1: Eric Ries remembers the moment he realized his company was going to fail.
“It was like a breakup scene from a Hollywood movie: it was raining, and we were arguing in the street,” he recalls in The Lean Startup. “My co-founder and I were at our wits’ end. The dot-com bubble had burst, and we had spent all our money. We tried desperately to raise more capital, and we could not.”
The two co-founders couldn’t even agree on where to walk next. So they headed in opposite directions. Their startup had failed.
The future had once seemed so promising. It appeared they had done everything right: “We had a great product, a brilliant team, amazing technology, and the right idea at the right time,” writes Eric.
Yet here they were. Total failure.
“In magazines and newspapers, in blockbuster movies, and on countless blogs,” he observes, “we hear the mantra of successful entrepreneurs: through determination, brilliance, great timing, and–above all–a great product, we too can achieve fame and fortune.”
What’s missing from this picture? Isn’t a great product the key to entrepreneurial success?
The short answer?
2: Fast-forward to three years later: It’s 2004, and Eric is once again a co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of a new company with a big vision: “To change the way people communicate by using a new technology called avatars,” he writes.
The idea is that people will connect “with their friends, hanging out online, using avatars to give them a combination of intimate connection and safe anonymity,” Eric notes. “Even better, instead of having to build all the clothing, furniture, and accessories these avatars would need to accessorize their digital lives, the customers would be enlisted to build those things and sell them to one another.”
This time Eric and a new co-founder take an entirely different approach: “We do everything wrong. Instead of spending years perfecting our technology, we build a minimum viable product, an early product that is terrible, full of bugs, and crash-your-computer-yes-really stability problems. Then we ship it to customers way before it’s ready.
“And we charge money for it. After securing initial customers, we change the product constantly—much too fast by traditional standards—shipping new versions of our product dozens of times every single day,” he recalls.
Instead of failure, their company IMVU becomes wildly successful. Today it is a top-five-grossing app in the Apple App Store, where millions of users customize their characters and explore over 40,000 destinations to connect with each other.
3: Not only that. Their approach to launching a new venture, called the “Lean Startup,” has become the basis of a new movement of entrepreneurs worldwide.
“Start-up success is not a consequence of good genes or being in the right place at the right time,” Eric writes. “Start-up success can be engineered by following the right process, which means it can be learned, which means it can be taught.”
Reflection: When in life have I taken the orthodox approach and failed or the unorthodox approach and succeeded? Are there lessons I learned?
Action: Journal about my answers to the questions above.