When I first heard about The Lean Startup, I thought it was a weight loss program for entrepreneurs.
Then I launched my own startup news site and an executive at Rackspace, the site’s first corporate sponsor, sent me Eric Ries’ bestselling book via UPS.
That night I cuddled up with the blue book and a glass of Pinot Noir in my office’s big red leather chair. I felt sure that I was about to uncover the secrets to launching a successful news site. And in a way I did. But it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.
Instead, Ries covered a lot of the ground that I have treaded as a business reporter for the past two decades covering incredible companies like International Business Machines Corp. and its transition from the inventor of the original 1981 IBM PC to failed OS/2 software developer to a powerhouse service business. Ries also focused on lean manufacturing based on the body of work of James Womack who studied Toyota’s lean manufacturing operations. (Toyota announced plans to open a Tundra truck plant in San Antonio in 2005 and I was lucky to interview Womack about Toyota’s lean manufacturing processes) Ries has taken Toyota’s lean production principles and applied them to the startup world. That means startup workers are keenly in tune with customers and the company creation process by working in small batches and changing and adaptly quickly in a process known as iteration.
When my 13-year-old son walked into my office and asked what I was reading, I told him about the lean startup process of launching a product as quickly as possible and then adapting and changing it frequently.
“Mom that’s Windows,” Teddy said.
I laughed but realized that’s been a long standing process of software developers. And it has worked. So why not apply it to the broader process of launching companies.
Ries’ book is not a step by step manual on running a lean business. But it does provide enough examples and information to explain how this process is beneficial in the innovation cycle. Failure is an important part of the process. But it’s also important to learn from failure and to adapt.
In the two decades I’ve been writing stories about successful entrepreneurs almost all of them recount a time when they stood at the edge of a cliff and they almost lost it all. Some of them did and they were able to climb their way back up to the top of the hill again. Others just sidestepped the danger zone and were able to persevere in the face of enormous obstacles (like no money, competitors, unproven market, product failures and more).
The lean startup process makes a lot of sense and so does learning from others that have been there and done that. That’s why so many lean meet ups have become popular hangouts for entrepreneurs. Austin’s Lean Startup Circle has 1,010 members. San Antonio also has one that just started up. .
And next weekend, entrepreneurs have a chance to immerse themselves in the lean startup process during a three day weekend program called The Lean Startup Machine.
In Austin, Ash Mauyra has become an expert in the lean startup process. His book, Running Lean, was just released for a second printing by O’Reilly books last March. He’s one of the leaders of the lean startup weekend and so is Josh Baer, a serial entrepreneur and founder of The Other Inbox and Jason Cohen, founder of WP Engine.
Do you have a lean story to tell? Comment below and let us know. We want to write your story. And meanwhile, i will keep iterating and pivoting and building Silicon Hills News through bootstrapping and employing lean principles.