Has The Lean Startup Methodology Produced Results? Depends On Who You Ask

Listen to Steve Blank, author of The Four Steps to the Epiphany, and the answer is yes.

The lean startup movement that applies scientific techniques to startup building and which he helped pioneer is producing results. “I think we now know how to make entrepreneurs fail less,” he said Friday during an on-stage appearance at the Menlo Ventures 2012 CEO Summit. “It is now possible to reduce the 100 stupid things entrepreneurs do.”

Lots of company teams have been taught and substantive change has come to the early stage ecosystem, Blank said.

Not so fast. “We’re starting to amass evidence, but it is still early days,” counters Eric Ries, author The Lean Startup and perhaps the reigning heavy weight in the movement.

The industry is just now seeing the first generation of companies that applied the ideas start to exit. Ecosystem reform is a long journey with lots of ground still to cover, said Ries (pictured), who shared the stage at the summit.

The disagreement between the two visionaries did little to turn them away from the changes they helped spawned. Getting a startup up to speed, they said, remains an exercise in low cost efficiency.

As an entrepreneur, “your job is really to turn faith into facts as quickly as possible,” offers Blank. That means testing business assumptions for managing sales channels and creating product market fits.

“A startup is a temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable, scalable business model,” he said. “No business plans survives the first contact with customers.”

For Ries, the message is the same but the explanation slightly different. “Everything you do as an entrepreneur is an experiment,” he says.

That means testing a hypothesis as directly and inexpensively as possible, without unneeded product features and wasted development time. It also means taking a deep dive to measure results rather than relying on high-level metrics.

The hardest thing to know is whether you are learning something important, he says.

Ries and Blank may differ on how the “learning” of their revolution is playing out, but they have backed away from none of the principles.

Photo by Mark Boslet