lean startup

While lots of people are enthusiastic about the lean startup concept, I have been, at best, ambivalent. 

In a fast-moving, multi-tasking world, there is little room for trial and error. Consumers have little patience for half-baked or flawed products. If they’re not satisfied with their initial experience, it’s unlikely they will return to the scene of the crime. And they will share their disappointment with others via social media.

This is a huge challenge for startups that embrace the lean startup philosophy, which involves continually iterating until the product achieves product-market fit. In theory, it’s a wonderful concept because it encourages startups to keep fighting the good fight, even if they get little traction.

The harsh reality, however, is startups rarely have the luxury of sticking around until they get it right. There are too many competitors fighting for the spotlight. It means the strong survive while struggling startups lose.And as raising capital becomes more challenges, startups will have less time 

And as raising capital becomes more challenging, startups will have less runway and – as Tomasz Tunguz suggests – they will need to demonstrate their economic viability sooner.

The lean startup, a global movement created by Eric Ries, is compelling because it aligns with the never-give-up entrepreneurial spirit. In other words, if at first you don’t succeed, keep trying until you get it right or right enough.

The lean startup also allows for failure, a concept that particularly resonates with U.S. entrepreneurs. It gives entrepreneurs permission to struggle because they will, in theory, do better down the road from the lessons they have learned. Given 90% of startups fail, it’s easy to understand why entrepreneurs like the lean startup philosophy.

I’m not suggesting that iterating, experimenting and struggling to succeed are bad concepts. For most entrepreneurs, this is an everyday reality. Being an entrepreneur is hard. Building a business islot of work. And despite your best efforts, failure looms on the horizon as a distinct possibility.

At some point, an entrepreneur needs to throw in the towel if they don’t get enough traction. Then, they can lick their wounds and, in time, figure out next steps. The lean startup concept encourages people to stay the course because success could be around the corner.

Frankly, I think the world moves too quickly for startups to have the luxury of wiggle room unless they have been able to raise enough capital. You have traction or you struggle to survive. You attract customers or you don’t. In most cases, you will find out fairly soon which way the pendulum is swinging.

My advice to entrepreneurs is to focus on making sure your product is good enough before it goes live. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t need lots of bells and whistles. It can even be rough around the edges. At the very least, it needs to meet expectations and do the job

But wait, there’s more: For some other thought, check out this post on whether the lean startup is dead.

If you’re looking to jump-start your startup marketing, I can help you make it happen – everything from messaging and brand positioning to strategic planning and content development. I published a book, Storytelling for Startups, that provides strategic and tactical guidance to entrepreneurs looking to embrace the power of story-driven marketing.