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4.4 out of 5 stars
The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on 12 October 2011
If many more European start-up founders had read this book we might have more successful start-ups. That said, as of 2011 we ARE beginning to get a lot of more switched on, more product focused entrepreneurs starting companies. That can only be good.

I would recommend without question, reading this book. Many of the recommendations inside are ones I have learned the hard way; but even having said this, the urge for any engineer remains to build functionality and that is a dangerous route if you don't know what your customer or user wants.

Based upon the premise of "assumptions" that we all make, this book gives a convincing -and in my view correct- case for finding ways to prove your assumptions before you build a real product - by hook or by crook. That might mean a skeleton site, a video, a very basic minimum product.

Whether you are running a start-up in a corporate as a division or a traditional bootstrap in a garage, I challenge you not to find some value in this book if you are an early stage company which has not already burnt it's way through all it's money. Read this book before you do and build the right thing, not the wrong thing, for your users or customers.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 14 November 2012
I finished reading this book a couple of weeks ago and have to say for the most part I really enjoyed it. This was really my introduction to the whole lean start-up movement, and it has definitely strongly influenced how I'll look at developing products in the future.

The Good

The book is full of interesting anecdotes and stories from Ries experience and research that are mostly provided to support his case that the lean start-up is the way to go. They are combined with practical advice on how to tackle innovation, and what it really means. There are some great phrases that will stay with me for a long time - like (and I'm paraphrasing) "if you put a product out there to see what happens you will always succeed, in see how it does". It really highlights that in order to decide whether something is a success, it has to be able to fail - i.e. have something measurable that says whether it succeeds or fails. All in all the concepts behind a large portion of the lean startup are really great, and make a lot of sense.

The Bad

On the down side I found the book to be a little unstructured and with too much sales pitch for me. I bought the book because I'd heard about the lean startup movement and really wanted to get an understanding of the core principles and how they fit together. What I found was that a large portion of the book was selling the concepts to me - I actually find this with a lot of books - I think its where an author is trying to validate their theories. For me I was sold on a lot of theories early on, and found some of the sales pitch bits a little annoying. I also found that whilst it filled my head with great ideas, I came away struggling to put it all together into something that's actionable. Since reading this book I've started reading Running Lean by Asha Maurya which provides a much more practical approach to teaching some of these principles.

I also have a pet gripe with one of the underpinning facets of the lean startup movement - that is this influence and constant reference to Toyota's approach! I've really read so much about Toyota and thoroughly agree with the sentiment that they have been incredibly innovative in approach - I'm a huge fan (my brother even works there)!! But I've also seen several movements that try to piggy back on the Toyota approach, and interpret each of there principles in different ways. for example I've seen different companies interpret the `single piece flow' concept into entirely different things. I feel like the lean startup movement started with some truly innovative concepts of their own such as the minimum viable product, and proceeded to `flesh out' the theories with those borrowed from Toyota. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and I may change my opinion, but for now I'm not a fan of this!

In The End

Although I have just ranted about the down side of the book and concept, I feel that there is far more good than bad about the whole movement. After reading this and doing some further research, I definitely consider myself a proponent of the movement - and I think the whole thing really makes sense, especially if you enjoy continuous integration / deployment / delivery.

Really enjoyed this book, and it has definitely changed my approach. Small gripes but nothing too much.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon 26 January 2012
I selected this observation by Drucker (1963) because it continues to suggest caution when deciding what to do, how and when to do it, etc. Michael Porter also offers a helpful reminder: "The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do." This is especially true of those who are either planning to launch a start-up or have only recently done so. Given the number of Four and Five Star reviews of this book featured by Amazon as of this moment (136 of a total of 153), Eric Ries has clearly attracted and rewarded the attention of those who share his determination to "improve the success rate of new innovative products worldwide." He offers a method by which to achieve that objective, based on five separate but interdependent principles best revealed within the book's narrative, in context.

Ries suggests two primary reasons for the failure of most startups. One is trusting indicators of likely success that are either inappropriate or unreliable such as a good business plan, a solid strategy, and thorough market research. A startup is by nature and unknown quantity, Ries points out, as are its prospects. Also, many entrepreneurs and their investors become impatient, then frustrated, and abandon traditional management practices. I agree with him that all startups must be managed and only those that are managed well have a chance to survive. It is also important to keep in mind that, at one time, each of the "Fortune 500" was a startup, launched by one or more entrepreneurs who would not be denied.

Credit Ries with pursuing what Jim Collins and Jerry Porras characterize in Built to Last as a Big Hairy Audacious Goal or BHAG: To provide "a new discipline for entrepreneurial management" that takes into full account "the chaos and uncertainty that startups must face...I believe that entrepreneurship requires a managerial discipline to harness the entrepreneurial opportunity we have been given." Here's the BHAG: "change the entire ecosystem of entrepreneurship."

The Lean Startup movement's size and impact seem to be rapidly increasing as entrepreneurs worldwide embrace the tenets of a manufacturing revolution that Taiichi Ohno and Shigeo Shingo are credited with developing at Toyota. These tenets by no means preclude traditional functions such as vision and concept, product development, marketing and sales, etc. Rather, what Ries advocates (if I understand him correctly) is a new way of looking at the development of innovative new products by accepting a new way of looking at the management process by which that will be accomplished.

As I re-read this book, I realized that despite all the attention that Ries devotes to startups, much (if not most) of the material in his book is directly relevant to almost all organizations, whatever their size, nature, and birth date may be. This is what Jack Welch had in mind when explaining his reasons for admiring small companies. Here is a brief excerpt from his remarks at a GE annual meeting about 20 years ago:

"For one, they communicate better. Without the din and prattle of bureaucracy, people listen as well as talk; and since there are fewer of them they generally know and understand each other. Second, small companies move faster. They know the penalties for hesitation in the marketplace. Third, in small companies, with fewer layers and less camouflage, the leaders show up very clearly on the screen. Their performance and its impact are clear to everyone. And, finally, smaller companies waste less. They spend less time in endless reviews and approvals and politics and paper drills. They have fewer people; therefore they can only do the important things. Their people are free to direct their energy and attention toward the marketplace rather than fighting bureaucracy."

As Eric Ries concludes his book, he wonders what an organization would look like "if all of its employees were armed with Lean Startup superpowers." What indeed.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 24 July 2012
I recently bought The Lean StartUp by Eric Ries shortly after reading The StartUp Owner's Manual by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf which was absolutely excellent. By comparison the Lean StartUp was very disappointing and too much emphasis on anecdotes and past successes / failures and not enough on the future. Reads like a novel and I could not recommend it unfortunately. His videos were much better - free on YouTube.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 25 April 2013
The first word that comes to mind to describe this book is "boring".

I cannot understand how it could have got so many 5 stars - people need to read more business books! If you want an excellent book on lean startups you MUST read The Startup Owner's Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company: 1 by Steve Blank. Do not waste your money on this book.

The book is nevertheless quite an interesting read in some parts, but unquestionably very over-rated and very padded out. The book may have something to offer about how to save time and costs when running a start up, but this has more to to with common sense than with the real concept of 'lean' as with 'lean manufacturing'.

Eric Ries tells us a lot about his experience as a CTO in a Silicon Valley startup and how they managed to dupe investors out of $millions before they all realised that to have a successful startup, you must start with the customer and try and define what customers' need or desire that you are going to satisfy. What Eric and his colleagues did was to essentially start by developing a very expensive Web product without really finding out if anyone actually wanted it. Anyone with any business education should have avoided the costly mistakes that they initially made. This book goes on to suggest various ways that could help you save time and money by not doing what they did. But, it is however very, very short on any detail.

The book is very much geared towards IT startups who lack the staff with a strong business education, particularly those IT startups who think they are going to be the next Facebook, or at least have $Ms to invest in the early stages. If you are thinking of setting up a new business in a more traditional line of business and you are based in somewhere like Truro or Bradford or Edinburgh in the UK, you will find this book of limited use.

Be aware that it is full of Americanisms and Silicon Valley-speak. To be honest this book really is not much use if you are thinking of setting up any business other than an IT/software product or service.
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49 of 57 people found the following review helpful
"Now Moses wrote down the starting points of their journeys at the command of the LORD." - Numbers 33:2 (NKJV)

Having taught entrepreneurs for many years and studied many of the most successful ones, I am always struck by how differences in focus on learning seem to correlate with achieving more or less success. Those who believe that they just need to implement their business plan usually flop. Those, by contrast, who assume they don't know the "right" answer . . .but desperately want to find out . . . seem to do quite well.

My favorite saying about entrepreneurs is that their first business model is their worst one. Fail quickly, often, and inexpensively in seeking a better business model, and you will eventually find a profitable business model and offerings.

While this book covers lean operations as well as business model and offering development, I thought that its main value comes in the example of how a Web-based business should measure its performance and monitor how well potential improvements work out. If you have such a business, the book's contents are directly applicable by you.

If you want to apply the book's lessons to a different kind of business, you'll find the information here to be more difficult to apply.

I believe that this book will be most helpful to those who haven't tried to start a business before and are accustomed to making incremental improvements in existing, successful businesses.

If you already understand the importance of measuring performance in creating trial, turning trial into regular purchases, and regular purchases into loyalty to a product or service, you will probably wonder what all the fuss is about. In that regard, pay attention to Mr. Ries' ideas about how minimal an offering you can put together to test.

The book's biggest drawback is that Mr. Ries doesn't give very many clues about what to test if the current program isn't working. As such, his approach lacks enough depth to totally guide a startup to success.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 7 October 2011
Eric Ries is an extraordinary entrepreneur. The innovative way in which he has launched The Lean Startup itself is testament to his incredible creativity and energy.

Anyone, whether they are in technology or any other sector, who is involved in product development, should read this book, make sure that everyone in their team has read this book and then argued over a beer about whether it applies to them. Not everyone will agree with everything he says, no doubt some people will think they know better, good luck to them.

Some people will rail against the use of terms like, 'Pivot', that Eric uses to describe the (entirely rational) process of discovering the market for a startup. Pivot runs the risk of being the most misunderstood and overused term in startup land as it has become a euphemisim for all sorts of things including, 'failed', 'given up' or 'lost interest'. It is hardly Eric's fault however that he has created and popularised a concept that powerful.

Having been involved in successful and unsuccessful startups, and unsuccessful projects in large corporations, Eric has invested an obscene amount of his time and effort into working out why there is so much wasted effort in product development. More importantly, he has come up with a very plausible hypothesis for a better way of doing things better. Measurably better.

I do have a big problem with this book and some of the language in it.

To quote Eric Ries, "So here's my definition of a startup. A human institution designed to create something new under conditions of extreme uncertainity. And, of course, the importance of disruptive innovation in creating something that is truly different than what came before."

For my money, that is not the definition of a startup. That is the definition of an inventor, an innovator, a startup, any business unit, product management team or organisation in the world.

Why not apply that definition to another entity?

"So here's my definition of Apple. A human institution designed to create something new under conditions of extreme uncertainity. And, of course, the importance of disruptive innovation in creating something that is truly different than what came before."

Apple is the largest corporation in the world. Doesn't the definition apply equally well?

And that is the essence of my problem with this book. It is keeping some extraordinary insights into how you can make things that people love in the world of startups. Grownups need to read this. They might sneer at the concept of a pivot, it is an overused term. I can't think of a single organisation that wouldn't benefit from the concept of minimum viable product though. The world would be a better place if big corporations understood this. They will waste less money making stuff people don't want.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 September 2013
I can’t remember what prompted me to buy this book, but I’m glad I did. The Lean Startup framework has been built on the solid foundations of lean manufacturing and agile development, and applied to an entrepreneurial environment. But I’m no budding entrepreneur; I have no ambitions of starting my own company. My interest is in how this philosophy of lean entrepreneurship and innovation applies to what the author terms “established companies”. And it does. His suggestions on creating innovation groups, essentially mini-startup companies within an existing organisation are invaluable for anyone interested in product development. And for those wanting to start up their own company – don’t. Not until you’ve read this book.
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on 5 November 2012
This book gives a truly unique approach to business that is slowly being adopted throughout the world, for its effectiveness and positive outcomes. It explains about what customers really want, whilst testing your own current knowledge and understanding of any organization and business acumen. It tests your visual creativity and innovation, when it comes to thinking about the foundations that a business is built on and new product launches. This book makes you really think and learn, whilst changing ones own perceptions on innovation and entrepreneurship. Loaded with fascinating, interesting stories and practical principals, I would highly recommend this to any business owner or manager, director or executive as it is such a helpful read. If you are interested in innovation, using original and uniquely distinctive ideas that `break the trend' to create a profound effect then please do read this book. One is given a guided tour of the key inventive practices used inside great giants such as Google, Toyota and Facebook that one can apply to their own business or way of thinking (such as for inspirational purposes).

This book written by entrepreneur Eric Ries and highly acclaimed author of the blog startup lessons learned, is a must read for all those interested in consumer, commercial business and capitalism. It delves into the ideals behind product strategies and the process that leads from one single idea to global, business dealings. It is clear that the author understands the success entrepreneurs aim to achieve and so offers his many years of extensive knowledge and experience to aid you in all your endeavors (regardless of the size of the business ect.). If you keep on seeking a better business model then soon enough one will eventually find something profitable and offerings. This book is also great for those with a web-based business, as its contents are directly applicable and also helpful to those who have not started a business before. Great for those new to business and those who are accustomed to make incremental improvements in existing, successesful businesses. This book is in-depth and brimmed full of helpful hints and advice that are not only helpful, but which gives one a different insight and viewpoint on the successful business.
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I come from an direct mail and affiliate marketing background, our normal MO is to sell other peoples products, usually those products have gotten to market and have already established they work from a product to customer fit point of view.

We continually test new products and marketing strategies to see what works, and as a direct response marketer we build our fortunes (or lack of) on testing what sells and what does not, otherwise known as what people want to buy.

For a better understanding of how to do this if you're not a tech start up in silicone valley try scientific advertising as a great starting point.

If you are a tech startup you'll love this book, it's probably aimed at you primarily.

If you have a regular business get this book the ideas that are presented are good and tried and tested by thousands of direct response marketers that tread this path every day.

It is (like this review) full of waffle, but the waffle gives it context and context aids understanding so that's alright.

So overall yes get the book, but, this is a poor imitation of a good book on this subject, start with the greats of direct response marketing and you'll truly get the idea.

Neil Asher
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