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The Lean Startup review

April 2016

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is a book about entrepreneurship and innovation. It describes in great details and via many examples how startups should be lean to be successful.

My personal opinion

This book is very well written; well organised and easy to read.

Most examples are taken from IT startups but I feel like a lot of principles are relevant to different industries and company types.

As a developer, I’ve worked in a lean / agile way several times and don’t need any convincing. It’s therefore hard for me to tell if this book would convince someone to go lean but I’m sure it would make you think. I especially liked the descriptions of the errors the author made and the passage regarding “vanity metrics”.

I’ve got 2 minor issues with this book:

What’s lean?

A diagram is worth a thousand words:

Lean startup diagram

Some Takeaways

1.Build a Minimum Viable Product

Building and distributing a MVP as fast as possible allows you to avoid to put too much effort in a product which doesn’t match customer needs. Other advantages of this approach include:

2.Keep iterating and learning

The author argues that “validated learning” should be your priority. In order to keep learning from your customers what they need / like / dislike; you must build and measure fast. As you learn more, you can make an informed decision: persevere or pivot.

3.Avoid vanity metrics

To me this is the biggest takeaway. To give a simplistic example, imagine a startup registering 20 new paying members a week - without any ads. That might sound great. What if on average 15 of these 20 people stop using the product after a couple of months? What if the number of non-paying customers has dramatically increased while the number of paying customers slowly increases. Vanity metrics such as visits, subscriptions and even paid subscriptions are useless without extra context.

The lean startup principles

Who should read this book?

I believe that anyone curious about entrepreneurship, product development and/or innovation in general would enjoy that book. Lean and agile are deeply intertwined in IT and I feel like this book could also be a great introduction to the agile principles to a non-developer.

Note: this is not a step-by-step guide to startup development; more some great food for thoughts.