Book Review: The Lean Startup

The Lean Startup

Author(s)

Eric Ries


My Rating

star star star star star

This is an excellent resource for managers, developers or just about anyone working in anything from recently-founded startups all the way up to large enterprises. The reason is simple: this book teaches you to focus on creating value whilst minimising waste, using techniques that help you understand sooner if customers will actually like, use or pay for whatever your company provides.

As the title implies, this book and methodology is heavily inspired by, and often relates to, the lean manufacturing methodologies created by Toyota such as cross-functional teams and small batch sizes.

A testament to the usefulness of this book is the fact that many of the successes in my previous jobs used concepts from the lean startup. As I was reading this book, I fully understood where my former colleagues learned their techniques, and why we got the successes we did.

In For a Shock

Eric Ries has a lot of stories to tell in this book about companies he's worked for, companies he's worked at, and companies who are well known. Most of these stories support his view that early feedback from users is important whilst rigid up-front planning and product-design sets you on the road to failure.

I've experienced in my current and former roles as a developer that people want certainty, a linear plan of action. Unfortunately, as Eric repeats all throughout the book, you can't do this until you know exactly what you need to build.

So for anyone not used to shipping shoddy software, that has just enough quality to get user feedback - known in the learn startup as an MVP - you're probably going to hate this book. But you should read it and take note of some of the case studies; maybe they will resonate with some of your past failures and help you change your opinions.

Metrics

One aspect of the lean startup that is very important is metrics - specifically capturing the correct ones. Everyone likes vanity metrics like number of users or total sales, but the lean startup teaches you to focus on metrics that show how sustainable your business model is and your true growth rate.

As an example, and the book has many, if you're getting 2000 new users a month, and you're paying 10 dollars in marketing to attract each one, then you need to be earning your ten dollars back for each new customer. Otherwise, you're making a loss and your business model is not sustainable. Quite simple when you know what to look for.

Put Your Faith in the Lean Startup

I'm certain that by reading this book you will improve your chances of achieving success in your career or personal ventures. The more rooted your are in traditional methods like waterfall, the more you may struggle to accept the concepts in this book, but I sincerely recommend you keep trying.

There are a few opinions stated as fact in this book, and I think you need to be careful not to take everything too literally. On the other hand, I don't have the experiences Eric Ries does, so maybe he is totally correct. I'll let you know in ten years, maybe...

For now... I'll put my faith in Eric Ries and the Lean Startup.

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