Three Lean Startup Principles to Live By

One of the first projects I got involved in when I moved to San Francisco was a lean startup bootcamp for the TechBA program called “Build or Die!”

It was a great opportunity to pull together many of my favorite thinkers and hear how their opinions differ. It was also enlightening to hear where they agree. Here are three lean startup principles that everyone brought up one point or another including Patrick Vlaskovits, Brant Cooper, Tim McCoy, Stefan Klocek, Victor Reyes, Wee Yen, and Hiten Shah.

1) “I Don’t Know”

That’s a direct quote from everyone. Never ever trust a speaker or a consultant who thinks they know everything.

It’s stupid.

Everyone can have an opinion, but ultimately the only expert (lean startup expert or otherwise) on your business and your customers is going to be you. If it’s not, you’re in the wrong business.

Don’t know everything about your customers? Not to worry, proceed to point two.

2) The Goal is to Learn About Your Customers

If you’re not learning something about your customers every day, you have a serious problem. Writing code accomplishes nothing if you’re not putting that output in front of a customer.

Staring at Google Analytics does nothing if they are all vanity metrics. Fundraising does nothing if you’re going to blow it all on a fleet of Segways to shuttle your overpaid consultants around your (soon to be bankrupt) company.

3) Learn by Talking to Your Customers

Steve Blank’s shorthand is “get out of the building.” The alternatives to getting out of the building?

  • Surveys can get you great data, but only if you know the right questions to ask.
  • Metrics can only tell you what people are doing, not why they’re doing it.
  • Feedback forms are great for feature requests, not so good at telling you what features to kill.

If you can’t get out of the building to look a customer in the eye and talk about their problems, you will never ever develop any real understanding of the issues they are facing.

You might get lucky. They might have the same itch you’re scratching at. But I wouldn’t bet on it. And besides…

If you don’t care enough about your customers to talk to them, why the hell are you doing this? Go get a job working in the bowels of Microsoft. You can’t solve a customer’s problem if you don’t care about the customer.

It’s no shock that those three principles are often heard from User Experience experts.

Listen to them every day and you will never look back.

Three Lean Startup Principles

Just remember:

  1. “I Don’t Know”
  2. Learn About Your Customers
  3. Learn by Talking to Your Customers

Good hunting!

This post was originally published here on

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