What Is A Lean Startup: Three Good Examples

Starting a company is daunting. The aspiring entrepreneur may find himself asking: what is the best way to start my startup? Luckily, in the modern age, this is a territory frequently tread and particular methods have been created to capture that “best way.” Introducing the “Lean Startup” and lean startup examples.

The lean startup essentially purports a product that has an already existent demand. It’s a method that launches either a product or company typically on behalf of another product or company. Think “lean.” This is a company that’s not coming with the bulk trying to muscle through. The lean startup is a product that people have an already expressed desire for when it drops. The company knows this desire is there, ergo making it a substantially safer launch.

Also, this is the most critical point: the lean startup is the consumer dictating what types of products they are offered by their respective markets. Not the markets dictating the products the consumers will receive.

Basic Parts of a Lean Startup

The basic tenets of the lean startup are to build, measure, and learn. They are instrumented on hypotheses and are largely similar to the scientific method they are tested against for optimization. The idea is to target a highly specific area or segment with a very discerning eye on their particular needs. Then provide the service or product and see what the consumer opts toward in practice.

Lean startup examples include Dropbox, Zappos, and General Electric. All of them floated an initial hypothesis only to measure the success and perform new iterations. General Electric has even developed a program called, “Fastworks”, with Eric Ries the “Father of the Lean Startup” to create iterations on some of their product launches. With some products even going through 18 iterations before hitting the market. Optimization at its finest, targeting an incredibly well-realized product.

Below are three more lean startup examples, written in a far greater depth about the nature of their work and the proximity toward lean startup principles.

1. Slack

Slack was a lean startup, pre-built for a different intention, tested incrementally over time.

Sometimes things do not go as planned. Your company can crumble, people go awry, and so on. However, it is often in the darkest shadows, the faintest light shines brightest. Originally, developers build Slack as an internal communications software built for TinySpeck. TinySpeck had the aspiration of creating a multiplayer online game boasting a subscription model. Called Glitch, the game itself launched in 2011 only to fall back to beta production a year later.

However, offices responded incredibly well to their internal communications software, allowing for TinySpeck to begin offering trials to external companies and receiving feedback. Thus testing the demand in the market. The response was phenomenal with feedback from larger companies being instrumental in the growth of the software. After several iterations of the app and allowing nearly universal access the company is credited around 27 billion USD.

2. Buffer

A soft-sold product. Partially tested and partially invested. Yet, it is another one of our lean startup examples.

Founded by Joel Gascoigne and Leo Widrich, Gascoigne created Buffer in roughly about seven weeks. Gascoigne had read the work of Eric Ries and decided to subscribe to his ideas of the lean startup methodology. Widrich established a landing page that effectively floated the idea to potential customers.

So, the two opted to see if people could become invested in the idea of a social media planning service. While only around 18 of the nearly 190 investors they talked to were interested in the prospects of the company they secured roughly 800,000 dollars and were able to continue moving forward with their plans.

3. DropBox

The poster boy for the lean startup.

Okay, so I kind of lied. We’re going to go back and talk about DropBox again. Drew Houston created the startup. Many also know him as the man Forbes quotes as the entrepreneur who “Out-Steve Jobs’ed Steve Jobs”. Explored in greater depth by the mac-daddy of the Lean Startup itself Eric Ries, this article details the nature of Ries’ ordained “MVP” (minimum viable product).

An MVP essentially means a product that has enough features and aspects that it attracts “early adopters” as customers and is validated as a product early in its development cycle. So, this is where the lean startup comes in. It can be tailored toward consumer demand as massive interest is raised early in the product’s life cycle. This is also where the comparison to Steve Jobs is raised –  think of his classic pitches to excite people for products.

The idea is that by having the product be the bare minimum idea it allows the consumer market to start shaping and tailoring it to their whims and optimize the product to reach the highest potential demand. This is what DropBox did. By hallmarking the idea to instantly copy and share numerous files across devices, regardless of size it allowed the project to tweak and grow into a tech behemoth with over 250 million in funding.

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