What is the Lean Startup?

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The lean startup is a methodology that transforms ideas into products by developing from feedback and data. It is a way that startups can m,inimise the total time it takes to create a minimum viable product which can be presented to their customers.

The diagram to the right shows how Ideas can be tested throughout the creation of a product rather than after building something. Looking at ‘The 20 reasons Startups Fail’, most startups fail due to creating products which are not required or wanted by the market. By using the Build-Measure-Learn Loop, a startup can quickly understand what the their potential market will think of their product or service before committing too much time or money to a project.

However, the ideas generated would generally need to be based in assumptions about a problem or a need of the customer. This is known as Validated learning. One example of this could be a service such as FaceBook, which initially started as a network for Harvard students to contact each other, to evolving based on what features people wanted to see as it developed.

Another concept to consider is the below ‘jobs to be done’ by Clayton C.

Source: https://www.mindtools.com/media/Diagrams/BML-Loop.jpg

“Jobs-to-be-done Theory is comprised of a group of principles or tenets that explain how to make marketing more effective and innovation more predictable by focusing on customer’s job-to-be-done.” – Clayton C, 2016

Clayton believes that by working out “jobs” customers are struggling with, and designing products and services around these, businesses can meet customer needs and make it easier to predict when an innovation might happen for a business.

One way this might be possible is to look at the business model for a company and consider the value proposition of a business. How might a company change their business model in order to meet the needs of customers? In the book The Lean Startup, Eric Ries discusses how IMVU, a 3D chatroom with avatars was developed using the Build-Measure-Learn loop. He explained that it was not necessary to build a perfect product, but just build something that was usable by the end users, then gather feedback and improve in small iterations and patches. By using this method, the team developing IMVU could strip out any features which their early adopters and customers did not ask for, and focus on those features which they do ask for.

In my case as a web designer, with a background in film and video I could bring value to my clients by offering more services. This would be reflected by improving my business model and offering a different way for clients to pay for services which otherwise might cost a lot more. It is unlikely that all of my clients would want me to create TV advertising for them, but those that do would benefit from a “designer on retainer” service. This assumption would need to be tested by implementing a basic version of this business model then asking my current and future clients if they would be interested in an all-in-one design service.


CBInsight (2018), The 20 Reasons Startups Failed. Available at https://www.cbinsights.com/research/startup-failure-reasons-top/[Accessed: 05/10/2018]

Clayton M. Christensen, Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon, and David S. Duncan (2016) Know Your Customers’-Jobs to Be Done PP.58, Harvard Business Review: September 2016

Ries E., (2011). The Lean Startup: How constant innovation creates radically successful businesses. London: Portfolio Penguin, Chapter 4-8, PP.74-178

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