Eric Ries

Eric Ries

Author of The Lean Startup and The Startup Way

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON September 19, 2017

Discussion

Eric Ries
Eric Ries@ericries
Hi everyone, I'm Eric. I wrote The Lean Startup in 2011 and since then have been helping companies of all sizes across all industries act more like startups. I've written a new book, The Startup Way, coming out October 17, about everything I learned in the process. I'm excited to answer your questions today, so please fire away. EDIT: 9/19 11:11am holy @$% there are so many of you! I'm doing my best to get to everyone's question but I've run out of time and have to get to my next meeting. I will try and stop by later to see if I can squeeze in a few more. Thank you all SO MUCH for participating and do let me know what you think of the new book if you get a chance to read it. Oh and did I mention you can get an early copy here: http://bit.ly/thestartupway
Sam Dickie
Sam Dickie@thisdickie · Product Manager| NoCode| BetaTesta
Do you know of any companies that implemented the lean startup principals and failed? And if so why in particular?
Eric Ries
Eric Ries@ericries
@thisdickie tons of them! There are far more ways to fail than to succeed. I guess the question is, what are you really asking? Did they fail to adopt the principles (because, say, they were too arrogant to test anything)? Or did they use the principles and still fail (because, say, their product idea was just unsalvageably bad)? I know examples from both categories. But how does knowing this really help you? The circumstances of your startup, your product will always be different than any story you read. So the only evidence you should really focus on is what you are able to learn by experimenting yourself. If these ideas are good, that will be revealed to you shortly. If they are bad, the same. Remember, management techniques don't guarantee success - they only affect probabilities. Same with any kind of method or practice, from academics to sports.
Sam Dickie
Sam Dickie@thisdickie · Product Manager| NoCode| BetaTesta
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Jonas Lecking
Jonas Lecking@jonaslecking · CEO, 24/7-Applications
What would be your number one tip you would give a 16 year old, with nearly no budget and no team on how to succeed with the social network he has built?
Meet Chopra
Meet Chopra@meetchopra · Founder
@jonaslecking You know what, this is the question what I asked when I was 16, I'm 17 now. The question got answers feom big ones, one was from a big VC David S Rose. But what I really feel now is if we want to have something, why not achieve it without using our age in consideration. Because it's only a excuse and will lead to nothing. But if you really want to reach the goal, age number aren't going to help. Hard work, smart work, learning, reaching out to people, asking for real help. Help as in not asking how to do marketing. Read books, as no one gonna do that for you. You have to. Well It's my thought or this are the dots I have connected so far. Hope this helps :)
Jijo Sunny
Jijo Sunny@jijosunny · Maker @ BuyMeACoffee.com💰& WhatRuns.com🕵
Hi Eric, Would love to know your thoughts on the importance of design in a startup. It is a less discussed subject even though many successful startups like Slack has design as its major differentiator. I believe it is the only flaw (for the lack of a better word) with the idea of 'lean' startups. When we think of an MVP, we immediately assume a shitty-looking product with basic features. Don't you think a well-designed product (with minimal features) has a better shot at getting validated? Cheers!
Eric Ries
Eric Ries@ericries
@jijosunny hey I just wrote a lengthy answer to this question but then it disappeared.... can anyone at ProductHunt help us here?
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
@jijosunny @ericries hey Eric - can't seam to find this I am sorry. :( possible to rewrite and we can add in later?
Michael Robinson
Michael Robinson@e4tless · Founder, (e4t)
@jijosunny @ericries ha ha - very lean content.
Eric Ries
Eric Ries@ericries
@jijosunny I totally disagree with your statement: "When we think of an MVP, we immediately assume a shitty-looking product with basic features." - please don't include the rest of us in "we" here. In fact, the whole point of an MVP is to reduce scope so that you can give the customer a better designed product that does fewer things well. By specializing in a single use case and customer archetype (or maybe even a single individual customer), it's way way easier to customize what you build so that it's more likely to delight.
Jijo Sunny
Jijo Sunny@jijosunny · Maker @ BuyMeACoffee.com💰& WhatRuns.com🕵
@ericries Makes sense 👌 Answers my question. Although I have to be honest that your book gave more of an impression to focus fully on the most essential functions (and nothing else) for an MVP. To quote you, “The lesson of the MVP is that any additional work beyond what was required to start learning is waste, no matter how important it might have seemed at the time.” And design is obviously an 'additional work'.
Eric Ries
Eric Ries@ericries
Oh, and before I forget! We just (like, just a few days ago) shot these videos about The Startup Way that you can only get if you pre-order the book. Check out the details here: http://bit.ly/thestartupway. What do they look like? Here's a little teaser:
EmbedAPI
EmbedAPI@embed_api · CEO @ EmbedAPI.com Embed Anything
1. You ask us to keep our companies lean but are you lean? do you even work out bro? jk 2. What if we try two ways or products and see which one is getting better response so we don't waste time or run out of money? 3. What about marketing when the founder are pure engineer and money is short, should they do it themselves but how? 4. I have so many not finished products upon good ideas and customers requests who said they would pay for it but I find difficult to work on them when you have to pay the bills so how can you handle that or is it even possible?
Eric Ries
Eric Ries@ericries
@embed_api 1. You ask us to keep our companies lean but are you lean? do you even work out bro? jk > don't bro me, bro 2. What if we try two ways or products and see which one is getting better response so we don't waste time or run out of money? > I dunno, sounds twice as expensive. 3. What about marketing when the founder are pure engineer and money is short, should they do it themselves but how? > I've been there myself. I was the first head of marketing at all of my initial startups, even though I was the CTO. Just get it done. 4. I have so many not finished products upon good ideas and customers requests who said they would pay for it but I find difficult to work on them when you have to pay the bills so how can you handle that or is it even possible? > I don't believe you. If customers were really eager to pay for your unfinished products, you would have finished them. I would bet you as many dollars as you can lift that the real reason you didn't finish them is that you know in your heart that customers don't want them but don't really want to admit it to yourself.
EmbedAPI
EmbedAPI@embed_api · CEO @ EmbedAPI.com Embed Anything
@ericries I swear to God I have a customer asking me to finish my CRM which has some pretty crazy things and wanted to pay $$ per month for it (I was going to sell it for him for $5k but we agreed to have it as a SaaS and he pays monthly) and it's pretty unique not yet done so yeah I am getting my basket ready to get those $$$$ and not just that I have two other stuff I'm just lazy asf
Bartosz Petryński
Bartosz Petryński@bartoszpet · Co-Founder @ BillTech, Former VC Analyst
Hi Eric, good to have you here. I am currently working on master's thesis that analyzes Lean Startup adoption by investors. Do you think that Venture Capital investors generally understand the Lean Startup methodology and take it into account when assessing investment goals and supporting portfolio companies?
Eric Ries
Eric Ries@ericries
@bartoszpet the good ones do! in all seriousness, I think VCs have a wide variety of approaches. many of the best ones are not very rigorous in the approach, analytically. they go based on patterns they've observed directly and a lot more intuition about people that you'd expect. OTOH, some of the very best are insanely rigorous and theoretical. Those ones tend to like LS theory a little more. All that said, I would say LS adoption has been much higher by founders than by VCs overall
Ruben Gomez
Ruben Gomez@rubenzeo · Entrepreneur + Strategist
What's one thing that you left out in your book that you wish that you had included?
Eric Ries
Eric Ries@ericries
@rubenzeo omg so hard to choose. I hate the editorial process, there's so much great material that gets cut. I would say the hardest part was leaving out the kind of detailed step by step guidance I was able to include in The Leaders Guide. Things like how to conduct an a/b test of a physical product in a store, that kind of thing.
Ruben Gomez
Ruben Gomez@rubenzeo · Entrepreneur + Strategist
@ericries Thank you so much Eric! This is invaluable!
David Adamu
David Adamu@alternatedayve · Maker.
Curious... What would be your answer to the famous YCombinator question: "Please tell us about the time you successfully hacked a (non-computer) system to you advantage"?
Eric Ries
Eric Ries@ericries
@alternatedayve when I was in High School, I read in the local paper (The San Diego Union-Tribune, yes a print newspaper) that there was a new programming language coming out called Java. It had a free beta compiler you could download for free to build applets with (remember those?). Since I didn't have money to buy a fancy compiler, I was psyched to get one for free. A few days later, I was on USENET (remember that?) in comp.lang.java, seeing the constant stream of job posting requests for people with "10+ years experience with Java." Despite the fact that Java was only a few days old. So I figured I was as expert as anyone else at Java, so I started applying for jobs. Since it was USENET, I didn't have to reveal my real name or age. Eventually this led to me co-authoring "The Black Art of Java Game Programming" and a bunch of other technical writing that, on paper, I was in no way qualified for.
Michael Robinson
Michael Robinson@e4tless · Founder, (e4t)
@alternatedayve @ericries awesome! Removing the barriers that suppress crrative exprrssion is one of the unplanned hallmarks of my career - and now intentionally for my startup.
Fred Vandersmissen
Fred Vandersmissen@fred_vandersmissen · ZX Ventures
What would you say is an unconventional truth you believe in (related to building companies, shifting businesses, etc.) that a lot of peers in the industry disagree with?
Eric Ries
Eric Ries@ericries
@fred_vandersmissen that scaling a post-product-market-fit startup is essentially the same problem as transforming a large established company. I don't think I know a single person who agrees with that statement.
Fred Vandersmissen
Fred Vandersmissen@fred_vandersmissen · ZX Ventures
@ericries Fascinating thank you! Can you mention any examples if possible? Of a "scale-up" facing similar issues to a large organization reinventing itself? I'm working in a a small department of a very large company who is actually trying to tackle these issues so highly interesting take. Also good luck on the new book.
William Crane
William Crane@william_crane · Support for Military Veteran Startups
Hi Eric - I represent Bunker Labs, an organization focused on helping military veterans start/grow their own businesses. Our network is obviously full of self-starters that are driven and not afraid of challenges - but often times they lack necessary business context in order to thrive. So my question is, What sorts of things would you prioritize when starting your own business - that might be easier to learn, then say, accounting or financial modeling?
Eric Ries
Eric Ries@ericries
@william_crane Hey thanks for stopping by. I'm excited to be working with you guys and admire the work you do with veterans. To be honest, veterans are one community of founders that start out with a built-in advantage. They understand concepts like Boyd's OODA loop intimately and intuitively, in a way a lot of business people don't. Not to mention the importance of cadence, shared consciousness, and what the phrase "mission critical" means. So I wouldn't worry about financial modeling, that can easily come later. The key is to experiment, build products (as YC always says) that customers want, learn fast. The rest will follow.
William Crane
William Crane@william_crane · Support for Military Veteran Startups
@ericries Thanks for the input! We're excited to be working with you as well, and we really appreciate the support!
Michael Robinson
Michael Robinson@e4tless · Founder, (e4t)
@william_crane May I suggest that they consider services and experiences for vets which could provide them with a durable team context in which to belong? The detachment from unit upon release leaves a huge gap in their lives and psyche. Give them a space to bond and thrive. So many ways to create that. Spend some time with them brainstorming. It might be surprising. Our society has become so transaction-based that it is like being alone in an alien world for people whose identity is "we", not "me".
William Crane
William Crane@william_crane · Support for Military Veteran Startups
@e4tless Michael, could not agree more! This Forming of a new "tribe" of support that spans the nation is at the core of our mission, which is to empower veterans as leaders in the innovation space, starting first and foremost with community and network engagement. Creating that forum for veterans to ask questions, collaborate and help one another out, in person and online is what has led to success for startups that we support!
David Adamu
David Adamu@alternatedayve · Maker.
Hi Eric, huge follower of the Lean Startup methodology here. How can 'lean startups' cultivate Culture while they're at it? Ultimately, is the concept of company culture counter-intuitive/contrarian when building a Lean Startup?
Eric Ries
Eric Ries@ericries
@alternatedayve I don't think so. In both of my books I was at pains to explain how this works, via a pyramid diagram called "The Startup Way." It goes like this, from bottom to top: Accountability, Process, Culture, People. What do you at one layer affects the layers above it. The whole reason we make changes to the way we operate at the lower layers (where Lean Startup primarily operates) is to support the layers above. I would go so far as to say one of the primary objectives to taking a Lean Startup approach is to build a more innovative, more scientific, more customer-centric culture.
Mohamed Belghith
Mohamed Belghith@belguith · Co-founder Taysir Solutions
Hi Eric, what is the best way to convince people to focus on customer first?
Eric Ries
Eric Ries@ericries
@belguith you can't do it. Seriously, nobody is open to this argument, and it's impossible to win. I actually walk readers through this in detail in the new book. The better approach is to help them design an experiment to reveal if they really understand the customer or not. And then, if not, they will usually reform their ways after failing. Is this another hypothetical question? Are your cofounders giving you trouble?
Mohamed Belghith
Mohamed Belghith@belguith · Co-founder Taysir Solutions
@ericries thanks yes I am cofounder in small country that people not have this in their culture I try to make all my team focus on customer but it is hard, my technique now is to put my team directly with customers some trouble is better than guess!
Eric Ries
Eric Ries@ericries
@belguith yup, welcome to the club. It's all in how you hold people accountable. Once upon a time, I had a simple rule that every engineer had to talk directly to at least one customer every week (or something like that). I was super clear: fail to do this, you will be fired. Until I made it clear that this was a job requirement, people didn't take me seriously.
Stefan Dunjic
Stefan Dunjic@stefdvb · Head of Product, Joule Assets
Hi, thanks for the AMA :) What's the best book you've read in 2017, and what's your favorite product/app at the moment? Cheers!
Eric Ries
Eric Ries@ericries
@stefdvb tough question, we are living through a golden age of writing and publishing. let me check my Kindle.... How about The Dark Forest, the conclusion to Cixin Liu's incredible Three Body Problem trilogy. Favorite app/product? I'm pretty psyched about Amazon Alexa at the moment
Stefan Dunjic
Stefan Dunjic@stefdvb · Head of Product, Joule Assets
@ericries Sweet answers, I didn't expect the The Dark Forest! <3 Thanks and best of luck with the new book!
Ben Flowers
Ben Flowers@benoj · Platform Engineer @ Wrisk
Hi Eric, If you are building a product and see that someone else is building a similar product or is further ahead with their implementation – e.g. a large organisation. Is this a reason to stop, or pivot?
Eric Ries
Eric Ries@ericries
@benoj ignore it. remember that Facebook wasn't even the first College Social Network: http://www.slate.com/articles/te...
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Eric thanks for joining us today. What are your top tips for first time founders just starting out?
Eric Ries
Eric Ries@ericries
@ems_hodge Thanks, this is really fun! I hate to be "that guy" but I kind of had to write a whole book to answer that question :)
Jake Crump
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What is the best advice you ever received? How did this impact you?
Eric Ries
Eric Ries@ericries
@jakecrump "best" is kind of subjective, and I've been fortunate to have more incredible advisors and mentors than I can count. But I'll go way way back for one really good nugget that I'll never forget. I was an intern at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) many years ago. I was a super cocky self-taught programmer. One of the researchers there was stuck mentoring me, which could not have been very fun. Every time I would run into a bug, I would immediately imagine a problem that could be causing that symptom. I would always say "I found the cause" and he would patiently correct me: "you've found A cause." Because, of course, how do you really know that you've found THE cause. There could be multiple causes. You don't really know until you've tested. This turned out to be very helpful advice later on, but at the time I did not really listen to him.
Michael Robinson
Michael Robinson@e4tless · Founder, (e4t)
@jakecrump @ericries Great nugget, Eric: Seek guidance, listen, change accordingly. Humility is your best partner.
Seth Williams
Seth Williams@sethbwilliams · Designer, Product Hunt
What is you morning/daily routine?
Eric Ries
Eric Ries@ericries
@sethbwilliams my days are so crazy now, I hardly have any kind of routine. We have two young kids at home, so the only consistent thing about my day is taking my son to preschool. everything after that is totally different every day.
Michael Robinson
Michael Robinson@e4tless · Founder, (e4t)
@sethbwilliams @ericries Eric, Do you find that the fluidity and variety of your focus helps creativity, or do you prefer to block out time for reflection and ideating?
Bobby Matson
Bobby Matson@bomatson1
Hey Eric! Big fan, I saw you speak when the Lean Startup Book Tour stopped by LA. I'm wondering if you have any particular approaches to transforming customer insights into action. Specifically, I've learned a ton in my customer discovery phase about behavior (through interviews, surveys, landing pages, even mini-MVPs), but am having trouble prioritizing what to focus on. There seem like a lot of ways to solve my customer's problem, but how do you triage what will have the most impact?
Eric Ries
Eric Ries@ericries
@bomatson1 thanks! I tried to lay this out with some diagrams in the new book (did I mention you can get an early copy right now at http://bit.ly/thestartupway ?), but basically you want to identify your Leaf of Faith Assumptions. Start with what you want to be true, then for each LOFA, ask: how soon will this impact me if it's not true? and how certain am I that this is true? focus your energy on the ones that are urgent and highly uncertain.
Christy Fletcher
Christy Fletcher@fletcherchristy · Founder, Fletcher & Co
@bomatson1 On www.thestartupway.com is the tour schedule for the new book. There's an LA event planned.
Bobby Matson
Bobby Matson@bomatson1
@ericries Thanks! That's a great way to prioritize LOFA, finding which are urgent and uncertain. To clarify, when you say "impact me if it's not true", what would be a good example of that? Does high "Impact" mean the assumption not being true would result in complete business model change? I'm curious what kind of metrics will define that. Thanks again! I'll be sure to get an early copy of the new book
Bobby Matson
Bobby Matson@bomatson1
@fletcherchristy Thanks! I'm actually in NYC now, so hopefully you guys are stopping in here too!
Christy Fletcher
Christy Fletcher@fletcherchristy · Founder, Fletcher & Co
@bomatson1 indeed! there are two events in NY on the schedule.
Stian Maurstad
Stian Maurstad@stian_maurstad · CTO & co-founder of Capt
What is the best way to find developers & a designer as your co-founders? I live in Palo Alto & have tons of time & lots of energy, but I don´t want to embark on my startup alone & finding the "right" / best team is crucial.
Nisthar
Nisthar@nisthar · Developer & Entrepreneur.
@stian_maurstad Hi, What is your startup about?
Eric Ries
Eric Ries@ericries
@stian_maurstad just get started. nothing attracts cofounders like progress. if you don't know how to code, I would start on that right away. even a basic literacy in software development is absolutely essential if you're building a software company