Last week the Copenhagen Lean Startup Circle and Silicon Vikings co-hosted yet another interesting event on the Lean Startup concept. This time at Copenhagen School of Entrepreneurship (CSE) headlining Ash Maurya who has authored the Lean Startup methodology book Running Lean.
Ash is a serial entrepreneur and a keen ambassador for the Lean Startup movement, which is sweeping the startup world at the moment. He is the creator of the Lean Canvas (start your own here), author of the books Running Lean and the Customer Factory (in process). Back in December 2013, he headlined the Lean Startup Conference in San Francisco and he is behind one of the most read startup blogs in the world: www.practicetrumpstheory.com.
In his own words his Lean journey started when confronted with the works on Customer Development and Lean Startup pioneered by Steve Blank and Eric Ries. He joined in on the conversation and started applying and testing the principles on his own ventures all the while sharing his learnings on his blog mentioned above. The blog eventually turned into the Running Lean book aimed at helping entrepreneurs raise their odds of success.
At CSE Ash shared some of the insights from his book. Here I will share what I took with me from the event:
The myth about the perfect idea and the visionary entrepreneur
Entrepreneurial success is not so much about starting with the perfect idea. Rather it is a question of arriving at a plan that works before you run out of resources. For this you need to be willing to learn and you need to be ready to do it fast. In contrast to the glamour picture of the entrepreneurial genius, most successes are based on a lot of failures and learnings along the way.
Some principles of Running Lean
- Plan for systematic learning
To be a systematic learner you need to find ways to test your assumptions and visions. You also need to be aware of the fact that entrepreneurs often fail to see the entire business potential of initial and even mature ideas.
- Listen to customers
A simple way to design for fast learning, which is key to the lean startup concept is talking and genuinely listening to customers. By doing so you can learn about their problems and start figuring out how to solve them. The most important entrepreneurial mantra in this context is: You don't need to build a solution to validate if you've found a problem worth solving! Simply ask your customers. This practice can save you a lot of time and a lot of wasted resources and thus get you running Lean.
- Test to learn
Document your plan. Knowing what you are doing and how you are doing it, while measuring for progress will let you test the plan in order to change it for the better. This includes testing solution and product feasibility, testing customer demand and testing business model repeatability etc.
- De-risk your business model
Identify the riskiest parts of your plan and work systematically on de-risking your product and business model
- ‘Canvas’ your plan
An easy way to do this is to work with the Lean canvas which condenses a business plan to one sheet and brakes it down into workable elements.
There’s no secret sauce and no silver bullet
There's no guarantee for success but living by the Lean principles will raise the odds of it. However as Ash put it: You should never take the Lean principles on faith. You have to go test them out for yourself! Running Lean is not a theory, it is build on experience and requires hard work, strong intention and an attitude supportive of learning, focus and speed. Thus Ash supports Steve Blank’s urging mantra for entrepreneurs to get out of the building which is clearly emphasized by the title of his blog: Practice trumps theory!