But are you really lean?

The lean startup moment, largely started by Eric Reiss back in 2011 is the gospel of truth for most startups these days. Most startup founders turn to it either by hearing about it relenlessly from the startup and investor community or by committing most of the mistakes outlined in Reiss’s book. Some correct their mistakes intuitively at first and after they find the book, it is nothing less than the gospel of truth and god for the wandering infidel.

The main objective of Reiss’s book is to outline a framework or method when working on a start up. It wants to separate the science from the art. Not all aspects of a startup have to be chaotic and ‘artistic’ (in the sense of unique creative ideas) as is perceived to most outsiders. For a first-timer the book tries to fill in the cog-wheels between the video montage.

A popular concept put forth by the book is MVP which stands for Minimum Viable Product. The MVP is supposed to be the minimal way to solve a problem or achieve the desired effect. I wouldn’t go into any more details or examples as there is a tonne of literature out there on MVP.

Most startups today claim or at least want to be lean. Smart AND successful teams are known to debate more about what can be reduced from a product rather than what can be put in. Facebook and other big companies today are spending time on cutting down features within their existing apps. I find there is ambiguity about how much is too much. There has to be a way to quantify:

a) How much product should be shipped on first release date?

b) For each experiment in the MVP what is the maximum size of a new feature?

Now of course this metric which quantifies how much will vary according to class of startups. If you providing a SaaS Analytics software as compared to say a chat application or a blogging platform the metrics will change as the technical machinery required for each of these class of startups varies greatly.

So what could this metric be?

Lines of code.

Lines of code can be a very important metric for two reasons:

a) It is the somewhat representative of the time spent making the product.

b) Good Developer’s keep their code DRY for maintainability and reducing redundancy. This metric could also help the technical and non-technical co-founders as a quick metric check.

But this poses a new problem, code is not written in a single language, not even within a single product. The range of startups out there use a myriad of languages. I think a way to approach this could be to:

a) Exclude any external libraries/frameworks being used.

b) Come up with some factor which can approximate lines of code written in one language to any other language used for a similar purpose.

Ultimately the idea is to quantify rather than guess what the minimum viable product is. Think about this as product level metrics for each stage of a startup from product/market fit to customer acuqisition to revenue and finally profitability.

Would like to hear what you think in the comments.

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