The Lean Start Up: Why you need to remember that the market is king

It’s not something we want to hear but most start-ups fail. 75% according to Harvard Business school’s research. And The Lean Start Up by Eric Ries doesn’t shy away from this dose of reality. Ries opens by telling us that you can work hard, put all the money, time and thought into your new business, you can have an innovative product, a good team and enthusiasm. It can all look good. But it certainly doesn’t mean you’ll succeed. Backing this up with his own personal experience of failure, he describes to us how, as with many start-ups, his business just didn’t make it. It doesn’t sound all that encouraging for budding entrepreneurs, but read on and you won’t regret it.

As a start-up its normal to be concerned about investment, about convincing the business community that your product has value and is worth something. But don’t let that become more important than the market. The market is what matters. The market is what is going to bring in money. The market is what will stop your business from failing. If you win the market, you’ve nailed it. This is the crux of The Lean Start Up. Ries’ reminds us of this; you start by finding out what the market wants and then you have to adapt to your product to fit. Because the market is king.

The Lean Start Up smashes the myth that a creative idea and a bit of hard work are all you need to succeed. This is an attractive school of thought, Ries admits, held up by Hollywood and the classic rags to riches stories we all love. However, this is the reason why so many start-ups fail. But don’t worry, he doesn’t leave us to fend for ourselves, flailing around in panic like a scene from Jaws. Instead he presents us with an alternative perspective. He tells us that there’s an actual process for success. A process that can be learnt and taught. And fortunately for us, a process that he unpacks in this book.

The Lean Start Up rejects the way the business world traditionally approaches creating a new product. Ries argues that you have to break away from the idea that you already know what the market wants. Mistake number one is channelling all your money, energy and effort into a product, and only then taking it to the market. Doing this means you’ve used all your resources, only to find out that it’s not actually what the market wants, and that nobody wants to buy it. This is the recipe for a failed start-up.

So scrap the perfecting your product straight away, Ries tells us, and instead create a minimum viable product. The MVP is the bare bones of your business idea. It has to be just enough to include all the key features but nothing more. Take your MVP to the market. Test it. Because the market doesn’t lie and it won’t hold back in letting you know where you’re going wrong. Armed with the markets feedback you now have two options. Persevere or Pivot. It may sound like an episode of friends but take it seriously, because pivoting is vital in ensuring your start up succeeds. It’s about adjusting — not doing a 180-degree shift — but pivoting just enough to adapt your product so it will actually meet you potential customers’ needs and wants. Pivot to adjust to the market because the market is King.

Breaking it down into simple, easy to follow chapters Ries takes us through this new process. Talking from his own experience he gives examples of common mistakes and how to avoid them. As the blurb on the back reminds us; “Most new businesses fail. But most of those failures are preventable.” If you want to succeed, if you want to prevent failure, read this book. It will engage you and teach you the key principles in making your new business work.