3 thing I liked and disliked about the Lean Startup: A student’s review

If you’re an entrepreneur, The Lean Startup is most likely on your reading list. With the possible exception of Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, this is easily the most influential book on entrepreneurship, and business in general. So influential it fact, that it has inspired a mass movement among business and startup circles, akin to a religion of sorts. The book’s concepts are inspired from efficiency centric Japanese production methods, best implemented by companies like Toyota. Here are a few things that stood out to me in the book. Here’s what I liked:

The Minimum Viable Product

The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is the idea that you do not need a fully functional prototype of your product/service at the initial stages of the business. The intention being, to gather as much information or ‘validated learning’ from consumers based on the barebones of the potential product. At the beginning, the objective is to keep gaining as much knowledge as to what the public likes/dislikes about the product and fine-tune the product accordingly. The methodology leads to lower costs, lesser time spent in stealth mode and more feedback with potential customers.

Emphasis on People

“A startup is not just about a product, a technological breakthrough, or even a brilliant idea. A startup is greater than the sum of it’s parts; it is an acutely human enterprise.” -Eric Ries, The Lean Startup

This is my favorite quote in the book because it accurately represents all of the books ideals in a well rounded summary that can win the approval of MBA textbooks and college dropouts alike. In short as mentioned in the prior point; less time, less costs, more communication.

The Lean Startup realistically focuses on the most important aspect of any startup- it’s customers or potential customers. Eric Ries places a heavy emphasis on interaction with customers and continuously receiving valuable feedback on a daily basis.

Started from the bottom…

Everyone loves a good underdog story, especially in sports or business. Constantly throughout the book, Eric Ries draws the ‘lesson’ of each chapter with his personal startup story. His brutal honesty on his past successes and failures are refreshing and relatable to a lot of people. This makes each lesson a lot more inspiring for every newbie entrepreneur, and motivating for anybody who is dealing with business failure. It also makes the book a lot more readable and interesting too, as compared to every other management dos/don’ts book.

Here are a few things that I wasn’t a fan of.

Ambiguity:

The Lean Startup has a high amount of variables and a lot of it’s concepts can seem to be generic. Especially to those who have studied lean manufacturing methods like Just in Time, Kaizen, Kanban and Agile development methods.

There is also a difficulty quantitatively defining the effectiveness of the methodology, in contrast to other methods.

With that being said, I can understand why a lot of variables may be well…variables. With startups aiming at different problems with different solutions, it is impossible to relate to all of them and simultaneously provide industry specific guidelines. With the general startup culture in mind, this book was written to promote all kinds of startups, so in order to appeal to a wider audience of entrepreneurs, the overall message may come across as ‘generic’. But it is definitely highly applicable in all industries.

Repetition

In some ways, this book reminds me of the highly popular Rich Dad, Poor Dad series. A whole new way of bringing an underutilized management technique to a wider audience.

However, much like the Rich Dad series, the book tends to repeat itself excessively. The ideals of the lean startup can be summarized in roughly 10 pages. Or if you are creative enough, a few diagrams or illustrations.

While these are personal opinions, I understand my views may differ from a lot others and a lot of people may find the repetition understandable, maybe even necessary to truly drive critical points home.

Tech oriented

The Lean Startup is very well catered to the Silicon Valley Tech atmosphere and a lot of the terminology used mostly relates to the tech startup community. However, there are a lot of startups that are not tech related and can highly benefit from the concepts of lean startup, but may find it harder to relate to its principles.

This book does have a lot to offer to players in those fields as well, but it is clearly built for the guy who wants to build a business that is not technology-centric.

It is important to realize that the above points are my personal opinions about the book only. The lean startup community has grown rapidly and ‘lean’ has become not just a concept, but a lifestyle. All the ‘flaws’ mentioned are easily mended by actively being a part of the lean community, and a lot of people (myself included) have benefitted a lot from this community operating in the US and worldwide. From brainstorming startup ideas to solving complex management issues, there is something for everyone within this community and it’s events.

No matter if you have a startup, are a VC, a seasoned entrepreneur, a manager or a simple student (like myself), this book is a must read. The lean startup offers the nuts and bolts of forming a low cost customer centric business from the ground up. All this being said, there is little doubt as to why The Lean Startup is the Holy Grail of entrepreneurship books.

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