Forget how many angels fit on a pin

Giff Constable startups

I’ve been enjoying my lurk on the lean startup circle google group, but I’ve noticed a recurring attempt to definitively define what “lean startup” is and isn’t. I understand the desire to insert some sense of certainty in our uncertain world, but argue against it.

It is a waste of time to argue over which tactics qualify as lean startup or not. Who cares how many angels fit on a pin? You’ve got a business to build.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there is no such thing as a rule book when it comes to startups, there are only guidelines that can make you smarter. There is no checklist for success. There are no shortcuts to thinking deeply about how you should go about building your specific business. It is an unavoidable challenge.

You *can* learn to be a better entrepreneur and lean startup concepts are really important. They improve your odds of, if not success, then at least of failing faster and less expensively. They increase your odds of discovering a truly successful and scalable business.

I view “lean startup” as a framework for early stage companies, and I focus on the following concepts:

  • “get out of the building” (and don’t just do surveys and A/B tests)
  • rigorously and honestly test your assumptions, even if it hurts (which means being really smart about what, how, and in what order you build your product)
  • measure (but ruthlessly focus on only the most useful and important metrics)
  • constantly and quickly iterate and improve
  • don’t scale up resources & spending ahead of proof points

These are concepts, not specific tactics. There are zillions of possible tactics behind each of these, and it’s *awesome* that so many entrepreneurs are publishing their tactics. I love learning from others’ tactics. By sharing tactics, we can all improve, and newcomers get to see concrete examples that make “lean startup” concepts more clear.

But don’t get dogmatic about tactics and definitions. There is too much constant change in the tech world for a list of tactics to keep up, and far too much diversity among startups for narrowly defined rule-sets and definitions to make sense.

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