In David Fincher’s 1999 cult classic, Fight Club, there’s a scene where Tyler Durden and the Narrator are cruising down the highway talking about the future of their boxing club (first fight’s free, then you franchise out, etc). They’re arguing about who’s in charge, what’s the goal of the group, how to deal with growth: they’re entrepreneurs and they’ve both come up with something great, that seems to be catching on. And what does Tyler Durden do? He takes his hands off the wheel, and lets the car go where it wants. The car steers itself, and Tyler hits the gas.
This would be a great opening for my Lean Startup review, had Tyler and the Narrator not gone off the road. The car was destroyed, but the leaders survived, and got a little wiser. Was that a Pivot? This book is not just about small tech startups, though if you’ve heard anything about it (the buzz has been building around the interwebs for about 2 years now, mostly on tech sites), you’d be forgiven for the assumption. Frankly, if this book was just about starting tech companies in Silicon Valley, it’d be pretty boring, aimed at a very very niche audience. It’s neither.
The brilliance of this book is that it’s ideas (admittedly borrowed somewhat from Lean Manufacturing) can be applied to almost any project, service, or company. It will make your venture faster, smarter, and cheaper. In fact, you can even use the principles in here if you want to keep your job (you’re not an Entrepreneur, you’re an Intrapreneur– I like that).
So why is Entrepreneurship (for example) so scary? Because we always hear about how 90% of small business fail within a year. No one doubts the numbers, or bothers to look them up. We just decide not to take the gamble. This book can actually pare down that 90% figure drastically, and help you learn and iterate your business fast. It’s ok to get a little excited at the thought.
So why the Brad Pitt reference? Because a big reason of why so many small businesses fail is because they’re just about what the designer, the entrepreneur, wants. And that’s no way to run a business. The key should be to very quickly figure out what your customers want (also known as marketing). The Lean Startup will get you working on a quick and dirty ‘version’ of your company fast, so you know if the company has a chance, before you scale up and make a huge expensive mistake. When you let go of the proverbial steering wheel, the point is to let the customers design your products, your website, even your company logo.
Do you think Tim Ferriss named his own books, or picked the right color combinations for the cover art? Think again. He tested tons of different combinations (either using online tools, or ‘physical’ tests) before he nailed the NY Times bestselling combination. Smart. He replaced assumptions with results.
And when your car crashes, you shouldn’t worry if your original plan was a bust. You learn. Learning is the point (more important even than money). You dust yourself off, and get started on a new revised strategy. Pivot. Hm. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad metaphor after all.
Venture Deals by Brad Feld (Review)
The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development by Patrick Vlaskovits (Review)
Selling in a New Market Space by Brian Burns (Review)
Mastering the VC Game by Jeffry Busgang (Review)