It has become extremely sexy (and annoying) for entrepreneurs to throw out the buzzwords from the Lean Startup movement when talking to other entrepreneurs and investors about their venture.
For one, 80% of the people who use these words have never read any of the foundation books that cover the topic. For two, 99% of people don’t know what the hell Lean Startup really means.
The most abused term in the Lean Startup buzzword briefcase is Pivot.
I found a great blog post from the Godfather of the Lean Startup movement Steve Blank named Vision versus Hallucination – Founders and Pivots that provides awesome insight into Pivot abuse.
A pivot is a substantive change to one or more of components to your business model. You’re using “Pivot” as an excuse to skip the hard stuff – keeping focused on your initial vision and business model and integrating what you’ve heard if and only if you think it’s a substantive improvement to your current business model. There is no possible way you can garner enough information to pivot based on one customers feedback or even 20. You need to make sure it’s a better direction than the one you are already heading in.
So next time you even think about using the word PIVOT in a conversation about your business. STOP. Go read then reread this post from my man Steve Blank then reconsider whether or not you are really doing a pivot.
One of the quotes I have posted on my wall next to my desk is “Smart growth beats fast growth.”
Not sure where I first heard that, but today I read a blog post from Ben Yoskovitz on his Instigator Blog that reminded me why this mantra is so important.
Yoskovitz’s post is titled Are You Really As Far Along As You Think?
In it, he makes the case for taking one or two steps back until you as an entrepreneur nail the empathy and stickiness phases of launching your venture.
Regarding stickiness he states:
A founder that’s focused on user acquisition through virality, but can’t quite get the traction they want, should probably go back to the Stickiness stage and make sure that the core users are actually happy and engaged.
Regarding empathy he states:
Early stage entrepreneurs also jump the gun moving into Stickiness–building an MVP before they’ve really validated that it’s worth building. I always tell these entrepreneurs to go back to the Empathy stage and talk to more customers.
You will gain much insight from the step by step process Yoskovitz is talking about in this post. You don’t want to skip this one. It’s well worth it to spend some time thinking about these stages with respect to the venture you are launching.
If I take off my entrepreneur hat for a second and think about the term ‘launch’ the first thing that comes to mind is a rocket.
Now, when I put my entrepreneur hat back on I start thinking uh oh…Will my launch propel my new startup in the air like a rocket?
If you are a startup in the truest meaning of the word, your product is not ready for the velocity of a rocket.
That type of velocity may actually cause a startup to fall apart. Especially if you haven’t done any type of stress test.
This is why Eric Ries, author of the Lean Startup, recommends that you Don’t Launch your startup at all….in the traditional sense of the word at least. Ries warns:
You never get a second chance to launch. Unlike a lot of other startup activities, PR is not one where you can try it, iterate, learn, and try again. It’s a one-way event, so you’d better get it right.
Ries provides so many insightful thoughts in this article. If you are thinking about a startup or already in the process, read this Eric Ries post before you do anything else.
This morning I was browsing through one of my favorite sections of the Wall Street Journal’s online blog named Accelerators . I came across a post from Venture Capitalist Paul Lee titled Sell It Before You Build It. What Paul suggest is something I have heard from many other experienced entrepreneurs as well:
When you’re in an early stage startup environment (where cash and time are so precious) don’t waste your resources in building out something without knowing there’s a market for it. Whether you’re building your first product or the next version of one, leverage the tools and techniques available to cheaply and efficiently collect market data.
This morning as I was getting my daily dose of knowledge from the entrepreneurship blog world, I came across a profounding post from Ben Yoskovitz. The title of the article immediately intrigued me: Don’t Sell Solutions to Universal Problems. To get where he is coming from, you must first understand the lean startup methodology. Since this is the hottest trend in the entrepreneurship world right now, I am going to assume you do.
Ben’s main point is the following:
You have to really understand your customers’ problems–peeling away the onion layers–until you get right down to the core. Asking “yes/no” questions, especially those where everyone is almost always going to give the same answer, won’t help you learn anything useful.