[ 4:31 PM PT – update: Carla just upped the ante to 6 from 4, so Karl, you’re in and there’s one more left.]
The one thing every self-respecting startup founder needs is snazzy new business cards, so let me pass on to you an offer from Carla San Gaspar at Uprinting.com, an online printing company. The first four people to comment on this post will get 250 Die Cut Business Cards from Uprinting.com, free.
These are real business cards, not the cheesy kind with “printed by Acme printer” on the back. Here’s the details:
- 2 x 3.5”, 2 x 2” (square card) or 1.75 x 3.5” (slim card)
- Die cutting options available: Rounded Corners, Leaf, Rounded One-Corner, Half-Circle Side, Circle.
- Paper Type: 14pt Cardstock Gloss, Matte, or High Gloss; 13pt Cardstock Uncoated.
- Color: 4Color Front, Blank Back; 4Color Front, Black Back; 4Color Both Sides.
- Limited to US residents only 18 years old and above.
For years, startups and their founders have built their products, then searched for their markets and prayed for the best. I won’t dignify this as a methodology – it’s rolling the dice, hopefully with somebody else’s money.
If you want to roll the dice, go to Vegas. If you want to build a successful business producing software, then now is the time to learn about the Lean Startup approach.
In one short year, Lean Startup has gone from a keynote at one Web 2.0 Expo to its own full-blown conference streamed to no less than 50 meetups around the world. That’s what’s called traction in Silicon Valley, and the creators of the Lean Startup approach – Eric Ries, Steve Blank, Sean Ellis, Dave McClure, and others are on to something Big.
The Lean Startup approach puts front and center finding the intersection between the founder’s interests, deep domain knowledge and passion and the market. Though building rapid prototypes and learning from prospective customers what’s working and what’s not, a Lean Startup does its homework to find Product/Market fit before investing in a complete product.
Instead of buying into the traditional industrial model of having separate departments (or at least separate roles) for product development and marketing/sales/pr, a Lean Startup has a product team (development, QA, operations) and a problem team “that is asking the bigger questions, such as: Who will our customers be? What problem does our product solve for them? How many of them are there? And how will we reach them?” (see this post by Eric Ries)
“And the problem team is not merely engaged in a series of whiteboard exercises. Rather, they are working to validate or refute their hypotheses, and to then share their findings with the rest of the company so they can be used to reduce uncertainty and further chart the firm’s destiny. Each iteration leads to a “pivot” in which the company systematically changes some part of the vision to adapt to reality.”
What we are talking about is post-industrial model of product development and marketing here: putting learning what the market has to say before all the blood, toil, sweat, tears and money is spent, not after.
So how does a Lean Startup learn? By taking a fact-based approach and leaving faith-based to others. Lean Startups are numbers driven, and built atop of a development environment (continuous integration, continuous deployment, massive automated tests and more) that supports feature testing in depth by your customers, and using real analytics to understand what they experience.
If some of this sounds familiar, it’s because Lean Startup has a lot to do with applying the best practices of lean manufacturing with true continuous improvement. It’s taking the Toyota Way instead of the GM crash and burn approach.
Here’s a few places you can go to learn more quick and easy:
- Short, short version: Listen to Eric Ries explain the Lean Startup Methodology in Show #65 Startup Visa update, Startup Lessons Learned Conference preview (starts at :58) [direct MP3 link]
- If you want a longer, more nuanced, more challenged podcast, how about: Show #49 Eric Ries, Lean Startup and product/market fit [direct MP3 link]
- Customer Development Case Study: Dropbox
- StartupToDo.com. A better way to build your startup: the Lean Startup approach
Now you can ignore Lean Startup. It’s your startup. And maybe you’ll do alright. But the most practical thing in the world is a good theory, and Lean Startup is well on its to being the Next Big Thing and as important a theory to what we do in this industry as Agile Development. Don’t take my word for it – read what Kent Beck, the creator of Extreme Programming, Test Driven Development, and one of the 17 original signatories of the Agile Manifesto in 2001, has to say.read more
Maybe because we’ve all been burned at one time or another by a boss or client who didn’t spec out the software we ended up trying to build. Or maybe it’s because we live in a world where everything that matters is true or false, none of this messy in-between stuff that’s impossible to code. Developers crave specificity, exactitude, precision.
We are far better at dealing with 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288 than “a little more than 3” so we don’t look for good enough, we want the best. The One True Answer.
- Best Place to Get Good Constructive Feedback on New Site?
- Best way to get a good website for a small business?
- Beta Testers: What is the best way to find good beta testers?
- What is the best merchant processing solution?
- … and another 215 other questions you’ll find at Answers.Onstartups.com if you search for “best”.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with looking for the best solutions when you build your startup – an absolutely zero chance you will find those answers outside of your codebase.
Best? By what standard? For who? In what context? In a world where there are programmers still at each other’s throats over whether VIm or Emacs “rules” setting your standard for what you’re going to attempt to an impossible degree of certainty is just another way of dodging the bullet you fire when you try to build something new, exciting and daring.
Defining the “best” process is a worthy and profitable way of making car seats by the million when the few less than best, the more money you make. But you’re building one software business, with probably one application and definitely one chance to get more business answers right than wrong. You can’t afford best – what you need is what will work for you, get that item off your multi-thousand entry To Do List and will let you move on.
Save the precision for your code, where it can do some good.read more