Here’s a confession: For all the buzz about Eric Ries’ “The Lean Startup”, I’m finding it tough slogging to read.
I understand the thesis and the benefits it provides to startups looking to create and evolve products that resonate with users. But as I read through the book, there was something about the Ries’ thesis that wasn’t clicking. I wondered whether it was just me or whether there is a flaw or hole in The Lean Startup.
Then, I stumbled upon an interview on Tech Cocktail with SoftTech VC’s Jeff Clavier:
“The other thing which is very popular these days is the lean startup concept, which my friend Eric Ries has pioneered. And it all makes sense, but it’s based on the concept of throwing shit at your users very early on and then iterating. The problem is that users have less and less patience now.”
What Clavier nailed is the Achilles’ heel within the Lean Startup thesis: the reality that many consumers are time-strapped, fickle and suffer from attention-deficit disorder. As much as a lean start-up can embrace the idea of continually iterating and testing new features, many consumers don’t have the patience to go along for the ride.
Within this landscape, which offers an endless buffet of choices, startups usually only get one shot to capture the attention of a user. If their messaging, value propositions, registration process or service features any kind of uncertainty, flaws or grit, a user will leave you in a flash. The problem is there are no second chances, no shots at redemption or do-overs.
To me, this is the big challenge and problem with the lean start-up: While it’s great to do real-life testing, the product needs to be good enough out of the gate. It has to provide some kind of value and, at the same time, avoid any kind of bad users experiences.
As much as you would like to think consumers would give a startup the benefit of the doubt, the reality is they need to be impressed in some way to stick around or come back. There are simply too many other choices to tolerate a product that doesn’t deliver.
To be clear, the Lean Startup theory has a lot of good elements, which explains why it has resonated. At the same time, startups need to recognize that whatever they offer along the way needs to deliver without creating much pain for the user.