Eric Ries’ book, The Lean Startup, is a well-written document for startup success. Having worked for and with six startups, this is one of the best books I’ve come across that describes what is needed to create a successful startup.
One of the things I like about this book is that it is useful not just for entrepreneurs building a new startup company, but for anyone in any size company trying to innovate and create new value. In that sense, any company can be a startup—whenever they are trying to create something new.
One thing Eric says is that startups do not exist just to make new products, money, or even serve customers. They exist to learn how to build a sustainable business. And the cool thing is that this learning can be validated scientifically by running frequent experiments that allow entrepreneurs to test each element of their vision.
Eric could have just as well named his book The Learning Startup. His focus is all about accelerating learning. First you try to validate as much of your vision and strategy as you can without a product by trying to learn what will help a specific target user. Then you build based on those assumptions you made, you measure how effective those assumptions are in order to LEARN! You need to learn whether or not you will pivot, or change your strategy, or persevere.
The author identifies the goal of a startup being to figure out the right thing to build—the thing customers want and will pay for—as quickly as possible. It is a new way of looking at the development of innovative new products that emphasizes fast iteration and customer insight around a huge vision. This can only come by learning. Test-measure-learn-then adapt as necessary.
Learning is nothing new. We are learning every day—all kinds of things that relate to about every aspect of our life. And we do this usually without even thinking about it. So why shouldn’t learning at a startup be any different?
The key is to realize that learning doesn’t stop after we leave school, college or any institution of learning. Learning continues on. And when we focus our efforts on learning how to build a sustainable business through identifying hypotheses, testing those hypotheses and adapting as we go, we can build a successful startup. Whether that startup is a new firm or a new initiative within a Fortune 500 company.