Book Review: The Lean Start-up by Eric Ries

This is the first of the kind of book reviews that I decided to blog. My main motivation to write this post is to have the content as a reminder to myself i.e. after we read the books we tend to forget the main learnings from the book over the time. I just want to capture the highlights which meant something to me so that I can refer to these notes rather than reading the whole book, if I want to recall at a later point of time. At the same time I would offer a generalized recommendation to the readers too.

About me: I’m a continuous improvement specialist. I chose Lean management as my study focus in my Masters. I have two years of experience in applying lean concepts in the automotive supplier industry and close to 5 years in oil industry.

The Lean Start-up by Eric Ries:

PrtScr capture

What’s it about? Eric Ries applies Lean concepts and thinking in the context of Start-ups, where the discussions seek for the best way to approach and kick start a Start-up.

Target Audience of this book: People in the business world and anyone from wannabe to professional entrepreneurs

Verdict: I liked it. Every person who either wants to begin a business or is already a part of any business setup, should certainly read to understand and evaluate how their current way of working is and how could it be optimized. It’s a fast read. Numerous case studies backs up the concepts really well. I liked how the author insisted on not wasting anyone’s time, which was the key takeaway of the book. The fact that he managed to simplify the world around us and applied lean concepts to start-up in a credible way showed that author has ample competence and experience. Thank you Mr. Ries.

Feedback: Although he wrote for 300 pages, the content could be compressed to about 200 pages. It can be ignored, as it was a fast read. The author seems to have missed out on impactful chapter titles. They don’t stand out or don’t seem to stick to the head easily and how the concepts discussed in each chapter correlates to the title was not clear. The general structure of the book and how the concepts flow could have been better. Lots of case studies were offered and learnings from each case study could have been highlighted.

Rating: 8/10

Category: Classic/ Must-read/ Killing time/ Forget it

Useful Links: Amazon Link; The Lean Startup blog by Eric Ries

Personal Notes:

  1. Intro

Over Planning vs. just doing it: Lean is mostly common sense: The discussion on how either excessive planning or simply “just doing it” can be detrimental to a start up has been discussed well

  1. Vision
  • Start

That product is just an outcome of the vision and strategy; It’s often we hear on how companies base their model on just one product. If this product wouldn’t work, the company sinks. On the other hand, it’s totally valid to focus on a vision and strategy and having product as a variable

  • Define

Definition of a start-up: A Start-up is a human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty

  • Learn

Talk to the customer; involve them in every step of product development. The insistence on this aspect which anchors on customer makes this book very much Lean.

  • Experiment

How to know if a business is doing well?

Value hypothesis – is the customer willing to invest his time in the product or service &

Growth hypothesis – how are new customers coming about? Measure the behaviour on how the word is being spread.

Does it make sense to involve too much into one product or experiment our way with product with minimum needed features (MVP – Minimum Viable Product); Experiment fast with MVPs is a significant takeaway of this book

The four key questions in developing a product:

  1. Do the customers recognize that they are having a problem that you are trying to solve?
  2. If there was a solution, would they buy it?
  3. Would they buy it from us?
  4. Can we build a solution for that problem?
  1. Steer

Build-measure-Learn feedback loop; How fast can you go about this loop determines success.

  • Leap

Genchi Gembutsu with your customer: Visit your customer in the environment your product is supposed to be used for the best feedback on your product

  • Test

MVP – types of MVP; A video demo as a MVP; concierge MVP; How going about “a not perfect product” can be the best for product development

Can competitors imitate your product? Are you accelerating through the loop fast, not to worry. The imitators also have to go through this loop to imitate your product

  • Measure

Cohort Analysis – Shunning away from Vanity metrics. A metric is only as good as the quality of the decision making it can lead to. Divide detailed KPIs: E.g. not total number of customers; rather types of customers;

Split testing – Releasing two different MVPs and trying to understand customer’s behaviour

Having three A’S in metrics – actionable, accessible & auditable

  • Pivot (or persevere)

Pivot fast and move on: Another key takeaway of this book

Catalog of pivots;

Moore’s major business architectures: High volume and low margin (B2C) – volume operations model; Low volume and high margin (B2B) – complex systems model

Pivoting is a continuous process

  1. Accelerate
  • Batch

One piece flow in product development; using Toyota’s Andon card system in start-ups; addressing the root cause

Reducing WIP: on where “Lean” derives its name from.

  • Grow

New customers come from the actions of the past customer;

Four ways of how customers bring growth: Word of mouth, as a side effect of product usage, through funded advertising, through repeat purchase or use

Engines of growth – sticky – rate of customer attrition vs rate of winning new customers, viral – viral coefficient & paid – cost spent for a new customer

On having the right Market fit; If a product has it’s right Market fit, it’s exhilarating

  • Adapt

Using Five why’s in product development: for proportional investment decisions; involving customers in development; cross functional teams; five why’s master,

  • Innovate

Shusa & experimenting; data driven decision making; one team leading an experiment to the end; Let the innovator innovate – identifying the right resource for the right phase

Phases: early adopter; main customer segment; op-ex; legacy products

  1. Epilogue

In the past, man has been the first, in the future system must be the first


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