Building a Startup for Long-Term Success
Eric Ries, co-founder of the Lean Startup Co., shares his perspective on trends among innovative businesses and some best practices for being a responsible entrepreneur.
As a sponsor of the Lean Startup Conference in October, I had the chance to sit down with Eric Ries, co-founder of the Lean Startup Co. and author of “The Lean Startup” and “The Startup Way.” Eric and his team are known for creating a movement within the startup community and have helped companies make lasting impacts and experience sustainable growth. We talked about startup trends, lessons he’s learned along the way, and best practices entrepreneurs can follow.
One of the hardest things to remember as an entrepreneur is that you will, indeed, fail. A common misconception is that if you have a good idea for a technology product—and you’re in the right place at the right time—you will be a success. The key to moving forward when you fail is to make sure you’re failing differently, each time. In order to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again, it’s imperative to reflect and rethink your approach.
Some strategies to consider:
- Involve customers in product development as early as possible. That way, if you have to fail, you fail fast and can pivot quickly.
- Use a scientific decision-making framework to evaluate if your process is getting better or worse.
Start With the Problem and Commit to Your Vision
Aspiring entrepreneurs often make the mistake of either claiming that their customers don’t know what they want—and, in turn, they try to push a product on their customers—or developing a technology first in pursuit of a problem to solve with it. Either approach will make success harder to attain. Whatever you create, it’s important to be invested and truly believe in it. Your rate of iteration will be much faster if you have an idea of what is supposed to happen or what it’s supposed to look like because you will have the ability to compare results and pivot more quickly.
Be Agile and Lose the Fear of Competition
Entrepreneurs often get caught up in making their product perfect before releasing it. It’s best to push out a minimum viable product (MVP) and continue to remain agile. If you take too long, chances are other issues and customer needs will surface before you even had a chance to show your product. Competitors don’t put startups out of business—startups put themselves out of business. Pitch your idea to a product manager and see if they want to steal it. If they do, that’s a good sign. We’ve all had good ideas, but we don’t all want to take on the responsibility of committing to them. In the end, you are your biggest competition.
Understand the Technology Yourself
If you want to be technology enabled, you need to commit to understanding the technology yourself. Asking educated questions of your team is the only way to understand if a product or process is working or not. If you’re not already a technologist, you’re more vulnerable to risk. You’ll never be able to keep up or disrupt your own company if you can’t question your own software. Make it a priority to educate yourself. Seek out one of the many available boot camps and online courses that make it possible to get up to speed.