Eric Ries and Lean Startups

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Today I’m at Web 2.0 Expo NYC participating in the Lean Startup Workshop by Eric Ries.  Eric is an articulate voice for those of us in the web development world who have been innovating to find new ways to build web sites effectively and efficiently.

I really appreciate the work he’s been doing to get the message out.  We were talking before his presentation and he told me that he hasn’t been home since October 1st!

Literally, I’m typing this as he’s taking questions from the audience.  Here’s a few key highlights from the talk:

  • Most companies fail because they build something that nobody wanted, not because they built something of low quality.
  • The key to building what people want is “The Pivot”: changing direction while staying grounded in learning from experience.
  • The unit of progress for waterfall development is advancing the plan, i.e. moving from requirements to spec to development and so on.  In Agile, the unit of progress is workable code.  In “Lean Startups”, the unit of progress is validated learning about customers and what will cause them to give money to your business.
  • In his model, there are two cross-functional teams: a problem team (to learn about customers, their wants, needs and aptitude for acceptance) and a solution team (to create things for customers).
  • The key to any lean transformation is learning to distinguish the waste from the value.
  • “Customer development”—that is, learning about customers—it’s not about just doing what the customer says.  It’s about learning if the customer will accept your vision of the product.  [A-kin to what Marc Andressen calls product/market fit.]
  • Typically, behind every technical problem there is a human problem.  Fix the human problem if you want the technical problems fixed.  [This is another way of saying, “software is just a reflection of the people and processes who create it”.]
  • When something isn’t working, it’s a signal that tells you something about your system.

That’s just a summary which doesn’t probably do Eric’s ideas any justice, so forgive me.  However, you can read more about Eric’s ideas at

Written by scottporad

November 16th, 2009 at 8:49 am