I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge over the years from starting, building, failing and succeeding in a number of businesses; but had I read this one book when I started my first venture over 12 years ago, I would have definitely succeeded in more of my earlier failures.
This book I refer to is The Lean Startup by American Silicon Valley entrepreneur Eric Ries.
What’s the lean start-up movement?
The Lean Start-up movement is a business strategy whose core goal is getting your product to market as fast, and direct as possible while keeping costs low.
The key focus is to get your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) into the hands of the early adopters, meaning identifying when to stop developing your product ‘and just launch it already’.
The second element is knowing when to ‘pivot’. Pivoting refers to the moment at which you need to listen to your early adopters and tailor your product in line with the feedback they’ve given you.
According to conventional entrepreneurship wisdom, the first thing every entrepreneur must do is create a business plan that describes the size of their business opportunity, the problem their potential consumers or clients face and the solution that the new venture will offer.
However, in the digital economy, where new opportunities are cropping up at every twist and turn of the digital landscape, the lean startup methodology is becoming increasingly popular. When a kid with the most rudimentary of computer skills (and an internet connection), can cotton on to the same idea as you with all your experience, then time is of the essence.
Why it’s become so popular
As I see it, the breakneck speed of technological advancements is what is driving this trend. One unnecessary day spent trying to perfect your product, rather than just putting it out there, can be the difference between failure and success and time wasting cannot be tolerated.
There’s yet another way tech trends are driving the Lean Start-up movement. Using major tech, corporations are helping to acclimatise consumers to the idea of a Beta Release, which essentially confesses that the released product isn’t perfect. Entrepreneurs however, are more comfortable with the idea of pivoting.
Nevertheless, as much as the Lean Startup business strategy has been popularised in the technology sector, it is by all means applicable to entrepreneurs in other sectors.
Don’t wait for perfect weather
Too many aspiring businesspeople wait for their plan to be perfect and then wait for the conditions in which to implement their plan to also be perfect before launching.
This is despite the realities of life being that conditions are rarely perfect and even if they are, the reality is that the perfect conditions could change at any moment.
While you shouldn’t pour your lifesavings into a pipe dream, there’s a strong argument to be made for just taking your product to market and then adapting it as and when you get feedback.
Never forget that adapting your product to suit your target market is a damn sight easier than adapting your target market to your product.
In the South African context, where even the government concedes that SMMEs have to be the key drivers to growth and jobs, you’d think that more of our entrepreneurs would ascribe to this concept.
That said, there is, however, one element which is a major stumbling block to the Lean Startup becoming more prevalent in South Africa.
The lean start-up and traditional funding
With South Africa being an emerging market where dreams of Silicon Valley’s deep-pocketed venture capitalists seem forever out of reach, we remain highly reliant on traditional funding methods.
Those methods, with their requirements of reams of documentation to dissect your business idea as well as your life (from every angle!) are the very antithesis of the Lean Startup.
I doubt a bank would have funded the guy who, with no formal background in tech, quit his job to work on his great idea for an app. You might have heard of what he was working on – Instagram.
Be that as it may, should you be able to secure alternative means of funding, the advantages of the Lean Startup movement make implementing it worthwhile.
As an aspirant businessperson looking to finally own a financially viable and profitable company, the number one benefit of the Lean Startup is that it gives you the freedom to minimise wasteful expenditure prior to launch.
In trusting that the MVP you launch with will generate enough feedback for you to pivot, you allow yourself the freedom to actually make a go at it and actually generate revenue, which is the first step to your future success.