A couple of months ago I was talking to a tech startup who went to great lengths to tell me how ‘lean’ they were being. The classic terms and phrases were being thrown about, MVP, validation accounting etc. etc. then the startup said their aim was to do ‘it’ right the first time and not make any mistakes….
It was clear the founder had read ‘the book’ and jotted down all the right the terms but to me had totally missed the essence of a lean startup. The purpose of being lean is to make mistakes and make them when they’re cheap. Don’t assume you’re right. Test your assumptions in a way that is quick, effective and cheap.
Taking too long to ship is a chronic problem with Scottish startups. Whilst I think Scottish founders are finding it easier to talk about ideas and share amongst peers they’re still struggling to let go of their ‘baby’ and release it to the public.
It’s tough to ship a product when it isn’t where you want it to be. It’s likely there will be tough questions and negative comments but these questions and comments (along with the positives) will define your weaknesses and make your product better. So why avoid them?
When you’re making mistakes, make them well. When trying to build a business you always need assurances that what you’re doing isn’t crazy. However when you’re pouring yourself into a product it’s all too easy to seek reassurance from those who are not your customer. Where will this lead you?
It’s something I’ve experienced first hand, having a large groups of people saying they would buy a product when they were never our customer in the first place. Sure we felt good, we were confident we were building the right product but ultimately it lead to a lot of wasted development.
You don’t have to build to learn. Your idea might be for a tech startup but in many cases the processes and operations behind the product can be replicated without needing to write a single line of code. Testing your idea’s this way is applicable to technical founders as well as non-technical.
However whilst it’s true you don’t have to build to learn it’s quite often the case that you can build something you can learn from in a cost effective manner. A classic example of this is Groupon testing their assumptions out using a WordPress blog which has a famed 5 minute install.
Ultimately how you test your ideas is up to one person, yourself. In the case of the founder I was speaking to I hope they do have a deeper understanding of lean principles than what came across and are able to apply them quickly, effectively and cheaply.