The 80/20 of Lean Startup

 lean startup launch tomorrow
80% of results from 20% of the resources

Remember the 80/20 rule?

You get 80% of the results from 20% of the inputs. Well, 80% of the results from using Lean Startup come from running experiments, in my opinion. Meticulously.

  1. First, focus around the product; prove your value hypotheses.
  2. Then, focus on growth; prove your growth hypotheses.

If you aren’t running experiments, you’re not learning. You’re doing what Ashley Aitken from Australia calls “Faux Lean Startup”. For example, think back to how tech startups launched in the dotcom days.

Old Traditional WayFaux Lean Startup
Business PlanLean Canvas
Market ResearchValidate solution
Waterfall Project Management“Agile”
Alpha -> Beta -> v1.0Alpha -> MVP -> v1.0
Private Beta testingEarly Adopters
Launch ProductLaunch Product
Get market feedbackGet market feedback

Faux Lean Startup means you replaced some of the dotcom era tools with “lean approved” tools. If so, you’re missing the point of lean startup. Lean Startup isn’t only about customer development, personas, and interviewing customers. UXers have been doing that for decades before Lean Startup existed.

In my mind, the classic example of this is using “MVP” as a synonym for beta product. Beta software means that you still expect to have missed some bugs in the software. Your unknowns are technical. An MVP is completely different animal than a beta product. It’s created to test initially one business assumption. With MVPs, you test unknowns on the business side—not technical ones.

80% of the results from using Lean Startup come from running experiments. Share on X

It’s easy to fall back into the old pattern of avoiding what you don’t want to hear. It’s only human. You need to be deliberate about learning, in order to really get valuable feedback. A true lean startup implementation requires you to be running a long series of experiments (at least 1 per week). Minimize your own biases. Maximize learning when you know the least. See things how they are, based on data you gather from the market.

That’s the 80/20 of Lean Startup.


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