Feature: Building Business

Steve Blank Discusses Origin And Future Of Lean Startup Movement

Author: John Greathouse
Published: April 14, 2012 at 4:44 pm

I recently spoke with Steve Blank, author of the new book The Startup Owner’s Manual. Steve is also a Stanford Professor and noted marketing entrepreneur. He is credited with pioneering the Lean Startup Movement in 2005 via the publication of his bestselling, Four Steps To The Epiphany.

No matter how much you think you know about Steve’s lean startup philosophy, Eric Ries’ contributions to the movement or the methodologies by which companies have put lean startup tenets into practice, I am confident you will be enlightened and entertained by Steve’s frank and insightful remarks.

You can watch / listen to my 20-minute interview with Steve below.

Preaching What You Live

The Lean Startup approach dictates that successful customer development is an iterative process. By conceptualizing, selling, gathering feedback and then developing a product, startups achieve success more quickly and economically. This was exactly the approach Steve took when he self-published Four Steps via Café Press, at the behest of his then star pupil, Eric Ries, Co-Founder of IMVU and the author of The Lean Startup.

According to Steve, “The original version (of Four Steps) was printed on tree bark at Café Press. Eric (Ries) was a student in one of the very earliest customer development classes at Berkley. One of the best students I ever had. Four Steps was essentially my class notes. Eric said, ‘Don’t you know you can put this stuff on Amazon?’ So the fact that it is a badly edited, missing sentences, complete your own and finish your own sentences (book) - basically we can blame it all on Eric. I have to thank him for that.”

I have a copy of the initial Café Press version and I can attest to its rough edges (the book’s first sentence contains a typo). Once the book achieved commercial success, Steve then expended resources to edit and polish the book. It is fitting and instructive that Steve published Four Steps by putting into practice the lean startup methodologies embodied in the book.

Startup Business Plans Are Oxymoronic

Steve notes that in 2005, when Four Steps was published, conventional wisdom at business schools was that, “Startups are nothing more than a smaller version of a large company. That was the implicit statement. Large companies write business plans, why of course, that’s the organizing document for a startup. Ten years later… (we know that) startups are not smaller versions of large companies."

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Article Author: John Greathouse

John Greathouse is the author of the hands-up startup advice blog infoChachkie (http://www.infochachkie.com) He has held a number of senior executive positions with successful startups which generated more than $350 million of shareholder value. …

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