most of them these days aim to be a "lean startup". The only problem is that folks always seem to misunderstand what a lean startup is or how to apply the techniques. Ultimately, a lean startup is no different from any other business. You need to find a balance between sales, marketing, bookkeeping, customer development and building your product. The right balance depends on your product, your personality and your staff.
If you're spending all of your time building your product, you're likely ignoring what your customers have to say. You're probably building exactly what they don't need, resulting wasted effort and missed revenue.
If you're spending all of your time talking to your customers, it's likely not providing a very clear focus for what you need to build and deliver. Are you sure you're asking the right questions? Running a lean startup doesn't mean letting the customers make your decisions for you. It means building something they value and want to pay you to use. As the old Henry Ford quote goes, "If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."
At LessEverything, we achieve a balance by acting like scientists. We treat our business and our client's businesses as a set of scientific experiments. We don't just test things randomly and see what happens; we use the following process:
Rinse and repeat. Every time you repeat this process, you will have a more refined idea of what your customers expect, and an idea of what they might like but haven't asked for.
Notice that we aren't spending all of our time in any one of these steps. In reality, they're all happening in parallel. Also, in a successful business this process never actually ends. So long as you have customers, you have improvements to make.