This book by self-confessed start-up failure Eric Ries seeks to destroy the myth of the Great Man; the Richard Bransons and Mark Zuckerbergs. What Ries – who eventually led his company to multimillion-dollar revenue – champions is the necessity of failure. Rather than relying on one person riding to the rescue, Dragons’ Den-like, entrepreneurs must learn to learn. Pursuing a great idea until the money runs out may sound romantic, he says, but that’s all it is.
Instead, start-ups should trial their ideas in tiny pieces, constantly ‘pivoting’ (a favourite Silicon Valley buzzword) the business around each new revelation. Hunches are to be avoided. In a talk at the London School of Economics, Ries claimed that ‘entrepreneurship is in need of becoming more boring’. Forget Hollywood: success is about efficiency.
Through the stories of his failures and the emergence of now-huge internet brands, Ries develops his own start-up strategy. And it’s pretty persuasive. Traditional ideas of market research, all forms and self-conscious surveys, are thrown out. He suggests making products available to the public before they even exist, just to see what the response is.
Although learning to love failure is not a new idea, The Lean Startup catches onto a wave of self-made success stories. Despite being an antidote to the Great Man narrative he finds so fatally misleading, it is hard to imagine Ries’ book being written without the movies’ and media’s current love of
Annoyingly, the most interesting idea – a long-term stock exchange that would replace the short-term profit markets – comes at the very end of the book. Watch out for the sequel.
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries (Penguin) £14.99