Startup Speak: Lean

Thomas Schoffelen

This post series is inspired by my colleague Bart Temme from Lean Motherfuckers, who created a guidance document for local governments to learn about talking about and with startups.

Lean. We’re not talking about the verb, nor the drug. No, what we’re talking about here is one of the favourite nouns of startup founders. It’s the hotter and younger cousin of the word agile.

A company can be lean, and so can a team. When you’re lean, you’re the shit. Being lean means you can quickly execute, test and measure new ideas, to see if they are worth pursuing, without pivoting yourself into oblivion.

So what skills do you need to have to be lean?

Just ship it

Entrepreneur Eric Ries popularised the term ‘lean’ with his book The Lean Startup.

Ries explains in his book that when you’re starting a new company, your focus must lie on finding a product/market fit: people that want to buy your product. Or rather: a product for which there is an audience.

To find product/market fit quickly, you have to release early and often. Instead of building your products for months or years before being able to release a first version to your potential customers, determine what the minimum viable product (MVP) is that you can create, so that you can get feedback from users before spending tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars building something nobody is interested in.

Talk to people

Another strategy for minimising wasted time building a product the world isn’t ready for, is interviewing potential customers. This seems pretty logical, but doesn’t happen enough in practice.

You can use the input from customer interviews to fill the pains and gains sections of your Value Proposition Canvas. For more info about this, I highly recommend the book Value Proposition Design by Alex Osterwalder.

Both Osterwalders’s and Ries’s book contain a lot of information about conducting customer interviews.

Find flexible co-founders

Being truly lean means being okay with radically changing, or even throwing away things you spent a lot of time building. That can be draining emotionally. Find a strong team that doesn’t get too attached to their work, so that they won’t mind change.

Thomas Schoffelen

Written by

Entrepreneur tech kid, co-founder of NearSt, Londoner, open source enthusiast and aspiring spare time literature geek.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade