Lean Startup (Tue Sep 5, lecture 2)

Homework due for today

Legend: : Participation | : Early | : PDF | : Portfolio | : Zipped

  1. Study “The Lean Startup”, Chapters 1, 2 and 3. As you read please think about the following warmup questions:
    • Ries has a particular definition of a startup. What conditions must be true for him to consider a project within an established company to be a “startup”?
    • What kinds of uncertainty and risk does a startup encounter?
    • What was the crux of the original IMVU product vision?
    • What 1 or 2 important things from the reading did you not understand? And if you understood it all, then what 1 or 2 important things were most insightful/useful/valuable to you. Please make sure I can tell which is which!
    • Deliverable: Submit your answers to these warmup questions in Latte, as a pdf . Warmup questions are always graded as “participation only” (), are due by 10am of the day of class () in the form of a pdf, with your name and homework number in the header ()
  2. Read: Inventor who gave his idea away and Students Inventing Programs to Streamline Their Colleges. Deliverable: Write a brief reflection, responding to one of these two articles – thoughts, disagreements, reflections

Interesting (but optional) reading


  • Let’s talk about Paul Graham’s Well concept
    • invert: x-axis people who want the product; y-axis how badly they want it
    • Google: Immense crater
    • Initial facebook: deep shallow well
    • Vertical vs. Horizontal products
    • Examples of highly horizontal products; examples of highly vertical products?
  • Review homework and discuss the reading

Thoughts about Lean Startup

  • Basically: identify the right product for the right customer
  • “Lean” term stolen from “Lean Manufacturing” (Toyota et al)
  • Some key characteristics:
    • Small Batches vs. Large Batches
    • Minimize WIP
    • Changes in plan are expected and embraced
    • “Pull” vs. Push
    • Small self-managed teams
    • Don’t try to plan everything from day one
    • Instead, Iterate, iterate, iterate!
  • Agile Software Development (next term :)
    • Also based on the same principles
    • And with the same objectives
  • Lean Startup
    • Yes, just another buzzword
    • Some might say “there’s nothing new under the sun”
    • Realize there are several ‘methodologies’ that people push
    • The underlying principles are similar
  • My own experience with the idea of Lean Startup
    • Where did it come from
    • Is it just Eric Ries self promotion?
    • Why do I think it’s a good approach
    • “Scientific method?”
  • Some ideas that we’ll explore more in the next few weeks
    • Validated Learning
    • Build/Measure/Learn
    • Hypotheses and assumptions
    • Minimum Viable Product
    • Customer Development
    • Pivoting
    • Metrics and real-world data
      • Innovation accounting


  • Everyone has a million ideas
    • Few know how to turn the idea into a successful product or service
    • Venture capitalists say: “It’s all about the team!”
    • Execution is far more important than the idea
    • The important role of “Domain Expertise” (what is that?)
    • Discussion: What is your definition of ‘successful?’
  • So: Don’t be so secretive!
    • This is a classic trap!
    • You (almost) always gain more from sharing your idea and getting feedback
    • Keeping it secret usually only provides an imaginary competitive advantage
NB If your idea is so simple that a 10 minute description is enough to allow someone else to beat you.... then your idea wasn't really worth that much anyway!

Pilot Project

  • The Pilot Project
  • Teams are determined. 5 students per. Term project will re-shuffle. Please sit together!
  • Teams: have a discussion about the SBC product concept
    • What do you want it to be?
    • Be ambitious (but not unrealistic). Consider a “match making” service or a “marketplace”. Consider interesting/unique UI ideas. Consider a message-stream.
    • You may play with and or extend the idea. Pivots from basic vision are perfectly fine!
  • Discussion: Let’s practice. Some hypotheses for Student Buying Club?
  • Samples: Types of hypotheses

Next Class