Book Review – The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

What do you do after founding not one, but two companies and watching them fail miserably all by the time you were barely out of college?

Move to the Valley, make shrewd investments in other startups and become insanely rich like Sean Parker? A Bit lofty perhaps. How about try, try again and succeed. Then reinvent yourself as a guru dishing out startup wisdom through your blog and publishing a book that ends up the top of the New York Times Bestseller’s list. That’s essentially what Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup did.

True entrepreneurs fail many times before they succeed and continuously find opportunities to reinvent themselves. Ries is one of them. He’s taken all that he’s learned from his failures, and later successes, from his college years in the 1990s right through the dotcom crash, and packaged them into a guide for startups to consult in their quest for world domination. 

Like any business or management book that wants to capture readers’ attention The Lean Startup has ground-breaking ideas or rather something that challenges traditional thinking.

How to be lean and light-footed

One of  the main themes is that startups can stay lean and light-footed (and in the process avoid millions of dollars in sunk costs on failed ideas) by  discovering what customers want as they are developing the product itself. Ries advocates a Minimum Viable Product, that is, when rolling out new products companies can already run and even charge before they know whether the blue or the red version is going to sell more. From there on the process of improving and perfecting the product is a continuous one through listening to what customers want, although not through their written feedback, but rather through their actions. This favors scientific methods of decision-making over what is viewed as failure prone hunches and guess work. And it makes sense for startups who simply don’t have the financial resources to take big risks.

Written in simple down-to-earth prose, The Lean Startup is an easy and quick read with sufficient real world examples. The good thing about books these days is they don’t have to end up as dated publications. Since Ries is building a brand around the whole methodology, one can find additional resources and discussions it in his blog (where it all began anyway), and through Lean Startup circles and wikis.